Food Dictionary

Lactose
Also called "milk sugar," lactose is that sugar that occurs naturally in milk. It is less sweet than any of the other sugars. Used in baby formulas and candies.
Ladies' fingers
An alternative name (because of its appearance) for okra, an ingredient that is widely used in Indian, Caribbean and southern US cookery where it is an essential ingredient of gumbo. A long green pod, full of seeds, the okra exudes a sticky juice in cooking which thickens stews and braised dishes.
Ladyfingers
Known in Italy as "savoiardi." Sweet, light, delicate sponge cake roughly shaped like a rather large, fat finger. It's used as an accompaniment to ice cream, puddings and other desserts. Ladyfingers are also employed as an integral part of some desserts, including Charlottes. Ladyfingers can be made at home or purchased in bakeries or supermarkets. According to the Parisian cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, leftover sponge cake, brioche, or genoise cake may be used in place of ladyfingers. They advise cooks to be careful, for ladyfinger batter is very fragile. They recommend folding the flour and yolks in very carefully into the meringue so that the whites don't lose their volume. Ladyfingers may be stored up to a week in an airtight container. They may also be frozen to extend their useful life.
Lagniappe
An old Creole word for "something extra." Soup meat is the lagniappe from vegetable soup preparation.
Lahvosh
A round, flat, crispbread that ranges from about 6 to 14 inches in diameter. Also known as "Armenian Cracker Bread."
Lake Herring
One of the most prized whitefish found in the Great Lakes and in Canada. May be prepared in any manner suitable for salmon. Also called "cisco" and "chub."
Lamb
A sheep under 1 year old. "Baby lamb" in slaughtered at between 6 - 8 weeks of age, "spring lamb" at 3 - 5 months, "regular lamb" at under one year. Lamb over 1 year old is "mutton" and is less tender and has a stronger flavor than lamb.
Land cress
Land cress, curly cress, broadleaf cress and upland cress are all quick-growing, delicate textured greens that have the sharp, peppery flavor of watercress. Great in salads and sandwiches or paired with delicate vegetables such as beets or potatoes.
Langouste
Spiny lobster, differentiating from Maine lobsters in that they have no claws. Langoustes are warm water crustaceans that can be found in the south Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and off the coasts of South America, Australia and the West Indies.
Langoustine
Another name for the Dublin Bay prawn, also known as Norway lobster and scampi, available fresh or frozen, in and out of their shells. Cook by boiling or grilling, if fresh.
Lard
Rendered and clarified pork fat, lard is a fine white fat which is less used these days because of its high animal-fat content. It is used particularly for slow cooking but also for deep-frying and for making pastry.
Larding
To introduce fat to lean meat by threading slivers of bacon or salt pork through it. Or to thread vegetables into the meat. Larding with vegetables gives the meat a contrast of color plus the addition of flavor. This practice is not used as often now because of the higher quality of meat available.
Lardons
Lardons are small, chunky strips of fat bacon or pork fat (smoked or unsmoked) used to flavour dishes such as quiches or salads or they can be sweated with onions as a base for soup.
Larrup
molasses; also called blackstrap.
Lasagna
A wide, flat pasta noodle with a ruffled or plain edge. The dish called lasagne is usually prepared with alternate layers of bolognese sauce, pasta and bechamel sauce, topped with grated parmesan cheese and baked in the oven until browned. A meat is sometimes included. The plural of "lasagna" is "lasagne."
Lassi
A traditional Indian drink that used to be made from buttermilk poured into earthenware crocks, with salt added to combat dehydration in the hot climate. It is now made from thin yogurt, with salt or sugar. To make your own, dilute plain yogurt, with water or milk, add salt or sugar to taste, then blend vigorously with crushed ice.
Lattice topping
A topping consisting of strips of dough crisscrossed atop a pie.
Laurel
Tree on which bay leaves are grown; used as a seasoning in many dishes, the leaves should always be removed before serving.
