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Term Pronounciation Definition
vacherin cheeses [VASH-ran ] Any of several rich and creamy cow's-milk cheeses from France or Switzerland, characteristically containing 45 to 50 percent milk fat. Vacherin Fribourgeois from the Swiss canton of Fribourg has a grayish-yellow rind and a pale yellow, semisoft interior. Its mildly acidic, resiny flavor is reminiscent of GRUYÈRE. Vacherin Mont d'Or, which is made both in France and Switzerland, has a rich, slightly sweet flavor. The ripest of these cheeses are often so runny that they're eaten with a spoon. Vacherin d'Abondance and Vacherin des Dauges are French varieties that are soft and sweet-tasting. See also  CHEESE.
Valpolicella [vahl-paw-lee-CHEHL-lah] Produced in northern Italy, this dry red wine is light-bodied and has a fragrant bouquet and fruity flavor. It's best served young and is sometimes viewed as Italy's version of a French BEAUJOLAIS.
vanilla [vuh-NIHL-uh, vuh-NEHL-uh] Dictionaries describe the term "plain-vanilla" as something "simple, plain or ordinary." Few statements could be further from the truth — for there is definitely nothing ordinary about the seductively aromatic vanilla bean. This long, thin pod is the fruit of a luminous celadon-colored orchid (vanilla planifolia ), which, of over 20,000 orchid varieties, is the only one that bears anything edible. Native to tropical America, the vanilla bean was cultivated and processed by the Aztecs, who used it to flavor their cocoa-based drink, xocolatl , later transliterated to chocolatl . That basic flavoring wisdom is still true today . . . vanilla deliciously heightens chocolate's flavor. The vanilla bean was once considered an aphrodisiac, and was so rare that it was reserved for royalty. Because of the extremely labor-intensive, time-consuming process by which it's obtained, pure vanilla is still relatively expensive today. The saga begins with the orchid blossoms, which open only one day a year (and then only for a few hours). Because this particular orchid has only one natural pollinator (the Melipona bee), which cannot possibly handle the task in such a small period of time, the flower must be hand-pollinated — otherwise, no vanilla bean. After pollination, pods take 6 weeks to reach full size (6 to 10 inches long), and 8 to 9 months after that to mature. The mature pods, which must be hand-picked, are green and have none of the familiar vanilla flavor or fragrance. For that they need curing, a 3- to 6-month process that begins with a 20-second boiling-water bath followed by sun heating. Once the beans are hot, they're wrapped in blankets and allowed to sweat. Over a period of months of drying in the sun by day and sweating in blankets at night, the beans ferment, shrinking by 400 percent and turning their characteristic dark brown. The better grades of beans become thinly coated with a white, powdery coating called vanillin  (which is also produced synthetically). Today, the three most common types of vanilla beans are Bourbon-Madagascar, Mexican and Tahitian. Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla beans come from Madagascar, off the southeast coast of Africa, and its neighbor 420 miles away — the West Indian island of Réunion. They're rich and sweet and the thinnest of the three types of beans. About 75 percent of the world's vanilla-bean supply comes from the Madagascar area. The thick Mexican vanilla beans come from environs surrounding Veracruz. They have a smooth, rich flavor but are scarcer than the Bourbon-Madacascar beans because most areas where the orchid once thrived are now dedicated to oil fields and orange groves. Additionally, some Mexican vanilla products — though considerably cheaper than their U.S. supermarket counterparts — are suspect because they contain coumarin (banned by the FDA), a potentially toxic substance that can cause liver and kidney damage. Unfortunately, there's no way for the consumer to tell which Mexican vanilla products contain this toxin so the best safeguard is to buy Mexican vanilla beans from a reliable source. Tahitian vanilla beans are the thickest and the darkest (a blackish brown) of the three types. It's intensely aromatic, though not as flavorful as the other two types of beans. Vanilla powder is the whole, dried bean ground until powdery. Its flavor doesn't evaporate when heated as readily as that of vanilla extract, which makes it better suited for baked goods, custards, etc. Vanilla powder is available in specialty cake decorating supply shops, some gourmet markets and through mail order. Vanilla extract is the most common form of vanilla used today. It's made by MACERATING chopped beans in an alcohol-water solution in order to extract the flavor; the mixture