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Cooking Dictionary - "L"

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Lachs - [German] salmon

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.

Lait, au - Food prepared with milk.

Lamington tin - [Australia] 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.

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 - [French] 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 - [French] Dublin prawn. These are small pink crustaceans resembling crayfish, with a taste and texture closest to lobster. Their claws are quite long but have no edible meat in them. Like the langouste, these are found in warm waters.

Langue - [French] tongue

Langue de chat - [French] Flat, finger-shaped, crisp biscuit or cookie served with cold desserts.

Lapin - [French] rabbit

Lard - The fat separated from the fatty tissue of pork. It has a characteristic nutty flavor, and is usually white in color. Often used in pie crusts, biscuits and other baked goods. The mainstay of AmeriMex cooking. Used in making tamales. Also, to cover with strips of fat, or to insert fat strips into meat with a larding needle.

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 - Strips of fat, bacon or salt pork for larding meat; inserted in lean meats to add flavor.

Larrup - molasses; also called blackstrap.

Lasagna, Lasagne - Sheets of pasta which are layered with sauce and cheese and baked au gratin. Meat, fish, shellfish and vegetables are all used as fillings for this dish. 

Lassi - [Indian] A frothy yogurt drink, sweet or salty, flavored with pistachios, cardamom, cumin or rose water.

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.

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.

Leber - [German] liver

Leche - [Spanish] milk

Leche de cabra - [Spanish] goat's milk.

Leche de coco - [Spanish] coconut milk.

Leche quemada - [Spanish] burned milk.

Lechuga - [Spanish] lettuce.

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 - [Norwegian] 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.

Légumes - [French] vegetables; plants with seed pods, such as peas and beans. Seeds of a legume are most often soaked and used in soups, stews and baked dishes.

Lemon - The most useful of all fruits in European cooking (the lime being the most useful in Asian and tropical cooking), the lemon adds mild, flavorful acid to dishes.

Lemon sole - A small flat fish resembling sole or flounder.

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.

Lemon grass - Pale green stalk about 18 inches long, resembling a scallion or green onion. While not related to a lemon, it imparts a flavor much like the fruit. Found in Asian markets and some supermarkets.

Lengua - [Spanish] tongue.

Lenteja - [Spanish] lentil.

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.

Levadura - [Spanish] yeast.

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.

Licuadora - [Spanish] electric blender.

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.

Lily buds - [Chinese] Also known as tiger lily buds or golden needles. Dried day lily buds that are nutritious and sweet.

Lima - [Spanish] lime.

Lima agria - [Spanish] Bitter lime used in Yucatán.

Lima beans - Flat, green-tinged beans (called butter beans in the South), which can be parboiled and buttered or used in stews and soups.

Lime - Stronger and less fragrant than the lemon. Its juice can be used instead of lemon in almost every instance. The zest of the lime is as useful as lemon zest.

Limón - [Spanish] Lemon; in Mexico it usually refers to the small tart Mexican lime.

Limoncello - [Italian] Lemon liqueur; a digestif made only in Italy along the Amalfi Coast and on the islands of Ischia and Capri. It is pronounced lee-moan-chello.

Limones - [Spanish] Limes.

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.

Linguine - Long, oval-shaped pasta noodles. Hand cut versions of this are very narrow flat noodles.

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.

Liquados - [Spanish] Fresh fruit drinks.

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.

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.

Livornaise - A sauce made with olive oil, egg yolks and anchovy paste.

Lobster - Lobster is available in many forms - frozen, canned, and as fresh cooked meat. But for "live lobster" the most crucial part of preparing lobster is in the purchase. Be sure to chose a freshly caught, lively one, that flips its tail and legs about in and out of the water, and one with a rock-hard shell if possible. A 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pound live lobster will serve one person amply and, if prepared with a stuffing or crumb topping, two persons.

Lobster mushroom - A wild mushroom that has a firm texture and a red and orange color like lobster shells.

Lomo de puerco - [Spanish] pork loin.

London broil - See "Flank steak."

Longhorn cheese - Mild Cheddar cheese produced in the United States; any mild Cheddar can be substituted.

Lop Chong - [Chinese] sweet pork sausage. Find in any Oriental market.

Lotus leaves, dried - Very large leaves that, after reconstituting, can be used as wrappers in Asian cuisine.

Lox - Smoked, oiled salmon.

Lumpia - Very like a large egg roll wrappers. Find frozen in Filipino and Asian markets.

Lutefisk - [Norwegian] 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 small fruit from China and the West Indies, with a hard shell and sweet, juicy flesh. The flesh is white with a gelatinous texture and a musky, perfumed flavor.

Lyle's Golden Syrup - [Great Britain] Light Karo syrup is the U.S. equivalent.

Lyonnaise - [French] In the Lyons style, traditionally with onions.

Lyonnaise Sauce - A classic French sauce preparation made with sautéed onions, white wine and demi-glace. The sauce is strained before being served with meats and sometime poultry.