Cooking Basics

Ingredient Glossary

All-purpose flour
All-purpose flour is milled from the inner part of the wheat kernel. It's a combination of hard (high-protein, like bread) and soft (low-protein, like cake and pastry) flours, and is suitable for most uses. For best results, avoid bleached flour.

This dried seed pod comes from evergreen trees and has the flavors of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. This spice is also known as Jamaican pepper for its peppercorn-like appearance, and its growth on the island of Jamaica.

Almond extract
Almond extract is made from bitter-almond oil and is usually combined with ethyl alcohol. If stored in a cool, dark place, it will keep indefinitely.

Anaheim peppers
Also called Green Chiles. Mildly hot.

Angel hair pasta
Spaghetti made in very fine strands.

Artichokes can be purchased fresh or canned. Use a scissors to trim the top fourth of the outer leaves and the stem. Soak to clean thoroughly. With a stainless steel knife, slice off the top quarter of the pale green cone. Rub all cut surfaces with lemon to maintain color. Cook by steaming, or simmer in boiling water with additional lemon juice, covered, for 40 minutes, or until tender. Scoop out the fuzzy choke with a spoon and discard. The artichoke heart is below the choke.

An Italian cheese with a rich nutty flavor.

Baking powder
A derivative of baking soda. Baking powder is a double action leavener that is activated when mixed with a liquid.

Baking soda
Use this leavener with pastries that contain acid to make them rise. Instead of baking soda, use baking powder with recipes that contain little to no acid (baking powder already contains acid).

Balsamic vinegar
A sweet but pungent vinegar. A bottle of medium-quality balsamic vinegar will cost around $10, and is well worth the price.

Bay leaf
This leaf comes from the evergreen bay laurel tree in the Mediterranean. If used whole, remove bay leaves from a dish before serving.

Bibb lettuce
Small, tight leaves that have a crunchy sweetness.

Black pepper
Black peppercorns are the strongest of all peppercorns. You can buy black pepper as cracked or finely ground, but freshly ground pepper is always the best.

Boston lettuce
Tender, pale green leaves.

Brown sugar
Brown sugar is white sugar mixed with molasses. To create, add two tablespoons molasses to one cup white sugar.

Butter can be purchased salted or sweet. For cooking purposes, sweet butter can be purchased, since salt can be added as needed to any recipe. For great results, replace butter with Crisco butter flavored shortening sticks.

Buttermilk is made by adding a culture to whole or skim milk, giving it a thicker texture and a slightly tangy flavor.

Canola oil
A neutral oil that is great for cooking, because it is low in saturated fats and doesn't detract from the flavor of the foods being cooked. For best results, use Crisco Canola Oil.

Pickled small buds of the caper bush, known for their pungent flavor.

An aromatic spice native to India.

Cayenne pepper
A very hot pepper. Red when fully matured. Long and thin.

Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are often used in salads.

Chile peppers
There is a wide variety of chile peppers that vary in hotness. Chiles can be purchased fresh, dried, or in jars. To prepare: Remove seeds and membranes (or leave seeds in to increase intensity), but be careful not to touch your eyes after handling the peppers.

Chives belong to the onion family and can be snipped to add flavor to salads or other dishes. The chive plant is also an easy-to-grow perennial with purple flowers.

Chocolate can be bought as unsweetened, bittersweet, semi-sweet, extra-bittersweet, and sweet. While some of these chocolates can often be interchanged in recipes, it is best to bake with whichever chocolate is called for in your recipe.

An Indian condiment made of spices and fruits or vegetables. Chutney can be purchased ready-made or prepared using one of the many available recipes.

Somewhat similar in appearance to parsley, but its distinctive, sharp flavor is used to make salsa.

A sweet-hot spice that comes from the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree, which curls into rolls when dried. These rolls can be made into sticks, or ground for powdered cinnamon.

A pungent and sweet spice, sold whole or ground.

Available sweetened or unsweetened, shredded or flaked, moist or frozen.

Confectioners' sugar
A powdered sugar that is best for recipes that will not be cooked. Best used in frostings or sprinkled on top of baked goods.

Cooking spray
Unlike other cooking sprays, Crisco Cooking Spray contains no alcohol. It has a light taste and a buttery aroma. Compared to the leading cooking spray, Crisco Cooking Spray scorches less and has over 120 more uses.