is then aged for several months. To meet FDA standards, pure vanilla extract must contain 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon during extraction and 35 percent alcohol. The resulting brown liquid is clear and richly fragrant. (There are double- and triple-strength vanilla extracts, as well as a vanilla essence — so strong that only a drop or two is needed — available through special suppliers by mail order.) You can count on products labeled "natural vanilla flavor" containing only pure vanilla extract. Imitation vanilla is composed entirely of artificial flavorings (most of which are paper-industry by-products treated with chemicals). It often has a harsh quality that leaves a bitter aftertaste. Pure vanilla extract is about twice as expensive as its imitation counterpart, but there's no real comparison in flavor intensity and quality, and only about half the amount is needed. Vanilla descriptions on labels can be confusing. Natural vanillin  is a substance intrinsic to the vanilla bean, whereas artificial vanillin  is made from wood-pulp by-products. Vanilla flavoring  describes a blend of pure and imitation vanilla. In the United States, a label that reads vanilla ice cream  may only be made with pure vanilla extract and/or vanilla beans, whereas vanilla-flavored ice cream  may contain up to 42 percent artificial flavorings and artificial-flavored ice cream  contains only  imitation flavorings. Vanilla extracts are readily available and vanilla beans can be found in supermarkets and most specialty food stores. Most commercial vanilla beans are Bourbon-Madagascar; Tahitian and Mexican beans (as well as better grades of Bourbon-Madagascar) are more readily available through mail order. Extracts can be stored indefinitely if sealed airtight and kept in a cool, dark place. Vanilla beans should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, placed in an airtight jar and refrigerated. They can be stored in this manner for about 6 months. In order for its flavor not to dissipate, vanilla extract should be added to cooked mixtures after they've been briefly cooled. To use vanilla beans, slit them lengthwise down the center and scrape out the thousands of diminutive seeds. These seeds can be added directly to foods such as ice-cream mixtures, shortening to be used for pastry dough, sauces, etc. Homemade vanilla extract can be made by placing a split bean in a jar containing 3/4 cup vodka, sealing and letting it stand for 6 months. Vanilla beans may also be used to make deliciously fragrant VANILLA SUGAR. Whole beans that have been used to flavor sauces or other mixtures may be rinsed, dried and stored for reuse. Vanilla adds flavor magic to a multitude of sweet and some savory dishes.
vanilla sugar Wonderfully fragrant and flavorful sugar made by burying vanilla beans in granulated or confectioners' sugar — usually in the proportion of two beans for each pound of sugar. The mixture is stored in an airtight container for about a week before the vanilla bean is removed. The result is a delicious and perfumy sugar that can be used as an ingredient or decoration for baked goods, fruit and other desserts. Vanilla beans may be reused in this fashion for up to 6 months.
vanillin see  VANILLA
varak; varaq [VAH-ruhk] Edible, gossamer-thin sheets of pure silver or gold that for centuries have been popular decorations in India for special-occasion desserts, confections, nuts and rice dishes. Varak sheets, which are flavorless and odorless, can be found in Indian markets and cake decorating supply shops. The gold- and silver-leaf sheets usually come in packages of twenty-four, each section sandwiched between two sheets of paper. Varak sheets are so fragile that they dissolve easily with human touch and can be torn by the barest breath of air. For that reason, it's best to remove the top piece of paper from a sheet of varak and then invert the varak on top of the food to be decorated. The varak will stick to the food, and the paper can be peeled off. Varak will keep indefinitely if stored in an airtight container (to prevent tarnishing) in a cool, dry place. Also called vark .
varietal wine [vuh-RI-ih-tuhl] A term describing wines made chiefly from one variety of grape. Such wines portray the dominant characteristics of the primary grape used. Among the more popular varietals are CABERNET SAUVIGNON, CHARDONNAY, CHENIN BLANC, GEWÜRZTRAMINER, PETITE SIRAH, PINOT NOIR, SAUVIGNON BLANC and ZINFANDEL.
variety meats Called offal  in Great Britain, variety meats are animal innards and extremities that can be used in cooking. They include BRAINS, feet and ankles (see  PIG'S FEET), HEART, KIDNEYS, LIVER, SWEETBREADS, TONGUE and TRIPE. Some of the more obscure variety-meat trimmings are used for SAUSAGE.
