Food Letter SSabayon: The French word for a velvety Italian custard called zabaglione. See Zabaglione.

Sachet d’ Epices – The term means “bag of spices” and consists of whole peppercorns, parsley stems, bay leaves, whole thyme leaves, and fresh garlic (wrapped in a bag of cheesecloth and suspended in the pot with butcher’s twine). The amounts vary according to the amount of stock.Saddle: The undivided loin from a meat carcass.

Safflower Oil: Oil made from the seeds of the safflower and contains more polyunsaturates than other oils. Because of its high cooking temperature, it is good for deep frying. It is also good for salad dressing because it is almost flavorless and colorless and does not solidify when chilled.

Saffron: An expensive spice derived from the stamens of the crocus, used as a flavoring and to give a yellow color.

Sage: An aromatic herb used for flavoring.

Sago: A starch made from the pith of the sago palm.

Sake: An alcoholic beverage produced from rice in much the same way that beer is brewed from wheat and barley, but is termed a rice wine because its alcohol content is similar to strong wines. It is served either hot or cold.

Salad: Comes from the Latin word “herba salta” or “salted herbs,” so called because such greens were usually seasoned with dressings containing lots of salt.

Salamander: A commercial grill which can be heated to very high temperatures.

Salami: A salted, smoked or air-dried sausage.

Salisbury Steak: A beef patty that is broiled or fried with onions and served with gravy.

Salsa: A thick and spicy cold relish made from tomatoes.

Salsify A root vegetable with a delicate flavor. Also called the oyster plant.

Salt: Common salt is a rock, the only one we eat (an mineral composed of 40% sodium and 60% chloride, joined by one of the strongest chemical unions there is, an ionic bond). One of the four elemental components of taste, along with sweet, sours, and bitter. Salt sharpens and pulls together other tastes. It comes from two primary sources; mines on land and water from the sea. Salt is also essential to our health. Without it, our cells cannot function properly and if we do not get enough of it, we will crave it until our physical need is satisfied.

kosher salt –  It is pure refined rock salt, also known as coarse salt or pickling salt. It has larger crystals, which adheres better to food. Because it does not contain magnesium carbonate, it will not cloud items in which it is added. Kosher salt is required for “koshering“ foods that must meet Jewish dietary guidelines.

pickling or canning salt – It is a fine-grained additive-free salt used to make brines for pickles, sauerkraut, etc.

rock salt or halite – It is mined from natural deposits and varies in color from colorless when pure, to white, gray, or brown. It is not as refined as other salts and comes in chunky crystals. Rock salt is used predominately as a bed on which to serve baked oysters and clams and in combination with ice to make ice cream in crank-style ice cream makers.

sea salt – Sea salt generally comes from coastal marshes, basins, and other areas where seawater has been trapped and is allowed to evaporate naturally. It is grayish in color and contains traces of minerals.

table salt and iodized salt – It has additives added that prevent caking and may make the brine cloud. Iodized salt may also darken pickles.

Salt Cod: Dried, salted cod.

Sambuca: An Italian aniseed flavored liqueur.

Samphire: A fleshy green plant which grows on coastal marshes. Also known as glasswort or pickle-plant.

Sandwich: A sandwich is two or more slices of bread with a filling, such as meat, cheese, jam or various mixtures, placed between them.

Sangria: A Spanish drink of red wine with fruit and spices with mineral water.

Sardine: A small pilchard, an oil-rich sea fish.

Sashimi: Japanese for “raw fish in slices.” Sashimi consists of the freshest, top-quality fish. In Japan, it might be fillets of tuna, bonito, salmon, halibut or whatever is in season. It is sliced into bite-size portions and dressed into different shapes. Usually served with soy sauce and horseradish.

Sauce: A French word that means a relish to make our food more appetizing. Sauces are liquid or semi-liquid foods devised to make other foods look, smell, and taste better, and hence be more easily digested and more beneficial.

