Don’t know a Chorizo from a Clafouti?

Don't know a Chorizo from a Clafouti?

Restaurant Menu Term Glossary


The following list is a guide of terms you’ll commonly see on a menu the next time you eat out. Use this list to help you select the tastiest, most delectable dishes the next time you eat out.





Name Definition Other names, spellings
Aïoli Garlic mayonnaise from Provence. Used with meats, fish and vegetables.  
Aloo Indian for Potato.
Amberjack A lean, mild fish found along the South Atlantic coast.


Ancho chile A long, dark, reddish brown, dried Poblano chile. It’s the sweetest of all the dried chiles and has a slightly fruity flavor.
Andouille sausage A spicy and smoke sausage made from pork. Often used in Cajun cooking.
Arroz Spanish for Rice.
Arugula A bitter, aromatic salad green with a peppery mustard flavor. Rocket, Rugula, Rucola
au Poivre Cooking term: Prepared or served with a generous amount of coarsely ground black pepper. Steak au poivre
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Baked Alaska A dessert where sponge cake is layered with ice cream and wrapped in meringue and then baked long enough to brown the meringue, but not melt the ice cream.
Baklava A Greek dessert in which layers of phyllo dough are drenched in butter, nuts and spices. A honey-lemon syrup is poured over the top and then the mixture is baked.
Bavarian Cream A sweet mixture of custard, whipped cream, various flavorings (fruit, chocolate, etc.) and gelatin.  
Bay scallop Small scallops, about 1/2 inch in diameter. Smaller than the Sea Scallop .
Béarnaise A French sauce made from a reduction of vinegar, wine, tarragon and shallots and finished with egg yolks and butter. Served with meat, fish, eggs and vegetables.
Béchamel A French white sauce that is made by stirring milk into a butter-flour roux, which thickens and is used as a base for other sauces.
Beignet A yeast pastry from New Orleans that is deep fried, generously coated in powdered sugar and served hot. 
Beurre blanc A French sauce made of wine, vinegar and shallot reduction into which cold butter is whisked until the sauce is thick and smooth.  Great with poultry, seafood, vegetables and eggs.
Biryani An elaborate Indian dish made from spiced saffron rice cooked with pieces of lamb, chicken or vegetables.
Bisque A thick, rich soup usually consisting of puréed seafood (sometimes vegetables or poultry) with cream and often finished with brandy.
Blini Small, yeast-raised pancakes traditionally served with sour cream and caviar or smoked salmon. Typically made with buckwheat flour. 
Blue Point Oyster, East Coast: From Long Island with a full, salty flavor.
Bordelaise A French sauce made with red or white wine, brown (beef, veal) stock, shallots, parsley and herbs. Usually served with broiled meats.
Bouillabaisse A seafood stew from Provence, made with an assortment of fish and shellfish, onions, tomatoes, white wine, olive oil, garlic, saffron and herbs.
Braise A cooking method where meat is browned, then cooked in a small amount of liquid, covered, over low heat, until the meat becomes tender.
Bread pudding A dessert in which cubes of bread soaked in a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and spices and then baked. Can be served hot or cold.
Bresaola Italian air-dried, salted beef that has been aged approximately 2 months and thinly sliced.
Broccoli Rabe A pungent, bitter vegetable that looks similar to broccoli, but is in the same family as cabbage and turnip.  Very popular in Italian cooking. Broccoli raab, Brocoletti di rape, Rape, Rapini
Broccolini A cross between broccoli and Chinese kale, its long, slender stalks and buds look like miniature broccoli flourettes.
B’steeya Moroccan dish of phyllo dough surrounding a mixture of shredded chicken, almonds and spices.  It’s baked then sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon.  Bastela, Bastila, Bisteeya, Pastilla
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Caesar salad Romaine lettuce tossed with a garlicky dressing (usually made with garlic, Worcestershire sauce, lemon, parmesan cheese, a coddled egg and sometimes anchovies) and croutons.
Café au lait Coffee drink: Equal portions coffee and scalded milk.
