Alginate: Sodium alginate, is one of the secret ingredients behind molecular cuisine. Perhaps you’ve been wondering how chefs like Ferran Adria makes spherical ravioli that burst on the tongue — or caviar “pearls” out of fruit juice?
Botrytis: Its full latin name, botrytis cinerea, means “grapes like ashes” in Latin. This poetic name refers to grey rot, which can form in humid conditions and destroy wine grapes. However, the same fungus can become “noble rot” if dry conditions follow wet conditions.
Brix Scale: Judging the ripeness of fruit is a very tricky thing. Squeeze, sniff and eyeball every fruit in the supermarket, and you still may be disappointed when you bite in. Fortunately, someone thought of a more exact and scientific way to measure fruit’s ripeness: Adolf Brix.
Burgoo: Burgoo is not an obscure island off the coast of Indonesia, but a stew that is identified with dear ol’ Kentucky. Modern burgoo-making can be a social event where each person brings an ingredient — more likely chicken, pork or vegetables than the roadkill of yesteryear.
Capon: Tired of your everyday chicken? If your usual hen’s lacking in flavor, why not try a capon? What, you may ask, is a capon? Well, it’s a castrated rooster.
Chiltepin: Texas is blessed with not one, but two official state chiles. Perhaps they should rethink their nickname. The jalapeño is the better-known of the two, but we recommend that you pay some attention to a hotter Texas pepper: the chiltepin.
Civet: If you’ve got game (and we know you do), then you can make civet. And by game, we mean the small, furry kind. You know, like rabbits. What, you don’t hunt rabbits?
Cynar: Mmm, artichoke. It’s excellent dunked in butter or used in salads or dips, but did you know it can also give you a buzz? This is where Cynar comes in: an Italian bitter aperitif made with 13 herbs and plants, whose predominant flavor comes from our good friend, the ‘choke.
Lovage: The name lovage is said to come from “love-ache,” but “ache” was the medieval term for parsley, and has nothing to do with romantic pain (at least to our rudimentary knowledge). Lovage is similar to celery in taste and the leaves can be used in salads, soup or teas.
Marengo: is a manly dish, invented on the 19th century battlefield. Battles can be hunger-inducing and no one was hungrier than Napoleon after the French beat the Austrians at Battle of Marengo in Italy.
Mucilage: is just another word for slime, but when it comes to food, slime can be a good thing. The mucilage found in certain foods can actually strengthen and repair our mucus membranes when eaten.
Paleron: We’re not sure if David Letterman ever dusts off his old skit called “Know Your Cuts of Meat,” but it’s a safe bet that at least til now, he’s never included paleron as one of the options.
Pigeage: It’s French, bien sûr, and pronounced peej-AHJE, not pig-age. It’s a wine term that translates to “punching down the cap.” When crushed grapes ferment in vats, the grapes’ skins rise to the surface, creating a thick layer or “cap” that needs to be “punched down.”
Quenelle: If you’ve ever wondered what the teeny football of ice cream on your fancy dessert’s official name is, let us enlighten you: A quenelle (pronounced kuh-NELL) is a 3-sided scoop of something soft enough to mold.
Reinheitsgebot: It’s no surprise that Germany is particular about its beer. How particular? Meet Reinheitsgebot. All German beer labels bear the inscription “Gebraut nach dem deutschen Reinheitsgebot,” or, “Brewed according to the German Purity Law.”
Salmagundi: It’s a fun word to throw around for a dish with seemingly everything in it. Common base ingredients include chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, onions, lemon juice and oil. Sound like a Caesar? Kind of.
Scrapple: Scrapple is one of those words that sounds exactly like what it describes (once you know what it is, of course). A Pennsylvania specialty inspired by German ancestors, scrapple is a mixture of pork scraps — heart, head, liver, and whatever else is left over from the pig.
Silver Skin: Ever found yourself just about to dig into a nice, juicy leg of lamb only to be confronted with a white, rubbery barrier that separates you from that mouthful of heaven? Meet the dreaded silver skin.
Slurry: A mixture of flour (or cornstarch) and liquid which is an excellent thickening agent for sauces, gravy and stews. Unlike a roux, a slurry does not need to be cooked before it is added to a sauce.
Treif: Originally the term (which derives from the Hebrew word for “torn”) was only applied to meat that was literally “torn in the field,” but in our more relaxed modern times treif can be used to describe any type of non-kosher fare.