Sauerkraut: A chopped cabbage that is salted and then fermented in its own juice. Sauerkraut is made by placing salt between layers of finely shredded cabbage and then subjecting it to pressure, which bruises the cabbage and squeezes out its juices. It then ferments.

Sauté: To fry food rapidly in a small amount of oil or fat until evenly browned.

Savory: There are two types of savory  – summer and winter. Both of which are closely related to the mint family. It has an aroma and flavor reminiscent to a cross between mint and thyme. Summer savory is slightly milder, but both are strongly flavored so use this herb with discretion. 

A large, ring-shaped, spongy cake made from a rich yeast mixture, soaked in a rum-flavored syrup and filled with fruit and cream.

Sazerac: A drink made with whiskey generally associated with the Sazerac Bar at the Fairmont Hotel. The bartender coats an Old Fashion glass with herbsaint, pours out the excess, pours in the Sazerac mix and tops off the drink with a twist of lemon.

Scald: (1) to dip into boiling water. (2) To heat milk to just below the boiling point. (3) To dip fruits, vegetables, or nuts in boiling water to facilitate removing the skin or shell.

Scale: To remove the scales from fish with a knife or a fish scaler.

Scallion: The name scallion applies to several members of the onion family including a distinct variety called scallion, immature onions (commonly called green onions), young leeks, and sometimes the tops of young shallots. In each case the vegetable has a white base that has not fully developed into a bulb and green leaves that are long and straight (both parts are edible). True scallions are generally identified by the fact that the sides of the base are straight, whereas the others are usually slightly curved, showing the beginnings of a bulb. All can be used interchangeably, but true scallions have a milder flavor than immature onions. Scallions are available year-round, but are at their peak during spring and summer. At their peak, scallions are crisp with bright green tops and a firm white base. Mid-sized scallions with long white stems are the best. Scallions can be cooked whole as a vegetable much as you would a leek. They can also be chopped and used in salads, soups, and a multitude of other dishes for flavor. 

Scallop: A shellfish with firm and white flesh and an orange or pale red coral (roe).

Scaloppini: An Italian term for a thin, pounded piece of meat. Usually prepared by dredging the meat in flour, then sautéing and serving with a wine, lemon, or tomato sauce. Also called piccata.

Scant: Lacking a small part of the whole; not quite up to full measure. In other words, one (1) scant teaspoon means not quite a whole teaspoon but a little less. Scant is a very bad term to use in writing a recipe. The recipe should give the exact amount or say “to taste.”

Schnapps: A generic term for strong, colorless alcoholic beverage distilled from grains or potatoes and variously flavored. Peppermint schnapps is the most common, but other flavors include cinnamon, vanilla, root beer, blackberry, raspberry, peach, and mango.

Schnitzel: German word meaning “slice” and usually refers to veal dishes. It is a cutlet of veal which is beaten out until it is thin.

Scone: A small, rounded sweet or savory cake.

Score: To make shallow cuts in the surface of meat to allow heat to penetrate whilst cooking.

Scotch Bonnet: A very hot, small chili.

Scoville Unit: Established by Wilbur Scoville, these are the units of heat of a chile pepper. Units rank from 0 to 300,000.

Scrag Cut of meat from the neck of lamb.

Scrod: This term originated in the Boston area to describe the catch of the day. It is also used as a general label for small members of the cod family, including pollack, haddock, hake, and whiting.

Searing: The browning (caramelizing) of a food surface at high heat. Little fat is used when searing. Searing brings out the flavor and creates a fond at the bottom of the pan which is used for making sauces.

Season: (1) To add flavor to foods (such as adding herbs and spices). (2) To coat the cooking surface of a new pot or pan with vegetable oil and then heating in a 350 degree F. oven for about a hour. This smoothes out the surface of new pots and pans, particularly cast-iron, and prevents foods from sticking.

Seasoned Flour: Flour with salt, pepper or spices added used to lightly coat meat or fish before stewing or frying.

