Below I have included definitions of culinary terms; descriptions of foods, herbs, and spices; and basic info for anyone who is not accustomed to cooking.
Anise; anise seed - [AN-ihss] greenish-brown oval seed with licorice flavor, used as a digestive for centuries. In India the seed is used. Star Anise and anise have very different flavors.
Berbere - An Ethiopian spice used as a condiment, containing hot peppers, cardamom, coriander, and other spices. See .
Bouquet garni - [boo-KAY gahr-NEE] A bunch of herbs tied together used to flavor soups. Can be easily removed at the end of cooking.
Bruschetta - [broo-SHEH-tah] small bread slices rubbed with olive oil and garlic, heated and the served. Bruschetta has numerous topping and dips, olive oil and garlic are the most common.
carageen - [KAIR-ah-geen] seaweed found along the coast of Ireland. Used as a thickening agent for soups, dips, pudding, and ice cream.
Cardamom - [KAR-duh-muhm] Cardamom is a member of the ginger family and can be purchased in Tropical plant stores. Do NOT expect this plant to produce ginger, nor the flower that produces the cardamom pods. Cardamom can be purchased in pods (black or green), or as a seed. The seed is highly aromatic and has a warm, spicy-sweet flavor. Ground cardamom has lost much of its aroma and taste because the essential oils dry as soon as they are ground. If grinding cardamom for Curry, it is alright to grind it with the shell because the shell will disintegrate when cooking. On the medicinal side of things cardamom has been used to treat sore throats, digestive complaints, and to relieve flatulence. This spice may be one of the most expensive spices (because it is hand-picked), but it only has to be used in small quantities because of its intense flavor.
Cassoulet - [ka-soo-LAY] Classic bean stew from France with available added meats.
Challah - [KHAH-lah] Traditional Jewish yeast bread with eggs, usually twisted into many shapes or braided.
Chervil - [CHER-vuhl] Mild flavored herb from the parsley, best fresh. Best grown in early spring.
Chiffonade - [shihf-uh-NAHD] Thinly sliced vegetables usually added raw to garnish dishes. Most commonly used with spinach, basil, herbs, or greens.
Chive - Related to the onion or leek, with long slender stalks and edible flowers.
Chutney - [CHUHT-nee] A spicy condiment containing fruit, vinegar, sugar, and spices. Excellent with Curry dishes and with cheese.
Cilantro - One of the most widely used and loved herbs and spices in the world from the plant Coriandrum sativum. The leaves of this plant are frequently referred to as cilantro, while the seeds are most commonly called coriander. Depending on the cuisine, the entire plant is used for the various flavours and aromas. Loved by many and abhorred by some, this common plant is an essential ingredient in many cuisines around the world.
Cinnamon; Cassia - Cinnamon is the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree. Ceylon cinnamon is considered true cinnamon while cassia cinnamon is used and sold in stores. Cassia is used in sweet dishes, curries, and has a high 3 - 4% natural oil and is appreciated for its rich, sweet yet slightly spicy flavor. Ceylon cinnamon is the preferred cinnamon in Europe and Mexico. It's often called for in pickling, spiced pears or peaches, and in the brewing of hot cocoa. You will find its flavor to be quite distinct from cassia cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon has a much lower volatile oil content, between 1 and 2%, but its flavor has a subtle complexity that you won't experience with the stronger, spicier cassia. You might even notice the delicate flavor of citrus interwoven in the scent of this cinnamon.
Citric acid - A white powder extracted from citrus fruit and is often used as a replacement for lemon juice. It is also used for flavoring foods and beverages.
Clarified Butter - Unsalted butter is slowly melted separating the water and milk solids. The golden mixture is used in cooking and the milky foam is skimmed off. This process helps to cook the butter at higher temperatures and keeps the butter from becoming rancid as quickly.
Clove - Cloves are the aromatic dried flower buds of a tree. Cloves are native to the Maluku islands in Indonesia and used as a spice in cuisines all over the world. Cloves are harvested primarily in Indonesia, India, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Cloves can be used in cooking either whole or in a ground form, but as they are extremely strong, they are used sparingly. Cloves have historically been used in Indian cuisine, it is used in almost all rich or spicy dishes as an ingredient of a mix named garam masala, along with other spices. In Ayurvedic medicine it is considered to have the effect of increasing heat in system, hence the difference of usage by region and season. Dried cloves are in Indian masala chai and spiced tea. In the US it is sold as /"chai/" or /"chai tea/". Cloves are used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, and western herbalism.