vark see  VARAK
veal Though there are no precise age standards for veal, the term is generally used to describe a young calf from 1 to 3 months old. Milk-fed veal comes from calves up to 12 weeks old who have not been weaned from their mother's milk. Their delicately textured flesh is firm and creamy white with a pale grayish-pink tinge. Formula-fed veal can come from calves up to about 4 months old, fed a special diet of milk solids, fats, various nutrients and water. The meat from formula-fed veal is not as rich or delicate as milk-fed veal because of the diet's missing milk fat. The term Bob veal applies to calves younger than 1 month old. Their pale, shell-pink flesh is quite bland and the texture is soft. In all true veal, the animals haven't been allowed to eat grains or grasses, either of which would cause the flesh to darken. Calves between 6 and 12 months old are called baby beef, and have flesh that's coarser, stronger-flavored and from pink to light red in color. True veal is usually plentiful in the spring and late winter. At other times of the year, calves over 3 months old are often sold as veal. The USDA grades veal in six different categories; from highest to lowest they are Prime, Choice, Good, Standard, Utility and Cull. The last three grades are rarely sold in retail outlets. When choosing veal, let color be your guide. The flesh should be creamy white — barely tinged with grayish-pink — and the fat white. Meat that's pink turning red means the so-called "veal" is older than it should be. Veal's texture should be firm, finely grained and smooth. For storage information, see listing for  BEEF. Veal is often cooked by moist-heat methods to compensate for its lack of natural fat. It is easy to overcook and dry out, so careful attention must be paid during preparation. The delicate flavor and fine texture of veal have appealed to diners for centuries. Among the numerous dishes created to highlight this meat are veal CORDON BLEU, veal MARENGO, VEAL ORLOFF, VEAL OSCAR, OSSO BUCO, veal PARMIGIANA, VEAL PICCATA and veal SCALOPPINE.
veal cordon bleu see  CORDON BLEU
veal Marengo see  MARENGO
veal Orloff [OR-lawf] This classic presentation begins with a braised loin of veal carved into even horizontal slices. Each slice is spread with a thin layer of pureed sautéed mushrooms and onions. The coated slices are stacked back in place and tied together to reform the loin. Then the layered loin is smothered with additional mushroom-onion puree, topped with BÉCHAMEL SAUCE and grated Parmesan cheese and oven-browned for about 10 minutes.
veal Oscar; veal Oskar [OS-kuhr] Said to have been named in honor of Sweden's King Oscar II, who was especially partial to its ingredients, this dish consists of sautéed veal cutlets topped with crab or CRAYFISH meat and BÉARNAISE SAUCE. Veal Oscar is finished with a garnish of asparagus spears.
veal parmigiana; veal Parmesan see  PARMIGIANA, À LA
veal piccata [pih-KAH-tuh] Hailing from Italy, this classic dish consists of a seasoned and floured veal ESCALOPE that is quickly sautéed and served with a sauce made from the pan drippings, lemon juice and chopped parsley. Chicken is also sometimes prepared in this manner.
veau [VOH] French for "veal."
vegan [VEH-guhn, VEH-juhn] see  VEGETARIAN
vegetable amaranth see  AMARANTH
vegetable marrow Cultivated in England, this green, oval summer squash can grow to the size of a watermelon. It's closely related to the ZUCCHINI and can be cooked in any manner suitable for that vegetable. Because of its bland flavor, vegetable marrow (also called marrow squash ) is often stuffed with a meat mixture. It's available in limited supplies in some specialty produce markets during the summer months. See also  SQUASH.
vegetable peeler A kitchen utensil designed to peel away the outer skin of vegetables. Vegetable peelers come in many designs and are made from a variety of materials. The better ones have a swivel-action blade that conforms to the contour of the vegetable being peeled, thereby cutting away a minimum of skin.
vegetable protein Also called plant protein  or textured vegetable protein , this product is obtained from protein-rich SOYBEANS. The beans are ground and processed through a spinning/extrusion technique until they become strands of almost pure PROTEIN. Vegetable protein is used in commercial meat and poultry products as a binder and extender. It can be found in foods such as meat substitutes, luncheon meats and sausages, as well as in packaged sauces, soups and other processed foods. Although nutritiously rich, vegetable protein can't match the flavor and aroma of the meat products. See also  HYDROLYZED PLANT PROTEIN.
vegetable spaghetti see SPAGHETTI SQUASH
vegetarian [veh-juh-TEHR-ee-uhn] Very simply, a vegetarian is one who eschews the consumption of meat or other animal foods. However, vegetarianism, which has been practiced since ancient times, is certainly not one-faceted. The wide-ranging custom of vegetarianism may be based on a variety of personal principles including religious (certain Hindu and Buddhist sects), ethical (cruelty to animals and more efficient use of world food resources), nutritional (the healthy benefits of reducing fat and cholesterol) and economic (nonmeat products are, on the average, less expensive). There are several types of vegetarians today. Vegans, who are the purists of the vegetarian world and who have the most limited diet, refuse to eat all animal-derivative foods including butter, cheese, eggs and milk. Ovo-lacto vegetarians consider such animal-related foods acceptable but, of course, do not eat meat. Then there are those vegetarians who will eat fish and/or poultry, but not other animal meat. Across the board, most vegetarians prefer their food organically grown and (if they eat fish and fowl) organically fed. Vegetarians get their PROTEIN from a variety of sources, such as foods from the large family of LEGUMES.