Semolina: A coarse flour used to make breads and puddings.

Serrano Pepper: A native to Mexico and southwest America, and is widely believed to be the hottest chile by many Americans who adore it in its red or green form. Serrano peppers are quite small (about 1 ½-inches long).

Sesame Oil: This oil has been used in cooking in Africa and the Far East for many centuries. The main advantage of sesame oil over other oils is that it does not turn rancid, even in hot weather. For this reason, it is very popular in tropical countries.

Shallot: The most refined member of the onion family. They look more like garlic than onions.

Shin: A cut of beef from the foreleg.

Shirred Eggs: Eggs that are baked until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard.

Shortbread: A sweet, rich butter biscuit.

Shortening: A solid fat made from vegetable oils, such as soybean and cottonseed oil. Although made from oil, shortening has been chemically transformed into a solid state through hydrogenation. Vegetable shortening is virtually flavorless (has a bland, neutral flavor) and may be substituted for other fats (such as butter, margarine, or lard) in baking of pie pastry, cookies, and cakes. Shortening is ideal for pastry, since it blends well with the flour. It can be stored at room temperature for up to a year.

Shred: To use a knife or a shredder (a cutting tool with round, smooth, sharp-edged holes) to cut food into long, thin strands.

Shuck, Shucking: Means to remove a natural outer covering from food, such as shells from oysters or husks from corn.

Sifter: A sieve that is especially adapted for use with flour. It is commonly built in the form of a metal cup with a screen bottom and contains a mechanism (wires that either revolve or rub against the screen being operated by a crank or a lever) to force the flour through the mesh.

Silverside: A cut of beef.

Simmer To keep a liquid just below boiling point.

Simple Syrup: A solution of sugar and water that is boiled over high heat. Most simple syrups contain a ratio of one cup water to two cups of sugar. The longer you boil the mixture, the thicker it will become.

Sippet: A small piece of toast used to garnish.

Sirloin:  A cut of beef.

Skillet: The term skillet once applied to any metal cooking vessel that had a handle, but the term has come to apply (in the U.S.) to the metal frying pan (cast-iron).

Skim: (1) To remove floating matter from the surface of a liquid with a spoon or ladle which is usually perforated. (2) To remove a top surface of fat, cream, or scum from the top of liquid.

Slake: To mix a thickening agent with liquid.

Sliver: To cut food into long, thin pieces or thin strips.

Slurry: A slurry is a mixture of a starch and cold water.

Smoke: To expose fresh food to smoke from a wood fire for a prolonged period of time. Traditionally used for preservation purposes, smoking is now a means of giving flavor to food.

Smoking Point: The point when a fat such as butter or oil smokes and lets off an acrid odor. This is not good since this odor can get into what you are cooking and give it a bad flavor. Butter smokes at 350 degrees F., vegetable oil at 445 degrees F., lard at 365 to 400 degrees F., and olive oil at about 375 degrees F.

Smoothie: A drink made from pulped fruits or vegetables.

Sno-ball: This is a New Orleans creation. A machine that turns blocks of ice into sno-balls makes it. Most “sno-cones” are made of crushed ice; this machine shaves a block of ice, giving it an extremely fine texture. “Shaved ice” in Hawaii is the closest thing to the sno-ball. A sno-ball isn’t an Italian ice, nor is it a crushed ice abomination. Once the ice is shaved, it’s collected into a cup, paper cone, bowl, plate, or even a container akin to the things that you get at a Chinese take-out place. Then syrup is poured over the ice.

Sorbet A semi-frozen water ice.

Sorghum: Different from molasses, although many people use the terms interchangeably. Sorghum is made from the juice of the sweet-sorghum cane stalk, sorgos, and has no sugar removed and thus is significantly sweeter than molasses. Sorgos, a tall cereal grass resembling corn is sometimes called “brown corn,” and can be used as fodder. It can be used interchangeably with sugarcane molasses.

Sorrel: A green herb used in salads and as a flavoring.

