Do What???


A Light Hearted Look At Cooking Terms

When you read a recipe do you ever get confused? Do you ever wonder: “Just what is it I am supposed to do here?” What in the world is ’emulsify?’ And what’s the difference between ‘mince’ and ‘dice?’ 

Today I will explain all. I cook in a nonchalant, free-for-all kind of way. I cook for fun, pleasure, and to eat well on a budget. I am not a professional chef either.

I learned or guessed what most of these terms mean by cooking, reading recipes, and watching cooking shows in TV.

So for those of you who, like me, are not always sure of what to do when a recipe uses a particular term, today I am providing a list of some common cooking terms with definitions.

In some cases it is a light hearted look at some of these definitions; because I don’t, and I don’t think the average mother or father who cooks for the family after 10 hours at work cares one whit for the technical or professional definition between mince and dice.

You just want to put delicious, reasonably healthy food on the table in a reasonable amount of time. And to that I say, “Bravo!”

Common Basic Cooking Terms

Al Dente   firm: cooked just long enough to be still a bit firm, and not too soft

Bake     to cook food in an oven by dry heat

Baste    to moisten meat or fish at intervals during cooking with a liquid such  as melted fat or cooking juices

Blanch   to put food in boiling water for a few seconds in order to loosen the skin or to kill enzymes

Beat    to stir together rapidly and vigorously to incorporate ingredients and get air into the food 

Blend    to mix a substance with another substance so that the two do not readily separate

Boil   cook in boiling liquid: to cook something by submerging it in boiling liquid for a period of time, or be cooked in this way

Bring to a boil    heat to or reach boiling point: to heat a liquid until it just forms bubbles

Braise   cook food on low heat: to cook food, especially meat or vegetables, by browning briefly in hot fat, adding a little liquid, and cooking at a low temperature in a covered pot

Broil    cook using direct heat; to cook food below the direct heat; this technique keeps in moisture and seals in flavor

Brown    cooking food in a small amount of fat over moderate or high heat until the surface is browned; however the food may still need additional cooking

Carmalize    to heat sugar, or foods that contain sugar, or boil dissolved sugar until it turns dark brown stirring frequently; this browning gives lots of flavor to the food

Chop   to cut food into small similar size pieces, a great way to get rid of stress too

Deglaze   to dissolve fragments of food remaining in a frying or roasting pan (you know, all that dark and burned stuff you see) by heating that ugly glob and adding a liquid so as to make a sauce (This also aids in clean up since you don’t have to scrub it off. Extra added benefit.)

Dice    to cut up food into very tiny cubes; smaller pieces than when simply chopping food

Dredge   to cover lightly with a coating such as flour or bread crumbs

Dollop    a small amount of something

Drizzle   to pour very small quantities of a liquid in a thin stream over food

Emulsify   to convert two or more liquids into an emulsion; or into a suspension of one liquid in another ~ it’s a chemistry thing: enough said

Grate   to cut even smaller than a dice, best achieved with a grater of some sort or even a food processor, which I seldom use becasue I am to lazy to get machine out and clean up afterwards

Julienne    to cut into thin matchstick strips; usually done to vegetables ~ just get a julienne tool at a cook store and it is much easier ~ And by the way, who ever said veggies all have to be the same size? Who made this rule? Rules are made to be broken.

Marinate    to place or soak food in a marinade or sauce before cooking to add flavor; this often tenderizes tough cuts of meat as well

Mince    to cut into small cubes, smaller than a chop but somewhere between a dice but not so far as a mince; if this seems confusing just cut it any way you want; it is a fine point not worth worrying over  ~~~ If you want to be creative or contrary do some of each in same recipe GO WILD!