Café brulot Coffee drink: Traditional New Orleans flaming drink of coffee blended with spices, orange and lemon peel and brandy. 
Café Macchiato Coffee drink: Espresso with a dollop of steamed milk foam, served in an espresso cup.
Café Mocha Coffee drink: Espresso with chocolate syrup and a generous amount of foamy steamed milk.
Caffé Americano Coffee drink: Espresso diluted with three parts water.
Caffé latte Coffee drink: Espresso combined with a generous amount of foamy steamed milk.
Calamari Also known as Squid. Part of the mollusk seafood family and related to octopus.  It has a firm, chewy texture with mild and somewhat sweet flavor.  Often served fried or grilled. Squid
Canapé An appetizer or hors d’oeuvre: Small, decorative pieces of bread (toasted or untoasted) with savory topping such as cheese, smoked fish or spread.
Caper The flowerbud of a bush native to the Mediterranean and part of Asia. The buds are picked, sun-dried and then pickled.  Often seen in pasta, chicken and seafood dishes.  
Cardamom A sweet, aromatic black seed spice encased in a hard pale green shell much like a tiny head of garlic, used in massaman curry.
Carne Spanish for beef.  
Carnitas Spanish for shredded pork.
Carpaccio An appetizer of thin shavings of [usually] beef or tuna filet, drizzled with olive oil or lemon juice.  Often topped with capers, onions and/or parmesan cheese. Although beef or tuna are typical, other fish or even vegetables are sometimes used..
Cassoulet A French dish of white beans and meat such as sausage, pork and preserved duck or goose, covered and simmered or baked very slowly.
Celeriac A special type of celery that is grown for its root rather than its stalk and leaves. It looks like a giant turnip, but tastes like a cross between celery and jicama. Can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in soups or stews. Celery root, Celery knob, Knob celery
Cépes Another name for mushroom with a smooth, meaty texture and pungent, woodsy flavor.   Porcini
Challah A traditional Jewish bread that’s has a rich, eggy flavor and has a light, airy texture. 
Charcuterie Meat products often sold in a delicatessen-style shop such as pâtés and rillettes.Often served as an appetizer with a selection of meat..
Chasseur Sauce A brown sauce made with mushrooms, shallots and white wine (sometimes parsley and tomatoes). Often served with game meat. “Hunter” sauce
Chervil An herb that is a member of the parsley family with a mild, slightly anise flavor. Tastes like a mild cross between parsley and tarragon. Cicily, Sweet cicily
Chesapeake Bay Oyster, East Coast: From Maryland. Shells are packed tight with firm, salty meats.
Chevre Goat’s milk cheese.
Chipotle Chili A dried, smoked jalapeño pepper. Typically used in Mexican cooking and added to stews and sauces.  
Chorizo Coarsely ground pork sausage flavored with garlic, chili powder and other spices. Very unique flavor. Typically found in Mexican (fresh pork) or Spanish (smoked pork) styles.
Chutney A spicy Indian condiment with fruit, vinegar, sugar and spices.  Can be served with curried dishes or with bread and cheese, depending on the sweetness level.
Clafouti A dessert of fresh fruit topped with a batter and then baked, sometimes topped with cream. Traditionally cherries are used, but can be plums, peaches and pears are also used.
Clams Casino An appetizer where clams are baked on the half shell and stuffed with garlic butter, bacon and topped with toasted bread crumbs.
Colbert Sauce A sauce of meat glaze, butter, wine, shallots, tarragon and lemon juice. Served with grilled meat and game.
Compote Chilled fresh or dried fruit that has been slowly cooked in sugar syrup, sometimes adding liqueur and/or spices.
Confit Cooked duck (pork or goose can also be used) meat is salted and slowly cooked in its own fat and packed in a vessel along with the cooking fat. The result is a very tender, flavorful piece of meat.
Consommé An intensely flavored, clarified meat or fish broth.  Can be served hot or cold.
Coulis A thick purée or sauce, such as tomato or raspberry coulis.