Soufflé:  A sweet or savory dish enriched with egg yolks with whisked egg whites folded in and then baked.

Soup:  The word “soup” describes both broth and contents as it means any combination of meat, fish or vegetables, cooked in water or in any other liquid, and intended to be eaten.  It may be thin (like consommé), thick (like gumbo), smooth (like bisque), or chunky (like chowder or bouillabaisse).  Most soups are served hot, but some (like vichyssoise and fruit soups) are served cold.

Souse: To cover fish with a mixture of vinegar, spices and water to cure or prior to cooking.

Soy Sauce: A staple condiment and ingredient throughout all of Asia. It is a salty, brown liquid that is made from fermented soybeans mixed with a roasted grain (wheat, barley, or rice are common), injected with a special yeast mold, and liberally flavored with salt. After being left to age for several months, the mixture is strained and bottled. The sauce’s consistency can range from very thin to very thick.

Spaetzle: Literally translated from German as “little sparrow.” A dish of tiny noodles or dumplings made with flour, eggs, water or milk, salt, and sometimes nutmeg. In Germany, spaetzle is served as a side dish much like potatoes or rice, and is often accompanied by a sauce or gravy. The cooked spaetzle can also be pan fried with a little butter and onions (usually a good left-over idea).

Spam: A canned ground pork and ham product that does not need to be refrigerated until opened. Originally sold in 12-ounce cans and since 1960, it was been available in 7-ounce cans and even smaller varieties.

Spelt: A cereal grain with a nutty flavor, and can be used by people with wheat allergies.

Spider: A cast-iron skillet or frying pan. At one time, this cooking vessel had three long metal legs (enabling it to be set directly over the coals of a hearth fire). It was from these legs (since discarded) that the utensil received its name. Thought the legs were discarded with the coming of the range, the name has remained in many locations, referring to the cast-iron vessel only.

Springform Pan: A pan which its sides that can be removed and the bottom comes out tool Used mostly in baking, this unusual pan has a fastener on the side that can be opened to remove the rim after the cake is cool. They are available in a number of sizes, 9- and 10-inch being the most common. Cheesecakes and tortes are usually baked in this type of pan.

Squab: Doves and pigeons belong to the same family of birds, the Columbidae. Squab is just a fancy name for pigeon. The meat of Squab is distinctly different from that of any other domestic poultry, while being milder than that traditionally associated with game meats. Squab is probably the gamiest of the domestic birds. It has a full rich flavor like black berries.

Squid: A sea mollusk of the cuttlefish family. Also known as calamari.

Star Anise: A star shaped spice, with an aniseed taste, used as a flavoring.

Starfruit: A yellow five-pointed fruit with a sweet and sour flavor. Also known as carambola.

Steam: To cook with steam, usually in a steamer or on a rack over boiling water. Steaming retains flavor, shape, texture, and nutrients better than boiling or poaching. In this method, steam is the heat conductor. If it is under pressure, as it is in a pressure steamer, the temperature is hotter than a water-based liquid can ever be.

Steep: To soak herbs, spices, raisins, etc. in a hot liquid to extract or intensify the flavors and also the color.

Stew: It is the name of any dish which results from the action of stewing. Stewing is the method of cooking which tenderizes tough pieces of meat. It is a method by which meat and (usually although not always) vegetables are slowly simmered ion liquid for a substantial period of time so that the meat not only becomes tender enough to chew but all the ingredients blend into a delicious mix.

Sticky Rice: The defining element of sushi is not raw fish as many thin, but the rice. Sushi to the Japanese is synonymous with seasoned sticky rice.

Stilton: An English blue cheese made from whole cow’s milk. Stilton acquired its name in the 18th century because it was first sold in the small English village of Stilton in Hungtingdonshire. It is allowed to ripen for 4 to 6 months, during which time it is skewered numerous times to encourage the growth of penicillium Roquefort mold (also present in Roquefort cheese). Stilton cheese is best eaten by itself with a glass of port or a full-bodied dry red wine.