Pinch   technically about one-eight a teaspoon; non-technically what you can hold between thumb and forefinger

Poach   to cook, usually eggs, fish, or fruit in a liquid with no or few bubbles, this is achieved by cooking on low heat

Pre Heat    turn the oven on before hand so it has time to heat up before you put food in to cook; in other words: do not put the dish you are making into a cold oven

Reduce     boil a liquid to reduce its volume ~ do not use this technique  to  lose weight

Roast    to cook meat or vegetables by dry heat, usually in an oven

Sauté     to cook food quickly and lightly in a little butter, oil, or fat

Sear        to brown quickly to seal in meat’s juices thus creating a very flavorful crust ~ or what some people would say, “burn the outside of your food.”

Shred      to cut or tear food into narrow strips ~ I never outgrew childhood. I love to play with food, so I often shred or tear by hand, also one  less item to wash up

Simmer   to cook something gently just below boiling point, usually with the occasional bubble breaking on the surface of the water

Slice   to cut into thin slices of consistent (or there abouts) size

Steam   to cook vegetables in the steam of hot water until crisp tender

Stew    a dish of meat, fish, or vegetables, or a combination of them, that is cooked by slow simmering over low heat

Toast    cooking nuts and spices over very low heat in a skillet or pan to in order to release its aroma and flavor

Whisk   to whip or beat ingredients together until smooth using a cooking tool called a whisk ~ also a good way to get rid of stress

If there is a term I did not include in this list that you are curious about leave a question in the Comments section and I will get an explanation to you.

Definitions are from Encarta and elaborated on by me.

 Featured Recipe          Sausage and Grape Bruschetta

I have extolled the delightful pairing of sausage and gapes since the earliest days of More Thyme Than Dough, starting with Sweet Italian Sausages with Grapes.

So you know the following recipe caught my eye. It comes from Mark Bittman’s cookbook, Kitchen Express [Simon&Schuster 2009.]. This is a great little cookbook.  I highly recommend you check it out. This cookbook is dedicated to the quick and easy recipe.

The recipes do not have lists of ingredients either. There is just a short paragraph that describes what to do. This style encourages creativity and experimentation with the recipe I think.

And since I had left over grapes in the fridge this was the perfect recipe to make today.

This is what you will need for 3-4 people:

2 Italian sausages

1 red onion

Olive oil

About 1 pound of grapes (Mr. Bittman suggests red; prettier.)

Italian bread

What I used:

For the sausage I just got a roll of sausage rather than buy Italian sausages in casings. Either way works well and quickly. You could also use spicy hot sausage if that rocks your boat.

I had green and red grapes in fridge so I used them all up.

The French bread with sesame seeds looked better than the Italian at the bake shop today so I got that.

This is what you do:

Chop the onion.

If using sausage links remove the sausage from their casings straight into a hot skillet. If not proceed to next sentence.

Add the sausage you are using to a hot skillet with some olive oil and the chopped red onion.

“Cook, stirring once in a while until browned all over…..” Break the sausage up with a wooden spatula as it cooks

Meanwhile cut the bread into slices. I cut the bread on the diagonal. Brush bread slices with a bit of olive oil on both ides and, “toast or broil until crisp outside but tender inside.”

When the sausage is done, stir in ….  grapes, mashing a bit to break some of them up.”

Cook until just warmed through. NOTE: I cooked until grapes were a little softer and broke more of them up. Otherwise they tend to fall of the bread. I am a messy eater that way! I used a potato masher to help mash them. But you can use just a spatula.

Top the toast with sausage grape mixture and some of the pan juices.

Serve with a salad and/or a bowl of soup. Voilà! Quick, easy, and very filling meal.

So easy. So scrumptious!!

I think these would also be good as a party appetizer too, if served on smaller pieces of toast. 

By The Way: Did you notice some of the cooking terms in this recipe?

Bon appétit!!! 


1 roll Italian sausage            $2.78             

1 red onion                         $0.44                                                             

Olive oil (abt 4 tbspns)         $0.60 

About 1 lb of grapes            $3.26

Italian bread                       $1.29

Total Cost = $8.37
Cost per person (4) = $2.09

Quote of the Day

How far you go in life depends in your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.

Georage Washington Carver


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