Couscous A tiny semolina pasta from North Africa, this quick cooking grain has a slightly nutty flavor. Often used as a substitute for rice. 
Crème Chantilly A slightly sweetened whipped cream, often flavored with vanilla. Used to top desserts. Chantilly
Crème fraîche  A thickened cream with a slightly tangy, nutty flavor and rich texture.  Similar to sour cream, but thicker and richer.
Crêpe A paper-thin pancake that can be made either sweet or savory. Crepe, Crépe
Crown Roast A roast formed from the rib section of pork or lamb loin by tying it into a circle with the ribs facing up. Traditionally the tips of the bones are covered with paper frills that look like a miniature chef’s hat.
Cumberland Sauce A sauce made with red currant jelly, port wine, orange and lemon zests, mustard and other seasonings. Generally served with venison, duck and other game meats.
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Daikon A large, white, carrot shaped Japanese radish.
Dal Dal is an Indian word, which includes dried peas, beans, and lentils that are red, yellow orange, or pink, plus split peas and other legumes. Dal can also be used to describe a soup like dish prepared with lentils.
Dayboat fish A term referring to fish that has been purchased off of vessels that go out to sea and back in the same day, as opposed “trawled” fish that can stored on a vessel for more than 5 days. 
Demi-glace A rich sauce of brown stock, herbs, tomatoes, browned vegetables and sherry or madeira wine, reduced until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.Used as a base for many other sauces.
Dolma/dolmades Grape leaves usually stuffed with a seasoned mixture of ground lamb, rice, onions, currents and pine nuts.Usually served as an appetizer.
Dorade A small fish from the Mediterranean with tender white flesh, shiny silver skin and has a rich, meaty flavor similar to pompano or red snapper. Often grilled or braised.
Double Cut lamb or pork chops A chop cut from the full rack, containing two rib bones.  Produces a much meatier and often juicier steak (than a single chop). 
Drawn butter Unsalted butter that has been melted and its milk solids removed until only the golden liquid remains.  Clarified butter
Duchess potatoes Cooked potatoes that are pureed with egg yolks and butter and then formed or piped and then baked until golden. Often used as a garnish or to top dishes.
Dungeness Bay Oyster, West Coast: Washington state. Plump meat, sweet flavor with a fruity finish.
Duxelles A paste made up of finely chopped mushrooms, shallots and herbs slowly cooked in butter. Often used to flavor sauces, soups and as a garnish.
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Edamame Japanese for soybean. Often steamed and served in the shells, salted.
Eggs Benedict Two poached eggs each on a half of an English muffin, topped with ham or Canadian bacon and Hollandaise sauce. 
Elote Spanish for corn. Helote
Emulsion A mixture of two liquids that don’t normally mix. This is done by slowly adding one into the other while mixing rapidly. Emulsions are usually thick and satiny in texture. 
En croûte Food wrapped in pastry and then baked. Croûte
En papillote Food that is baked inside a wrapping of parchment paper essentially steaming itself. Often served with the top of the wrapping slit and peeled back.  Papillote
Endive Closely related to chicory, endive is usually seen as Belgian endive, Curly endive or Escarole.  All three have a slightly bitter flavor of varying degrees and a green leaves. They’re mainly used in salads, as a side dish and in soups. Belgian endive, Curly endive, Escarole
Espagnole Sauce A rich sauce of reduced brown stock, herbs, tomato puree, browned vegetables and thickened with a brown roux. Used as a base for many other sauces.
Essence A concentrated, usually oily substanced extracted from fish, herbs, vegetables or flowers and used in small amounts to flavor dishes.
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Falafel Highly spiced, ground chickpeas formed into small balls and deep-fried. Usually served with a yogurt or tahini-based sauce. Felafel
Fennel A vegetable with a bright green bulbous base and feathery foliage.  The flavor of fennel is a sweeter version of a licorice or anise and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Filet Mignon A beef steak cut from the tenderloin, filet mignon is known for its tenderness, but it is not the most flavorful steak.