velouté sauce [veh-loo-TAY] One of the five "mother sauces," velouté is a STOCK-based white sauce. It can be made from chicken or veal stock or fish FUMET thickened with white ROUX. Enrichments such as egg yolks or cream are sometimes also added. Velouté sauce is the base for a number of other sauces. See also  SAUCE.
velvet hammer A rich, creamy COCKTAIL made with COINTREAU or TRIPLE SEC, TÍA MARÍA, heavy cream and sometimes BRANDY. The mixture is shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass. The result is smooth but potent.
velvet stem mushroom see  ENOKI
venison [VEHN-ih-suhn, VEHN-ih-zuhn] see  GAME ANIMALS
verbena [ver-BEE-nuh] see  LEMON VERBENA
verjuice [VER-joos, Fr , . vehr-ZHOO] An acidic, sour liquid made from unripe fruit, primarily grapes. Verjuice is used in preparations like sauces and mustards to heighten flavor, much as lemon juice or vinegar would be employed. Not widely used since medieval and Renaissance times, verjuice is now enjoying a comeback in many dishes. Though it is occasionally available in specialty gourmet shops, verjuice is extremely difficult to find in the United States.
vermicelli [ver-mih-CHEHL-ee] Italian for "little worms," culinarily the term refers to PASTA shaped into very thin strands. Vermicelli is much thinner than regular SPAGHETTI.
vermouth [ver-MOOTH] White wine that has been fortified and flavored with various herbs and spices. The name "vermouth" comes from the German wermut  ("WORMWOOD") which, before it was declared poisonous, was once the principal flavoring ingredient. There are several types of this wine, the most popular being white dry vermouth, commonly thought of as French (although it's made in other countries including the U.S.). It's drunk as an APÉRITIF and used in non-sweet COCKTAILS like the MARTINI. Sweet vermouth is reddish brown (colored with CARAMEL) and is also used as an apéritif as well as in slightly sweet cocktails such as the MANHATTAN. A third style — not as popular as the other two — is white and slightly sweet. It's called Bianco  by Italians.
Véronique [vay-roh-NEEK] A term describing dishes garnished with seedless white grapes. One of the most popular of these dishes is sole Véronique — fillet of SOLE poached in white wine, covered with a white sauce and garnished with white grapes.
verte, sauce [VEHRT] French for "green sauce," sauce verte is simply green-colored MAYONNAISE. To obtain the color, a green ingredient (such as parsley, spinach or watercress) is BLANCHED, pureed, then placed in the middle of a kitchen towel and squeezed tightly. The extracted juice is mixed with mayonnaise, resulting in a green-colored mixture that simply tastes like mayonnaise. Sauce verte is typically served with cold fish dishes.
viande [vee-YAWND] The French word for "meat."
Vichy carrots [VIH-shee] A dish of thinly sliced carrots that are combined with a small amount of water (to be authentic it must be VICHY WATER), butter and sugar, then covered and cooked over low heat until tender. Vichy carrots (also called carrots à la Vichy ) are garnished with minced parsley.
vichyssoise [vihsh-ee-SWAHZ, VEE-she-swahz] A rich, creamy potato-and-leek soup that's served cold, garnished with chopped chives. In this country it's often mispronouced "vinsch-ee-SWAH."
Vichy water [VIH-shee] 1. A naturally sparkling mineral water from the springs located in and around central France's well-known spa city of Vichy. This famous potable is the water that is supposed to be used to prepare VICHY CARROTS. 2. This term is sometimes also used to describe sparkling mineral water that resembles the true Vichy water.
Viennese coffee [vee-uh-NEEZ] Strong hot coffee, sweetened to taste, served in a tall glass and crowned with whipped cream. See also  COFFEE.
vin [VAN ] French for "wine." Vin maison  is "house wine," vin ordinaire  is "ordinary (or table) wine," vin de table  is "table wine," vin rouge  is "red wine" and vin blanc  is "white wine."
vinaigre [vee-NAY-gruh] French for "vinegar."
vinaigrette [vihn-uh-GREHT] One of the five "mother sauces," vinaigrette is a basic oil-and-vinegar combination, generally used to dress salad greens and other cold vegetable, meat or fish dishes. In its simplest form, vinaigrette consists of oil, vinegar (usually 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar), salt and pepper. More elaborate variations can include any of various ingredients such as spices, herbs, shallots, onions, mustard, etc. See also  SAUCE.