Laver
A very nutritious seaweed that is normally sold in tissue-thin sheets. It has a tangy, sweet flavor and a dark purple color. Used in soups or deep-fried as an appetizer.
Leaven
Adding a leaving agent such as yeast, baking powder or baking soda to ingredients in order to allow either dough or batter to rise.
Leavening agent
An ingredient that causes dough or batter to rise, lightening its texture and increasing its volume, such as beaten eggs or egg whites, baking powder, baking soda and yeast.
Lebanon Bologna
Semi-dry sausage -- Originated in Lebanon, Pennsylvania; made of coarsely chopped beef; heavily smoked; has a tart, tangy taste; dark surface appearance.
Leeks
Leeks look like very large green onions (scallion) in the produce section. The leek is related to both garlic and the onion even though its flavor and fragrance are milder and more subtle. Because they are so sweet, leeks are often cooked and served as a side vegetable. Wash carefully to remove the dirt between the layers. Look for leeks with lots of white.
Lefse
A thin, flat potato pancake, about the consistency of a tortilla and cooked by similar method. Very mild, starchy, slightly sweet taste. Lefse is enhanced by the addition of peanut butter, brown sugar or lutefisk.
Lemon
Very sharp, acidic citrus fruit rich in vitamin C but with a low sugar content. Used mainly for its juice to flavour drinks, sweet and savoury dishes and as an accompaniment to fish. The aromatic zest or outer rind contains essential oils and is also used as a flavouring. Remove it by grating, using a potato peeler or a zester; take care not to remove any pith with the zest, as it is very bitter.
Lemon balm
As its name suggests, this leafy, green herb has a lemon flavour and fragrance, lending itself well to fish, poultry and vegetables as well as salads, stuffings and drinks.
Lemon grass
A main ingredient in Thai and south-east Asian cuisines, lemon grass is a root that can be used fresh, dried or powdered to impart its lemon flavour to sweet or savoury dishes.
Lemon sole
Lemon sole is in fact a flounder. Flounders can be bought as fillets or whole and cooked by grilling, frying or serving with a sauce.
Lemon verbena
Fragrant, sweet, lemony herb that makes a good tea and adds delicate flavor to custards and similar desserts.
Lemon zest
The outer part of the lemon skin (yellow part of the peel only), grated fine and used as a flavoring agent or garnish.
Lemonade
A popular beverage made of lemon juice, sugar, and water.
Lentils
Flat and round, lentils are the fastest cooking of all dried beans. The three major varieties are Le Puy, the most intensely flavored lentil; common green or brown lentils; and yellow or red lentils, which are popular in Indian cooking- particularly Dal.
Lettuce
There are several hundred varieties of lettuce. The four most general classifications include "butterhead," "crisphead," "leaf," and "Romaine." The darker green outer leaves contain the most vitamins.
Liaison
The process of thickening a sauce, soup or stew. This includes all rouxs, starch and water mixtures (slurries), beurre marni and egg yolks with or without cream. Egg yolks must be tempered with hot liquid before adding to the liquid in order to prevent curdling.
Lick
molasses; also called blackstrap or larrup.
Licorice
A plant whose root provides an extract that has long been used to flavor confections and medicines. "Licorice" also refers to candy that has been flavored with licorice extract.
Light Soy sauce
To be used when you don't want to color a dish with caramel coloring, which is what dark soy contains. Do not confuse this with "Lite" soy sauce.
Lighter Bake
made by Sunsweet - a 100% fat- and cholesterol-free baking ingredient that replaces butter, margarine, oil or shortening in scratch recipes and packaged mixes. Made from a blend of dried plums and apples, this new fat "imposter" creates moist, chewy baked goods that are lower in fat. Lighter Bake is located in the cooking oil or baking ingredients section of supermarkets nationwide.
Lightnin' bread
Quick breads leavened with baking soda or baking powder.
Lima Bean
A pale green, plump-bodied bean with a slight kidney-shaped curve. Baby limas are smaller and milder than the Fordhook variety (which are not mature baby limas). The popular combination of lima beans and corn is called "succotash."