Fingerling A small waxy potato with a mealy texture and a thin, knobby appearance (finger-like).  Great roasted, fried or even grilled. 
Foie gras Liver of artificially fattened geese or ducks. 
Free-range Poultry or animals that are allowed to roam and feed without confinement. 
Fricassee Meat, usually chicken, that has been sautéed in butter and then stewed with vegetables, resulting in a thick and chunky stew. 
Frisée A member of the chicory family with delicate, curly yellow-green leaves. Its mildly bitter flavor makes a nice addition to the mesclun salad mix.
Fumé French for “smoked,” referring to foods that are prepared in this manner.
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Galangal First cousin to ginger, its creamy white flesh  has a hot, ginger-peppery flavor and is used as a seasoning.  Galanga root, Galingale
Galette A round, flat cake made of flaky-pastry dough or yeast dough. Can also apply to tarts that are either sweet or savory.
Garam masala A blend of dry-roasted, ground spices that adds a sense of “warmth” to both palate and spirit. Could contain up to 12 spice, but varies from cook to cook.
Gâteau French term for “cake.”
Génoise A rich, light cake made with flour, eggs, sugar, butter and vanilla. Similar to a moist sponge cake and can be used for a variety of desserts from Baked Alaska to petit fours and cake rolls.
Goetta A blend of pork, beef, oats, onions, herbs and spices that originated in Cincinnati. Usually prepared like sausage patties. Served with breakfast or brunch.
Gratin A dish topped with cheese or breadcrumbs mixed with butter, then heated in the oven or under the broiler until brown and crispy.  Gratinée, Alla gratinata
Gremolata A garnish made from chopped parsley, lemon peel and garlic. Typically sprinkled over osso buco and other dishes to add a bright, fresh flavor. Gremolada
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Haricot vert Small, slender green beans. 
Hollandaise A smooth and creamy sauce made of butter, egg yolks and lemon juice.  Used to top vegetables, fish and egg dishes.
Hummus A dip, typically made with mashed chickpeas seasoned with lemon juice, garlic and olive or sesame oil. 
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Jerk A spice blend of chiles, thyme, spices (including cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves), garlic and onions. Generally used to season grilled meats either as a rub or as a marinade. Jamaican jerk seasoning
Jerusalem artichoke A variety of a sunflower, these lumpy, brown-skinned tubers look like gingerroot.  The white flesh is nutty, sweet and crunchy with a potato-like texture. Can be eaten raw, boiled or steamed.  Sunchokes
Jicama A large, bulbous root vegetable with a thin brown skin and white crunchy flesh.  Its sweet, nutty flavor is good both raw and cooked.
John Dory An odd looking fish found in European waters.  Its flesh is delicate and mild and can be grilled, sautéed and poached. 
Johnnycake A flat griddlecake made from cornmeal, salt and either boiling water or cold milk.  Eggs, oil or melted butter are sometimes added. A combination between a pancake and cornbread. Johnny Cake, Jonnycake
Jus French for “juice” usually referring to the natural juices exuded from the meat. au jus is usually a dish presented with its own natural juices.
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Kappa Japanese for cucumber.
Kasha Roasted buckwheat groats, which have a toasty, nutty flavor.
Kielbasa Smoked pork sausage, sometimes with beef added. Kielbasy, Polish sausage
Kobe beef Beef that has been raised in Kobe, Japan. These pampered cattle have been massaged with sake and fed a special diet including beer. The result is an extraordinarily tender, flavorful and expensive piece of meat. 
Kohlrabi A vegetable that tastes like a sweet, mild turnip. Its purple-tinged white bulblike stem and its greens are edible. Cabbage turnip
Kumamoto Oyster: from Japan. Small with a salty, sweet flavor.
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Leek Looking like a giant scallion, it’s related to both the onion and garlic with a milder and more subtle flavor and fragrance.
Lychee A fruit from China with a rough, bright red shell and creamy white flesh that is juicy, smooth and delicately sweet. Litchi, Litchi nut
Lyonnaise sauce A French sauce made with white wine, sautéed onions and demi-glace. 
