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Foreign Food Terms 101

by Diane Lofshult on May 01, 2006

Do you need a translator every time you try a new, exotic recipe?

You are not alone. All cooks need occasional help with food terms that can seem like Greek to anyone not fluent in several languages. Here’s a primer you can use to decipher terms that are foreign to your kitchen:

al dente (al-DEN-tay): An Italian term meaning “cooked till firm to the bite”—neither mushy nor crunchy. Commonly used of pasta.

al forno (al-FOHR-noh): Also Italian, meaning “cooked in the oven.”

chiffonade (shihf-uh-NAHD): A French term that literally means “made of rags.” Applies to leafy greens sliced into very thin strips, or the slicing technique itself.

concassé (kawn-ka-SAY): A French term for a coarsely chopped vegetable mixture, usually containing tomatoes as a chief ingredient.

coulis (koo-LEE): Another French term, meaning a purée of fruit or vegetables used to flavor sauces or soups.

gremolata (greh-moh-LAH-tah): Italian for a mixture of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest that is often added to stews at the end of cooking.

mirepoix (mihr-PWAH): A French term referring to a mix of chopped onion, carrot and celery used as flavoring for sauces, stews and soups or as a bed on which to braise meat or fish.

Source: Newhouse News Service, 2005.

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About the Author

Diane Lofshult

Diane Lofshult IDEA Author/Presenter

Diane Lofshult is an award-winning freelance author who specializes in nutrition and weight management topics. She is the founder of In Other Words, an editorial consulting firm based in Solana Beach,...