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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, California. Reach her at