The world of food is rich in flavors, spices, and cooking techniques. Not surprisingly, it’s got a produce vocabulary to match and if you’re anything like us, you love exploring the lesser known corners of this vast world.
While learning how to properly sous-vide salmon filets or perfecting julienne carrots takes time and practice, we’ve got an easier way to beef up your culinary chops that doesn’t require clean up or prep.
Below are 7 lesser known epicurean vocabulary words for you to sink your teeth into. Hopefully, this quick crash course pumps up your produce prowess and provides tongue tantalizing fodder for your dinner party.
7 produce-centric words to whet your appetite
In the U.S., you know aubergines as eggplants. Both are right and who doesn’t love a little more ammo in their produce vocab arsenal? Next time you see aubergine on a menu, you’ll know what you’re getting: the rich, fleshy, flavor-absorbing fruit we call an eggplant. Fun fact: aubergines are not always purple.
Sorrel aka Dock
Sorrel, also called dock, is an delicious edible green with arrow-shaped leaves similar to chard or spinach. Sorrel is very tasty raw when mixed with other greens to dial down its bitterness. We like to live by Epicurious’ rule of thumb when it comes to this punchy green: Short leaves: raw. Large leaves: cooked. Sorrel boasts an an acidic, even lemony taste which makes it ideal with fatty or oily fish like salmon or tuna. It’s also the perfect addition to creamy spring soups.
Looking to amp up your herb game? Look no further! Lovage, a member of the parsley family, offers freshness and brightness with a particularly pleasing hint of anise. The celery flavor in the jagged leaves of this tasty green makes it a prime candidate for soup stocks and if you’re feeling adventurous, try whipping up a lovage sorrel pesto! It’s fantastic when tossed with young, roasted, spring potatoes.
You know that white tissue between the peel of an orange and its juicy fruit? That’s pith. Pith is a type of tissue found in most fruits or vegetables and has the all important job of transporting nutrients. In peppers, pith is that soft, white tissue in the center. In squash, the pith is the light tissue holding all the seeds in place. Pith often has as much vitamins and fiber as the fruit itself and can be used to brew aromatic teas.
No, not the BBQ kind. The rib we’re referring to is the large vein that runs down the center of plants like lettuce or basil (dicots). The rib, or “midrib”, usually has a different texture than the rest of the leaf and often is lighter or darker in color. In basil and kale, it can be more fibrous than the soft part of the leaf. In lettuces, it is often crunchier and sweeter than the main leaf. Why? Because tissues in the midrib transport all of those nutritious plant sugars and juices to and from the leaves.
Kohlrabi, an orb-like stalk with jagged geometry, is both beautiful and perplexing. Don’t let its look throw you, kohlrabi is extremely versatile and easy to enjoy. You can eat both the rounded base and the greens, raw or cooked. Just dice it, slice it, or grate it. If you’re feeling adventurous, try roasting and pureeing it. Cold, kohlrabi is crunchy and cabbagey; hot, it’s soft like broccoli stalks. There are endless ways to make this veggie a staple in your kitchen, so try a few preparations to find what best suits your tastes.
Jicama aka Yam Bean
Jicama is a brown, slightly nutty tuber. It’s similar to a potato with the mild sweetness of a carrot — but that’s where the similarity ends. When it comes to texture, jicama has a heavenly crunch all of its own. It’s an incredible partner to sweet and sour sauces or vinaigrettes, can be added to cold salads and slaws, or even flash cooked at the end of a stir fry. Or, on a hot summer day, just enjoy the sweet cold crunch of iced jicama sticks. They won’t disappoint.
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