Cobb Salad - The Cobb salad is a main-dish garden salad made from chopped salad greens (iceberg lettuce, watercress, endives, and Romaine lettuce), tomato, crisp bacon, boiled or roasted chicken breast (or turkey), hard-boiled egg, avocado, chives, red-wine vinaigrette and Roquefort cheese. In the 1930s at the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant, where it became a signature dish. It is named for the restaurant's owner, Robert Howard Cobb.
Cocktail Sauce - In America it generally consists of ketchup mixed with prepared horseradish. Some restaurants use chili sauce, a spicier tomato based sauce in place of the ketchup.
Cocoa - Cocoa solids are the low-fat component of chocolate. When sold as an end product, it may also be called cocoa powder, cocoa, and cacao. In contrast, the fatty component of chocolate is cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is 50% to 57% of the weight of cocoa beans and gives chocolate its characteristic melting properties. Cocoa liquor is the melted combination of cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Cocoa solids are obtained by extraction from the cocoa bean. Cocoa bean (also cacao bean, often simply cocoa and cacao; Mayan: kakaw; Nahuatl: cacaua) is the dried and fully fermented fatty seed of Theobroma cacao, from which cocoa solids and cocoa butter are extracted. They are the basis of chocolate, as well as many Mesoamerican foods such as mole sauce and tejate.
Coconut - The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word. Found across much of the tropic and subtropic area. Coconuts are part of the daily diet of many people. When dried, the coconut flesh is called copra. The oil and milk derived from it are commonly used in cooking and frying; coconut oil is also widely used in soaps and cosmetics. The clear liquid coconut water within is a refreshing drink. Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm. Throughout the tropical world, it has provided the primary source of fat in the diets of millions of people for generations. It has various applications in food, medicine, and industry. Coconut oil is very heat-stable, which makes it suited to methods of cooking at high temperatures like frying.
Coffee - Coffee is a brewed beverage with a dark, acidic flavor prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant. The beans are found in coffee cherries, which grow on trees cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in equatorial Latin America, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. Coffee can have a stimulating effect due to its caffeine content. It is one of the most-consumed beverages in the world. Coffee berries, which contain the coffee seeds or /"beans/", are produced by several species of small evergreen bush of the genus Coffea. The two most commonly grown are the highly regarded Coffea arabica, and the robusta form of the hardier Coffea canephora. When it comes to cooking, coffee is a versatile spice that can season a whole range of recipes, sweet and savory. Taste how it deepens the earthiness of a rich black-bean soup or adds subtle smoke to a fruity glazed pork loin or redeye gravy.
Colbert Sauce - [kohl-BAIR](French) Named after the chief minister for King Louis XIV. The sauce combines meat glaze, butter, wine, shallots, tarragon, and lemon juice. Serve with grilled meats and game.
Colcannon - [kuhl-CAN-uhn](Irish) Colcannon is traditionally made from mashed potatoes and kale (or cabbage), with scallions, butter, salt and pepper added. It can contain other ingredients such as milk, cream, leeks, onions and chives. It is often eaten with boiled ham or Irish bacon. At one time it was a cheap, year-round staple food, though nowadays it is usually eaten in autumn/winter, when kale comes into season.
Collard Greens; collards - [KAHL-uhrd] Collard greens are a staple vegetable of Southern U.S. cuisine. They are often prepared with other similar green leaf vegetables, such as kale, turnip greens, spinach, and mustard greens as mixed greens. They are generally eaten year-round in the South. Typical seasonings when cooking collards can consist of smoked and salted meats (ham hocks, smoked turkey drumsticks, pork neckbones, fatback or other fatty meat), diced onions, vinegar, salt, and black, white, or crushed red pepper. Collard greens and roots are used extensively around the world as a staple food including: Brazil, Portugal, India, Pakistan, Africa, and many Spanish speaking countries.
Compote - [KAHM-poht](French) Compote (French for mixture) is a dessert originating from 17th century France made of whole or pieces of fruit in sugar syrup. Whole fruits are immersed in water and with sugar and spices added to the dish, slowly cooked over gentle heat. The syrup may be seasoned with vanilla, lemon or orange peel, cinnamon sticks or powder, cloves, ground almonds, grated coconut, candied fruit, or raisins.