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Mahi-mahi A moderately fat fish with firm, flavorful flesh. Mahi mahi, Dolphinfish, Dorado
Maître d’hôtel or Maître d’ butter Butter mixed with lemon juice or vinegar, parsley and seasonings.  Often served with fish, poultry and meat.
Malaspina Oyster, West Cost: from British Columbia, Canada. Starts salty, moves into sweet and finishes with a cucumbery flavor.
Malpeque Oyster, East Coast: from Prince Edward Island, Canada. Distinct flavor with a touch of salt.
Maltaise or Maltese sauce Hollandaise sauce blended with orange juice and grated orange zest.
Marinière Preparation of shellfish with white wine and herbs.
Medallion A small, coin-shaped piece of meat, usually beef, veal or pork.
Melfor vinegar Melfor vinegar is a honey vinegar that is common in Alsace.
Meringue A mixture of stiffly beaten egg whites and granulated sugar. 
Meunière Style of cooking whereby a food (usually fish) is seasoned, lightly dusted with flour and sautéed simply in butter. 
Miso A fermented paste of soya beans and either barley or rice, with salt – basic to Japanese cookery and especially miso soup. Miso is highly flavored and rich in protein.
Mornay Sauce A béchamel sauce with cheese, usually parmesan and swiss, added.
Mousseline A sauce or dish that has a light, airy consistency.
Mutton An older lamb (2+ years) with a much stronger flavor and less tender meat.
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Nage An aromatic broth in which crustaceans are cooked. The shellfish is then served with this broth.
Nam pla Thin salty brown extraction of small fish such as anchovies; used to season many Thai dishes. Fish sauce
Napoleon A dessert made with crispy layers of puff pastry with pastry cream and glazed with thin icing or confectioners’ sugar.
New York Strip Also known as Kansas City Strip, this steak is very tender with a rich flavor. Kansas City strip steak
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Osso Buco An Italian dish typically made with veal shanks braised with olive oil, white wine, stock, onions, tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, carrots, celery and lemon peel. Ossobucco
Oysters Rockefeller Oysters on the half shell, topped with a mixture of chopped spinach, butter, breadcrumbs and seasonings and either baked or broiled.
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Pancetta Italian bacon that has been cured with salt and spices but not smoked. 
Panko Japanese breadcrumbs that are coarser in texture than typical dried breadcrumbs. They create a crunchier crust.
Panna cotta Dessert that is a light, silky eggless custard, which is often flavored with caramel and served cold.
Pâté A well-seasoned ground-meat preparation, from santiny-smooth to coarsely textured.  Can be made from pork, veal, liver, fish, poultry, game or even vegetables. 
Paupiette A thin slice of meat, usually veal or beef, rolled around a filling of finely ground meat or vegetables.  Roulades
Pearl Point Oysters, West Coast: from British Columbia, Canada. The meats have almost a crunchy texture with a mildly salty, sweet flavor with a cucumbery finish. On the large side. 
Pepitas Pumpkin seeds often used in Mexican cooking.   Pumpkin seeds
Pesto An Italian uncooked sauce made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and olive oil.
Pistou A mixture of crushed basil, garlic and olive oil. It’s the French version of pesto.
Polenta A thick, cooked mixture of cornmeal and either milk or water. Sometimes mixed with cheese such as parmesan or gorgonzola.
Ponzu A Japanese dipping sauce made with lemon juice or rice vinegar, soy sauce, mirin and/or sake, seaweed and dried bonito flakes. 
Porterhouse Steak A large, flavorful steak. The filet mignon is part of this steak along with a strip sirloin. Typically, a larger version of the T-Bone.
Poularde A French term referring to a fat chicken or hen suitable for roasting.
Poussin A French term for a very young, small chicken. Petit poussin, Squat chicken
Proscuitto A general term for ham that has been seasoned, salt-cured and air-dried (not smoked). The meat is pressed, which produces a firm, dense texture.
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Quince From Ancient Roman times, this yellow-skinned fruit looks and tastes like a cross between an apple and a pear. 
