vanilla - Aromatic bean of one variety of orchid. Bean or extract are used to heighten the flavor of other ingredients. Pure vanilla is relatively expensive due to the culturing process and time consuming extraction process.
veal - Meat from a young calf, generally from 1 to 3 months old.
volute sauce - One of five basic sauces. It's made from chicken, veal or fish stock and thickened with white roux. Basis for other sauces.
vermicelli - Pasta which is shaped in long thin strands. Much thinner that regular spaghetti.
verte sauce - French for "green sauce". A green vegetable such as spinach or parsley is blanched and squeezed tightly to release green colored liquid which is mixed with mayonnaise. Traditionally used on cold fish dishes.
vichyssoise - Creamy potato-leek soup that is served cold and topped with chives. Pronounced: VEE-she-swahz
vinaigrette - A basic oil and vinegar combination used over salad, cold vegetables or cold meat dishes. Simplest form includes oil and vinegar in 3 to 1 proportion with salt and pepper to taste.
water bath - The container of food is placed in a large, shallow pan of warm water providing a gentle heat. The pan of water is cooked in either the oven or on top of a stove. The water bath (or in French,
Bain Marie) is designed to cook dishes such as custards, sauces, and mousses without curdling.
water biscuit - Crisp cracker that is often served with wine and cheese. Its blandness is a compliment to wine tasting because it allows the wine flavor to come through.
watercress - Plant with small dark green leaves that can be found around cool fast running water. Bitter, peppery flavor compliments salads, sandwiches and soups. Usually available year-round in markets.
wild rice - Popular for its nutty flavor and chewy texture but not really a rice at all. Wild rice is a long grained marsh grass that's native to the Great Lakes region and traditionally harvested by native Indians. It's very expensive and usually combined with other
rice's or grains.
wok - Traditional utensil in Asian cooking. This
versatile round-bottomed pan is used for stir frying, steaming, braising, stewing and deep frying. They come in a variety of sizes and are also available with flat bottoms for electric stoves.
won ton - Chinese dumpling made from won ton skins (paper thin sheets of dough made from flour, eggs and salt). Skins are filled with meat, seafood or vegetable mixture then boiled, fried or steamed and served as appetizer with dipping sauces.
Worcestershire sauce - Thin, dark, piquant sauce used to season meats, gravies, soups and vegetables. The many formulas are typically made various quantities of soy sauce, garlic, lime,
molasses, tamarind, onions, molasses, anchovies, vinegar and seasonings.
yam - A tropical-vine tuber found in South and Central America, West Indies, Asia and Africa. Frequently confused with sweet
potatoes, true yams are from different plant species and are not widely marketed or grown in the U.S.
yeast - A living single celled organism that grows and converts its food (through fermentation) into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Most commonly used to leaven breads and in
yeast bread - Any bread that uses yeast as a leavening agent. As the yeast ferments it produces alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. The gas expands and causes the bread to rise. Oven head kills the yeast and evaporates the alcohol
yogurt - Dairy product made from milk that is fermented and coagulated from introduced or natural "friendly" bacteria. Can be made from the milk of many animals but cow's milk is most popular. Commercially available in flavors, with fruit and as a frozen dessert.
Yorkshire pudding - Cross between a popover and a
soufflé that is traditional compliment to British roast beef. Made with butter, eggs, milk and flour, it's baked in beef drippings until crisp and puffy. Made in shallow baking dishes or muffin pans and, like
soufflés, are best served immediately after baking before they "deflate".
zest - Outermost layer of citrus skin typically removed with citrus zester to create thin strips. Only colored portion of skin (not white pith) is considered the zest. The
aromatic oils in citrus skin add considerable flavor to food.
Zinfandel - Red wine grape brought to the U.S. from Italy. Its spicy raspberry flavor makes fruity to rich red wines.
ziti - Long thin tubes of macaroni pasta.
zucchini - Summer squash shaped in slightly curved cylinder. skin color can vary from light to dark green with off-white flesh. Typically picked when 6-10 inches long and may be used in a variety dishes with varied preparation techniques. Can be found year-round in most supermarkets.
zuppa - Italian word for soup.
zwieback - From the German word for twice baked. Refers to bread that is baked, sliced and reheated in the oven until dry and crisp. Frequently served to those with digestive problems because of its
digestibility. It has a slightly sweet flavor.