Condiment - A condiment is an edible substance, such as sauce or seasoning, served as accompaniment to food, added to food to impart a particular flavor, or to enhance its flavor. Some condiments are used during cooking to add flavor or texture to the food; barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, marmite are examples.
Confit - [kohn-FEE](French) Confit is a generic term for various kinds of food that have been immersed in a substance for both flavor and preservation. Sealed and stored in a cool place, confit can last for several months. Confit is one of the oldest ways to preserve food, and is a speciality of southwestern France.
Consomme - [kon-SUH-may] A consomme is made by adding a mixture of ground meats, together with mirepoix (a combination of carrots, celery, and onions), tomatoes, and egg whites into either bouillon or stock. The key to making a high quality consomme is simmering; the act of simmering, combined with frequent stirring, brings impurities to the surface of the liquid. Consomme is simmered at a lower heat until it reaches the desired flavor, which usually takes anywhere from 45 minutes to over an hour. The resulting concoction is a clear liquid that has either a rich amber colour (for beef or veal consomme) or a very pale yellow colour (for poultry consomme).
Cooking Wine - Cooking wine is usually an inferior wine which should not be used for drinking. It lacks the distinction of higher quality wines. Make sure the wine compliments the food which is prepared. Many cooks believe higher quality wine produces better flavor in the prepared food. For all my recipes I use cheap table wine which provides ample flavor.
Coq au vin - [kohk-oh-VAHN](French) Coq au vin (French-rooster with wine) is a French braise of chicken cooked with wine, lardons, mushrooms, and optionally garlic. Standard recipes call for a chicken, red wine (often Burgundy), lardons (salt pork), button mushrooms, onions, often garlic, and sometimes brandy. Recipes with vin jaune may specify morels instead of white mushrooms. The usual seasonings are salt, pepper, thyme, parsley and bay leaf, usually in the form of a bouquet garni. The juices are thickened either by making a small roux at the beginning of cooking, or by adding blood at the end.
Coriander - [KOR-ee-an-der] Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), also called cilantro, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. Coriander is native to southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. While in the English-speaking world (except for the U.S.) the leaves and seeds are known as coriander, in American culinary usage the leaves are generally referred to by the Spanish word cilantro. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most commonly used in cooking. Coriander is common in South Asian, Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Mediterranean, Indian, Tex-Mex, Latin American, Portuguese, Chinese, African, and Scandinavian cuisine.
Corn; Maize - The term maize derives from the Spanish form of the indigenous Taíno word maiz for the plant. Sweet corn is harvested earlier and eaten as a vegetable rather than a grain. Maize and cornmeal (ground dried maize) constitute a staple food in many regions of the world. Introduced into Africa by the Portuguese in the 16th century, maize has become Africa's most important staple food crop. Maize meal is made into a thick porridge in many cultures: from the polenta of Italy, the angu of Brazil, Romania, to cornmeal mush in the U.S. (and hominy grits in the South) or the food called mealie pap in South Africa and sadza, nshima and ugali in other parts of Africa. Maize meal is also used as a replacement for wheat flour, to make cornbread and other baked products. Masa (cornmeal treated with lime water) is the main ingredient for tortillas, atole and many other dishes of Mexican food.
Corned Beef - In the United States and Canada, corned beef typically comes in two forms, a cut of beef (usually brisket, but sometimes round or silverside) cured or pickled in a seasoned brine, and canned (cooked). Corned beef is a type of salt-cured beef product present in many beef-eating cultures. The term comes not from the grain corn, but from the treatment of the meat with corns of salt.
Coulis - [koo-LEE] A general term used to a thick puree or sauce. A vegetable coulis is commonly used on meat and vegetable dishes, and it can also be used as a base for soups or other sauces. Fruit coulis are most often used on desserts.
Couscous - Couscous is a pasta dish of semolina traditionally served with a meat or vegetable stew spooned over it. Couscous is a staple food throughout Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and west of Libya. The couscous that is sold in most Western supermarkets has been pre-steamed and dried. The couscous swells and within a few minutes it is ready to fluff with a fork and serve. Couscous is made with semolina is sprinkled with water and rolled with the hands to form small pellets, sprinkled with dry flour to keep them separate, and then sieved. This process continues until all the semolina has been formed into tiny granules of couscous. In the traditional method of preparing couscous, groups of women would come together and make large batches over several days. These would then be dried in the sun. Several kinds of couscous are available in specialty markets: semolina, whole wheat, millet, and the large pearled Middle Eastern couscous.