Corn oil
Crisco Canola Corn Oil has 25% less saturated fat than corn oil, and like corn oil, has 14 grams of fat per serving.

One of the most useful thickening agents in the kitchen. Mix with a small amount of water before adding to other foods.

Often mistaken for rice, couscous is actually a pasta product. To cook, add equal amounts of couscous and boiling water to a bowl. Cover and let sit for about 15 minutes. Stir frequently to fluff.

Cream of tartar
An acidic, white powder that can be used to make baking powder.

Adds a bitter taste to many curries, soups, stews, and vegetable dishes.

Similar to raisins, but not as sweet.

Dijon mustard
A smooth, creamy French table mustard that is often made with white wine. A delicious alternative to plain yellow mustard.

A feathery annual herb, available fresh or dried at the grocery store. Try growing your own by sprinkling some seeds on the ground in the spring.

A relative of the tomato that is mild in taste, and great grilled, broiled, sautéed, or roasted. Buy eggplants that are long in shape. Keep refrigerated.

Mild licorice flavor. The feathery tops can be used as an herb to flavor soups and stews. The broad base is chopped for use in salads or other recipes.

Feta cheese
Salty, soft white cheese that is often crumbled over Greek salads.

Field greens
Available in the bagged salad section, field greens offer convenience and variety.

One of the most important seasonings and a wonderful cooked vegetable. Buy garlic loose and store at room temperature in a dark and dry spot.

A thickening agent that, when dissolved in hot water, thickens whatever food it's been added to.

Gingerroot can be purchased fresh in most grocery stores. Simply break off the amount you need or a small chunk. Prepare by peeling and finely chopping. Store leftover gingerroot in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Granulated sugar
The white sugar used in everyday baking.

Habañero pepper
Also known as Scotch Bonnet. The hottest commercially grown pepper. Generally green, red, orange, or yellow in color.

Rich, sweet nuts that are often ground or roasted in pastries, cookies, and other desserts.

An all-natural sweetener.

Fresh horseradish is known for its pungent, spicy flavor. To prepare fresh: Scrub root thoroughly, scrape brown peel, and grate as a condiment or as an ingredient in marinades.

Iceberg lettuce
The traditional salad green. Try combining it with other greens to add variety to your salads.

Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
Italian-seasoned bread crumbs typically combine cheese and spices, such as oregano and parsley. If you're out of bread crumbs, try this handy trick.

Jalapeño pepper
Usually green, but sometimes red. Moderately hot, with an immediate bite.

Also known as a Mexican potato, jicama is a tuber from Central America and Mexico. To prepare: Simply peel immediately before serving for a crisp and juicy snack. It can also be lightly cooked.

A member of the cabbage family. Prepare by removing tough stems. If cooking, boil about 1 minute in salted water.

Pasta in wide, flat strips.

Leaf lettuce
Mild and fresh flavor. Curly edged leaves often have red tips.

Leeks are members of the onion family that have a milder taste and look like large green onions. To prepare: Cut off base and tough dark green stems. Slice remainder in half, and swish in water to remove grit. Pull apart layers to be sure that all dirt is removed.

Pasta in the form of tubes or in various other shapes, often baked with cheese, ground meat, etc.

Although most people think of the mango as an exotic fruit, it is actually one of the most commonly eaten fruits in the world. Mangos usually range in color from green to red, and the taste is described as a combination of peach and pineapple or peach and melon.

Mascarpone is thought of as cheese, but it is actually pasteurized cow's cream that is fresh tasting and spreadable. It is used in Italian desserts, like Tiramisu, but it is also excellent as a topping for green salads and fruit salads.

A perennial herb that is available fresh or dried. Try it in tabouli salad. Mint is easy to grow, but don't let it take over your garden.

Mushrooms, portobello
Portobello mushrooms are often available fresh in the grocery store. They have a meaty texture and are versatile. Try them marinated and grilled as interesting additions to salads.

Mushrooms, shiitake
Available fresh or dried. Very rich flavor is excellent in dressings and marinades. To prepare dried mushrooms: soak in very hot water for 20-30 minutes. Be sure to add some of the soaking water to dressing or marinade recipes.

A nutty spice used mostly in baking. Use sparingly.