Quinoa Known by the Incas as the “Mother Grain,” quinoa is considered a complete protein as it contains all 8 essential amino acids. Tiny and bead shaped with a light, delicate flavor.  
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Ragoût A thick, rich, well-seasoned stew of meat, poultry or fish.
Ratatouille A vegetable dish of eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic and herbs – all simmered in olive oil.
Rémoulade A cold sauce made of mayonnaise, mustard, capers, chopped gherkins, herbs and anchovies.  Served with cold meat, fish and shellfish.
Ribeye Steak A highly marbled, tender cut of beef with intense flavor. Delmonico steak
Risotto An Italian rice specialty where hot stock is gradually mixed into rice that has been sauteed in butter or olive oil along with onions, resulting in creamy yet separate grains of rice.
Romesco A sauce made of a finely ground mixture of tomatoes, red bell peppers, onion, garlic, almonds and olive oil. Typically served with grilled fish or poultry.
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Saag Found in Indian cooking, the term refers to “greens” or spinach. The dish itself is an aromatic curry-like side dish made from spinach, mustard leaves, or other greens.
Sachertorte/Sacher torte A Viennese dessert including three layers of chocolate cake filled with apricot jam and enrobed in a creamy-rich chocolate glaze.  Typically served with whipped cream.
Saffron The the yellow-orange stigmas from a small purple crocus flower that produces the pungent, aromatic spice that is primarily used to flavor and tint food.
Scotch Egg A hard-cooked egg that is coated with sausage, dipped into beaten egg, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried.
Sea scallop The largest of the scallops, usually 20-40 per pound.
Seviche Raw fish marinated in citrus juices (usually lime). The juice “cooks” the fish, turning the flesh firm and opaque.  Cebiche, Ceviche
Skate A fish with firm, deliciously sweet white flesh. 
Soba Buckwheat noodles often used in Japanese cooking.
Soubise A creamy sauce with cooked onions.Often served with egg dishes.
Spatchcock A technique where a whole bird (poultry) that has been split down the back for grilled or broiling on a spit.
Squab A very small, young (domesticated) pidgeon with delicately flavored dark meat. Usually weigh less than 1lb.
Sweetbreads The thymus gland or pancreas of a young animal, usually calf or lamb.  A delicacy throughout the world.
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Tapenade A thick paste made from capers, anchovies, olives, olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings. A condiment often served with fish, raw vegetables and meat.
Tartare Ground or finely chopped, seasoned raw meat, typically beef or tuna. 
Tartine French term for a slice of buttered bread, which can be topped with any of various other spreads from jam to cheese. 
T-Bone Steak Two steaks in one, this combines the New York Strip on one side of the T-shaped bone with the tenderloin on the other. 
Terrine A pâté molded into an earthenware container.
Top Sirloin Steak One of the more flavorful cuts of beef with a lean, meaty texture.
Truffle Oil A very rich, pungent, infused olive oil which is used very sparingly to garnish dishes and impart the flavor of truffles for a fraction of the cost of using real truffles.
Tuile A thin, crisp cookie usually formed around a rounded object.  Often flavored with crushed almonds, orange, lemon, vanilla or other nuts.
Turbot A fish typically found in European waters with firm, lean white flesh and a mild flavor.
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Vichyssoise A rich, creamy potato-leek soup that’s served cold. 

Wahoo A moderate- to high-fat fish with a fine, white and slightly sweet flesh.   Ono
Waldorf A salad with apples, celery, mayonnaise and walnuts on top of a bed of lettuce.
Wasabi Known as Japanese horseradish, this plant root is used to make the green condiment that has a strong, fiery flavor.  Wasabe
Wellfleet Oyster, East Coast: from Cape Cod, MA. Crisp, slightly salty with a mild finish.

Zest The perfumy outermost skin layer of citrus fruit (typically lemons, limes and oranges). The aromatic oils in the zest are what add so much flavor to food.
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Published on August 31, 2006
About the Author
Dylan Garret

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