Limburger Cheese
A highly aromatic whole cow's milk cheese with a cream-colored interior and a light grayish brown surface. It originated in Belgium but most of it is imported from Germany. Most consider it an acquired taste.
Lime
This small, green citrus fruit is used mainly for its juice, added to cooked dishes (especially in Asian cuisine) and to drinks.

Lime leaves

The leaves of a wild lime tree which appear as double leaves joined tip to end and have a spicy, lemon flavour; the leaves give a distinctive citrus scent to soups and curries of Thai and Indonesian cooking.

Limoncello
Lemon liqueur. A digestif made only in Italy along the Amalfi Coast and on the islands of Ischia and Capri.
Limousin Beef
A breed of cattle which is naturally lower in fat and cholesterol. These cattle were brought to the United States from France around 1930.
Lingcod
A North American Pacific coast fish with a mildly sweet flavor and a firm, lean texture.
Lingonberry
Lingonberries are a dark red soft fruit, traditionally used in Swedish cooking.
Linguica
Uncooked, smoked sausage -- Portuguese sausage made from coarsely ground pork butts, seasoned with garlic, cumin seeds and cinnamon, cured in vinegar pickling liquid before stuffing; smoked; also called Longanzia.
Linguine
A flattened spaghetti-like pasta.
Linseed Oil, Edible
An oil pressed from flaxseed.
Linzertorte
An Austrian pastry comprised of a short crust dough flavored with ground almonds and hazelnuts, cinnamon, and lemon zest. This is then spread with raspberry jam and topped with a cross-hatch of dough. Almond paste is sometimes layered underneath the raspberry jam. Other versions of this use fresh cranberries or apricots in the filling.
Liqueur
Sweet alcoholic beverages flavored with fruits, herbs or spices, usually served after dinner. Some, such as Amaretto and Grand Marnier, are useful as flavorings in desserts.
Liquid Smoke
Find in the condiment section of supermarkets.
Litchi
This fruit is used in salads and as a dessert. It has a creamy white flesh that is juicy and sweet. The litchi has been cultivated in China for over 2,000 years. Dried litchis are eaten like nuts. Also called the "lychee nut."
Littleneck clams
There are essentially two types of clams - the softshell (or steamer) and the hardshell (or quahog). Littlenecks are the smallest of the hardshells.
Liver
This nutritious organ meat filters toxins from the blood. Select the youngest liver you can find. Poultry generally offers the mildest flavored and most tender livers; pork has the strongest and toughest liver of those commonly available.
Liver Cheese or Liver Loaf
Cooked sausage, sometimes called liver pudding -- Ingredients and processing similar to liver sausage but with slight alteration to achieve more body for slicing. Molded in sandwich-size brick shape.
Liver Sausage, Liverwurst
Cooked sausage -- Finely ground, selected pork and livers; seasoned with onions and spices; may also be smoked after cooking or may include smoked meat such as bacon.
Liverwurst
German for "liver sausage." Liverwurst is a ready-to-eat sausage of at least 30% ground pork liver plus other meats combined with spices and seasonings. The most famous liverwurst is called "Braunschweiger."
Livornaise
A sauce made with olive oil, egg yolks and anchovy paste.
Lobster
A sea crustacean related to the crayfish, crawfish and crab and found in cold seas. It is the largest, most sought-after shellfish and is usually sold whole. Lobster is best cooked simply by boiling, steaming or grilling.
Lobster mushroom
A wild mushroom that has a firm texture and a red and orange color like lobster shells.
Loganberry
A cross between the blackberry and raspberry. It has a less subtle flavour than the raspberry and can be quite tart, so needs plenty of sugar when used in desserts.
Loin
Cut of either pork or lamb which is taken from the back. Sold as a roasting joint, with or without bones, as well as chops and steaks which are good for grilling and barbecues.
Lola (Lolita)
Dry sausage -- Italian origin; made of mildly seasoned pork; contains garlic.
London Broil
A flank steak that has been cut into large pieces, tenderized by marinating, broiled or grilled, then sliced into thin strips across the grain before it is served.