Olive oil
An all-purpose oil that comes in two different varieties: "extra-virgin" olive oil, which comes from the first cold pressing of olives; and "pure" olive oil, which may be extra-virgin oils that didn't make the grade.

Olives, kalamata
Kalamata olives are dark purple/brown olives that are imported from Greece. Their meaty, salty texture is a great addition to salads.

Olives, niçoise
Niçoise olives originated in France; they are purple/black or green and milder than kalamata olives.

A member of the mint family, used largely in Italian cooking.

Pasta that is shaped like rice, and can be used in place of rice. Excellent in salads and main dishes.

Papayas are semitropical fruits that are sweet and juicy.

Ground dried red peppers.

Parsley is an herb. Use fresh Italian flat leaf or curly parsley in salad recipes. Chopped, it makes a pleasing addition to salads, both in appearance and taste.

Parsnips are root vegetables that look like white carrots. They have a sweet, nutty flavor. Try cooking them just until they are tender and sprinkling them with some fresh herbs for a simple salad.

A cylindrical pasta.

There are a number of mild to hot peppers to choose from when preparing a variety of dishes. Here are a few of the more popular ones listed in order of mild to hot:
Anaheim (also called a Green Chile)—Mildly hot.
Jalapeño—Usually green but sometimes red. Moderately hot, with an immediate bite.
Serrano—Red or green. Moderate to very hot, with an intense bite.
Cayenne—Very hot. Red when fully matured. Long and thin.
Habañero (Scotch Bonnet)—The hottest commercially grown pepper. Green, red, orange, or yellow.

Basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Great with pasta.

Pine nuts
Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine trees and are excellent additions to green salads.

Poppy seeds
Tiny black seeds from the poppy flower that add a crunch and sweetness to muffins and other baked goods.

Pomegranate seeds
Pomegranate seeds are attractive additions to green or fruit salads. To prepare: Cut fruit in half and remove seeds.

Quinoa (keen-wah) is one of the oldest grains. It is gaining popularity because of its nutritional profile. It's considered a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids. To prepare: Rinse quinoa to remove coating. Boil 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups of water, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. When cooked, the quinoa will become corkscrew-shaped. Add cooked quinoa to salad recipes or use in place of bulgur wheat in tabouli.

A red miniature leaf with a slightly bitter flavor.

Romaine lettuce
Gaining in popularity as a replacement for iceberg, romaine lettuce has dark green leaves and a crunchy texture.

Romano, Pecorino
An Italian hard cheese that is often used in place of Parmesan cheese.

Corkscrew pasta that is often used in pasta salads.

Scallions/green onions
Mild onions that can be trimmed and chopped for use in salads. Green onions can also be grilled with other vegetables. After the root end is trimmed, almost all of the green and white part can be used.

Serrano pepper
Red or green. Moderatly to very hot, with an intense bite.

A cross between onion and garlic that is subtle in flavor.

Shortening (Crisco)
Crisco shortening contains 50% less saturated fat than butter, blends more easily, and does not require refrigeration. For easier use, try Crisco shortening sticks.

Pasta in the form of long, thin strings, cooked by boiling or steaming and served with a sauce.

A vegetable with deep green leaves that are suitable for mixing with other greens or as the only salad green.

Spring mix
Often found as pre-bagged greens in the supermarket section. Composed of the earliest greens, or baby greens, for the most tender selections.

A licorice-flavored herb that is used in French cooking, mostly with chicken or shellfish. Use sparingly.

Tomatoes, sun-dried
Sun-dried tomatoes add concentrated flavor. They are either packed in oil or dry. To use the oil-packed tomatoes, simply chop and add to your recipe, or use in salads. Dried tomatoes should be soaked in hot water for 15 to 30 minutes, and then chopped.

Vanilla comes in two forms: vanilla beans and vanilla extract. In most cases, good quality vanilla extract will be sufficient in a recipe.

Vegetable oil
Crisco Vegetable Oil is all-natural, and its light taste makes it good for all of your cooking and baking needs.

Spaghetti-like pasta, but in thinner strings.

Whole wheat flour
Whole wheat flour contains the germ and the bran that has been removed from white flour. It is better for you, but not everyone likes its stronger flavor. Store in the freezer.

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