Stock: A liquid that has absorbed the flavor of meat, fish or vegetables cooked in it.

Strawberry:  Juicy and red, the strawberry is a member of the rose family and has grown wild for centuries in Europe and America. The cultivation of strawberries goes back to the 1600s when early settlers enjoyed strawberries grown by local Native Americans. Today’s strawberries are a cross breeding of the Virginia strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), the native wild strawberry of the eastern seaboard (which was introduced into Europe around 1610), and the Chilean strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) which made the voyage a century later. Fresh strawberries are available year-round with the peak season from April to June.

Strudel: A dessert with a delicate casing made of paper-thin layers of filo pastry, each of which is brushed with butter. The Austrians say the pastry is so thin that you can read a love letter through it. The strudel usually has a filling consisting of cooked and diced fruit, chopped almonds, a little cinnamon, and sometimes a little brandy.

Suet: The white fatty casing that surrounds the kidneys and the loins in beef, sheep, and other animals. Suet has a higher melting point than butter and when it does melt it leaves small holes in the dough, giving it a loose soft texture. Many British recipes call for it to lend richness to pastries, puddings, stuffings, and mincemeats.
shredded suet – It is suet that has been shaved, grated, or cut into long narrow pieces.

Sugar: A carbohydrate that occurs naturally in every fruit and vegetable in the plant kingdom. It is the major product of photosynthesis, the process by which plants transform the sugar energy into food. Sugar occurs in greatest quantities in sugar cane and sugar beets from which it is separated for commercial use.

Sunflower Oil: Oil made from sunflower seeds. It is pale yellow and has a bland flavor. It is a good all-purpose flour that is low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fat.

Supreme: (1) To remove the flesh sections of citrus fruit from the membranes. (2) The wing and breast of the chicken or game bird. (3) A fillet of sole or fish.

Sushi: Japanese word, which originally meant “sour” or “vinegary” and later came to mean “pickled fish.” Sushi is sometimes called “the Japanese sandwich.” Contrary to popular American belief, sushi does not mean “raw fish,” but actually means “with rice.” Sushi is small cakes (shaped into various bite-size forms) of cold cooked rice (sticky rice), flavored with sweet rice vinegar, and typically garnished with strips of raw or cooked fish, seafood, cooked egg, vegetables, etc. They are then wrapped in seaweed to make a shaped package.

Sweat: To cook vegetables in fat over gentle heat so they become soft but not brown and their juices are concentrated in the cooking fat. If the pan is covered during cooking, the ingredients will keep a certain amount of their natural moisture. If the pan is not coverer, the ingredients will remain relatively dry.

Sweetbreads: The thymus and pancreas glands of animals. They are light meat that is firmer in texture than brains. The sweetbreads of veal are considered the best. Beef sweetbreads are rather fatty and coarse, but if well prepared, they will taste almost the same as veal. Such foods, along with other internal organs are called “Offal,” meaning, literally, the “off-fall” or off-cuts from the carcass; many call these items “variety meats.”

Swiss Cheese: Also called Emmentaler cheese. A large, hard, pressed-cured cheese with an elastic body and a nut-like flavor. It is best known because of the holes (eyes) that develop in the curd as the cheese ripens. The eyes are often 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter and from 2 to 3 inches apart. It is considered one of the most difficult kinds of cheese to make.

Syllabub An English dessert of sweeten whipped cream, white wine, infused with lemon.

Szechuan Peppercorns: Also called Szechwan pepper, Nepali pepper, or Timur pepper. Timur pepper/Szechwan pepper (pimpinella anisum) is native to the Szechwan province of China. Though it bears some similarity to black peppercorns, they are not actually of the pepper family, rather the dried berry of a tree in the prickly ash family. The Szechwan pepper is one of the few spices important for Tibetan and Bhutani cookery in the Himalayas, since very few spices can be grown there.

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