Long Island Tea
An alcoholic beverage consisting of gin, vodka, cola and lemon. Tequila is sometimes also used.
Longan
A small, round fruit with a thin brown shell. Its flesh is soft, white, juicy, and surrounds one large black seed. Used as a snack, in oriental soups, desserts, and some sweet-and-sour dishes.
Longbean
A pencil-thin legume from the black-eye pea family that looks like a very long green bean. These beans can grow a yard long, but are usually picked at 18" or less. These beans are slightly less sweet and crispy as the green bean.
Longhorn cheese
Mild Cheddar cheese produced in the United States; any mild Cheddar can be substituted.
Loofah
The fruit of any of several tropical vines of the gourd family. The dried insides of these gourds can be used as a sponge. Also called "vegetable sponge" and "sponge gourd."
Looseleaf Lettuce
Looseleaf lettuce varieties include "greenleaf," "oakleaf," and "redleaf." These varieties of lettuce offer large loose heads of crisp, delicately flavored leaves. More perishable than iceberg or romaine.
Lop Chong
Sweet pork sausage.
Loquat
This pear-shaped fruit has a juicy, crisp flesh and a sweetly tart flavor. Used as a snack, in salads, and in chicken and duck dishes.
Lotte
This large low-fat, firm-textured salt-water fish has a mild, sweet flavor that compares with lobster. Sometimes referred to as "poor man's lobster." Also called "angler fish," "monkfish," and "goosefish."
Lotus
The lotus is a water lily whose leaves, root, and seeds are used in oriental cooking. The root can be used as a vegetable. The seeds are used in desserts.
Lotus leaves
Very large leaves that, after reconstituting, can be used as wrappers in Asian cuisine.
Lovage
Also known as sea parsley, the leaves and stem of the lovage plant add an intense celery flavour to soups, stews and stocks or pork and poultry dishes, as well as enhancing any potato dishes.
Lox
Smoked, oiled salmon.
Lumpia
This Philippine version of the Egg Roll consists of a lumpia wrapper (a thin skin made of flour or cornstarch, eggs and water) wrapped around a filling and fried. Sometimes a lettuce leaf is used to enfold the filling mixture, in which case lumpia is not fried. The filling can be made of chopped raw or cooked vegetables, meat or a combination of the two. Lumpia can be served as an appetizer or side dish.
Luncheon Meat
Cooked meat specialty -- Chopped Pork, ham and/or beef, tastily seasoned and ready to serve. Available in loaves, canned or sliced in vacuum packages, sliced.
Lupine
This flat, yellow bean native to the Mediterranean basin, has been cultivated since ancient times. A three-hour soaking in water removes a bitter taste. Occasionally eaten roasted as a snack.
Lutefisk
Fish dish of dried cod, cured in lye, then reconstituted by boiling. Traditionally served with clarified butter or in white sauce and served with lefse. In its finest form, lutefisk has a delicately mild buttery flavor and flaky consistency. In its not-so-fine form, it is reminiscent of fish-flavored gelatin.
Lychee
A fruit that originated in China and which is now grown in the Far East and the West Indies. It is about the size of a small plum and has a thin, hard rough shell that is easily removed. The white, juicy flesh surrounds a large dark-brown stone. In Europe, fresh lychees are available from November to January, but they are probably most often sold tinned, preserved in sugar syrup.
Lyonnaise
(a la). a la lyonnaise describes various dishes, usually sauteed, characterised by the use of chopped onions, cooked in butter until golden and often finished off with vinegar and sprinkled with chopped parsley. Lyonnaise sauce is a classic French sauce made with onions and white wine, then strained and served with meat or poultry.
Lyonnaise Sauce
A classic French sauce preparation made with sauteed onions, white wine and demi-glace. The sauce is strained before being served with meats and sometime poultry.
Lyons Sausage
Dry sausage -- An all-pork sausage with finely diced fat; of French origin; seasoned with spices and garlic; cured and air dried.