vindaloo [VIHN-dah-loo] Specialties of central and southwestern coastal India, vindaloos are the most mouth-searing of the CURRY dishes. The complicated roasted spice blend on which they're based can contain any of various ingredients including mustard seeds, cumin seeds, ginger, peppercorns, fenugreek seeds, cloves and coriander seeds. Red chiles are a must and TAMARIND concentrate is favored. Vindaloo sauce is typically combined with meat and served with rice. Premade vindaloo pastes and dried spice blends are available in Indian markets.
vinegar [VIHN-ih-ger] Derived from the French vin aigre , "sour wine," vinegar is made by bacterial activity thats converts fermented liquids such as wine, beer or cider into a weak solution of ACETIC ACID (the constituent that makes it sour). Vinegar has been used for centuries for everything from beverages (like SHRUBS), to an odor-diminisher for strong foods such as cabbage and onions, to a hair rinse and softener. There are a multitude of vinegar varieties available today. In the United States, the most popular styles are the fruity apple cider vinegar, made from fermented apple cider, and the rather harsh-tasting distilled white vinegar, made from a grain-alcohol mixture. The French prefer pleasantly pungent wine vinegars, which can be made from either red or white wine. In Britain the favorite is mild malt vinegar, obtained from malted barley. The exquisite Italian balsamic vinegar, made from white Trebbiano grape juice, gets its dark color and pungent sweetness from aging in barrels — of various woods and in graduating sizes — over a period of years. It should be noted that many balsamic vinegars contain SULFITES, which are primarily added to inhibit the growth of unfavorable, flavor-detracting bacteria. Herb vinegars are made by steeping fresh herbs such as dill and tarragon in vinegar. Popular fruit vinegars include those made with raspberries and blueberries. Mild and slightly sweet rice vinegar, made from fermented rice, is widely used in Japanese and Chinese cooking. It's a key element in dishes such as SUSHI. Cane vinegar is made from sugarcane and has a rich, slightly sweet flavor. Vinegar is essential in making pickles, mustards and VINAIGRETTES. It adds a jolt of flavor to numerous sauces, MARINADES and dressings, and to preparations such as SAUERBRATEN, SWEET-AND-SOUR dishes and marinated HERRING. It's also widely used as a table CONDIMENT for dishes such as England's FISH AND CHIPS. Vinegar should be stored airtight in a cool, dark place. Unopened, it will keep indefinitely; once opened it can be stored for about 6 months. See also  MOTHER OF VINEGAR; SU.
vine leaves see  GRAPE LEAVES
vintage [VIHN-tihj] This wine term describes a grape harvest of a specific year. A vintage wine is one that's made using 95 percent of those grapes. Wines made from grapes harvested from several years are called "nonvintage." See also  WINE.
violet, crystallized see  CRYSTALLIZED FLOWERS
Virginia ham see  SMITHFIELD HAM
vitello [vee-TEHL-loh] Italian for "veal."
viticulture [VIHT-ih-kuhl-cher] The science or study of growing grapes for wine.
vodka [VOD-kuh] A clear, colorless, unaged liquor originally made in Russia from potatoes. Today's vodka, which is almost odorless and tasteless, may be made from other ingredients such as corn, wheat or rye. Vodka is integral to many COCKTAILS such as the SCREWDRIVER, BLOODY MARY and vodka MARTINI. If served STRAIGHT, it should always be icy-cold. Flavored vodkas have become popular in the United States and may be flavored with anything from fruits to hot peppers. Some flavored vodkas are even sweetened slightly.
vol-au-vent [vawl-oh-VAHN ] Said to have been created by the famous French chef Carême, a vol-au-vent  is a PUFF PASTRY shell that resembles a pot with a lid. It can be small (individual-size) or large (6 to 8 inches in diameter). The pastry is classically filled with a cream sauce-based mixture, usually of chicken, fish, meat or vegetables. The puff-pastry lid is set on top of the filling. This dish may be served as an appetizer or an entrée. The term vol-au-vent , "flying in the wind," refers to the pastry's incredible lightness.
Vouvray [voo-VRAY voo-, VREH] Any of various white wines made in and around the French village of Vouvray in the Loire Valley, usually from CHENIN BLANC grapes. These wines can vary greatly, with a broad range including dry, semisweet, sweet, slightly sparkling or fully sparkling. Vouvrays can range from average to excellent, depending on the vintner.
V.S.; V.S.O.P.; V.V.S.O.P. see  COGNAC
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