Gourmet Glossary: W
Waldorf Salad: Also called Waldorf Astoria Salad. A classic American fruit salad that usually consists of apples, lemon juice, celery, walnuts, and mayonnaise.
Walnut: A rain shaped nut, used in sweet and savory dishes.
Walnut Oil: An expensive and strongly flavored (nutty) oil, which is popular in Middle Eastern cooking, sauces, main dishes, and baked goods. It is often blended with more mildly flavored oils. To prevent rancidity, refrigeration is best.
Wasabi: A member of the same family as horseradish and is very similar in flavor (less harsh and more aromatic). Wasabi is mainly used with sushi and sashimi in Japanese cooking. The root is usually grown on a small scale and is an expensive luxury. What is usually served in Japanese restaurants as wasabi, is really a paste made from wasabi powder. Wasabi is now being grown outside of Japan in Oregon, Taiwan, and New Zealand.
Wasabi Powder: This is not real wasabi. The customary ingredients in the powdered version are horseradish powder (dried and ground regular horseradish), mustard powder, cornstarch, and artificial color (blue and yellow). It’s convenient and inexpensive but tastes nothing like real wasabi.
Wassail: Wassail is an ancient beverage and toast coming from the time in England when the Saxon lords and ladies cried out “waes hael,” meaning “Be of good health.” Originally, wassail was a beverage made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, nuts, eggs, and spices. In some parts of Britain it is still customary to perform the tradition, though the type of ceremony performed varies from one region to the next. As a result, no one knows exactly how many types of wassailing ceremonies exist; however, three of the most popular are wassail in the hall, wassail door to door and wassail in the orchards.
Water Chestnuts: A walnut-sized bulb covered by a tough russet-colored skin. In China they are eaten raw, boiled plain in their jackets, peeled and simmered with rock sugar, or candied. Except in the southern China, they are never used in cooking. In the U.S., water chestnuts are popular as an ingredient in cooked dishes. They re available fresh or in cans, either whole or sliced.
Watermelon: Watermelon has been popular throughout the world, beginning with the Egyptians more than 5,000 years ago. It is said that explorer David Livingstone found watermelon vines in the Kalahari Desert in the 1850s. Many historians theorize that watermelons could also have originated in the U.S., since French explorers found Native Americans growing watermelons in the Mississippi Valley.
Waxy-Rice Flour: Also called sweet-flour, this flour is ground from waxy-rice and is used extensively in frozen foods. Waxy-rice flour is able to withstand syneresis during freezing and thawing. This resistance to liquid separation is attributed to its high amyl pectin content.
Wheat Berries: The hulled whole kernels of wheat from which flour is milled.
Wheat Germ: The inner portion of the wheat kernel. It is a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, and protein. It adds a nutty flavor to baked goods and can be sprinkled over breakfast cereals, yogurt, or fruit.
Whelk: A marine snail.
Whey: The liquid part of curdled milk.
Whipping Cream: Cream with a fat content over 35%.
White Confectionery Coating: The technical name for white chocolate. According to the FDA, “white chocolate” cannot legally be called chocolate because it contains no cocoa powder, a component of chocolate. True chocolate contains pulverized roasted cocoa bean, consisting of cocoa butter and cocoa solids. White chocolate contains no cocoa solids and thus technically is “white confectionery coating.” Beware–some white confectionery coatings don’t even contain cocoa butter. Even in “real” white chocolate the chocolate flavor is subtle at best, being to real chocolate what white soul is to soul.
White Sauce: A basic bland smooth, thickened sauce used basis of many other sauces.
Whiting: A white sea fish, a member of the cod family.
Wild Rice: Wild rice is an annual aquatic grass, which produces an edible seed. It grows in the shallows of lakes and rivers throughout eastern and north central North America. Native North Americans have harvested and eaten wild rice for centuries. Since they first presented wild rice to the early North American explorers and fur traders, this unusual cereal grain (the only one native to North America) has been prized for its distinctive natural flavor and texture. Natural stands of wild rice grow in the clear lakes of northern Manitoba. Preserved wild rice grains have been found at North American archeological sites. These findings seem to indicate that wild rice has been an important North American native food for at least 1,000 years.
Wonton: Wonton literally means, “swallowing a cloud” in Chinese. They are a very popular Chinese delicacy. They are small shapes of very thinly rolled dough, filled with sweet or savory mixtures. The size and shape of wontons, and the type of filling used, vary according to the different culinary traditions in each region of China. They may be boiled, steamed, or deep-fried and served as an appetizer, snack, or side dish (usually with several sauces).
Worcestershire Sauce: A spicy dark brown sauce, used as a flavoring or condiment.
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