Dean Fearing
Cook with a Passion
Use Fresh, Local Ingredients
Acids

Acids help proteins coagulate, so adding either vinegar or lemon juice to water used for poaching eggs helps keep the eggs from spreading out. Acids also help balance flavors.

Apples

When cooking fresh apples for pies or sauces, the yield is about 50%.  1 pound raw = 1/2 pound cooked.  Apples absorb odors. They emit ethylene gas, which causes other fruit to ripen quicker.  Store apples at 35 degrees F, 80% humidity to prevent dehydration.  Use tart apples for apple pie.  Apples, pears and potatoes dropped in cold, lightly salted water as they are peeled will retain their color.

Avocado

Avocados will not ripen on the tree. They must be picked from the tree to initiate ripening. The leaves supply a substance that prevents ripening. The best way to store avocados is to leave them on the tree; they will store for 7 months or more when left on the tree.

Storage below 40 degrees F or above 70 degrees F will cause rot.
Some varieties will spoil below 50 degrees.
Ripen at room temperature (60 - 70 degrees F), then store at 45 degrees F.

Bananas

If bananas ripen before they are picked, they lose their taste and texture.

To ripen green tip bananas quickly, keep them at 70 degrees F, with very high humidity and no air circulation for 2 or 3 days.

Best storage for ripe bananas is 65 degrees F with 80% humidity, and very good air circulation. They should keep for a week or so like that.

Black Eyed Peas (drained)

Storage:
Store dry black-eyed peas in a cool, dry place off the floor. High temperatures cause hardening of the black-eyed peas; high humidity may cause mold.

Uses and Tips:
Cooked black-eyed peas may be used cold in salads, in soups, casseroles, or stews, in chili, or as a vegetable side dish. They are also excellent mixed with rice.

Buffalo (Bison) Meat

Grain-fed Ground Buffalo (Bison) contains about 12% fat.
Range-fed Buffalo contains a maximum of 10% fat.

Butter

Butter absorbs odors very easily and quickly, so keep covered.

Chili Peppers
 

AVAILABILITY, SELECTION, AND STORAGE --- Chili peppers are available year round and in the United States they are grown in California, New Mexico and Texas. When selecting chilies, look for firm, glossy chilies with taut, unwrinkled skin and fresh green stems. Dried hot peppers should be glossy yet unbroken.

Cider
Apple cider in the U.S. is the same as apple juice.
Dandelion
 

Young, tender, spring dandelion leaves make an excellent addition to salads; they can also be cooked like spinach. Older leaves tend to be bitter.

Duck
 

Prick the skin of duck all over with a sharp fork or point of a knife so the fat just under the skin drains while cooking.

Eggs
 

Eggs will age more in one day at room temperature than in one week in the refrigerator.

The average weight of a hen's egg is 2 oz. The shell is about 12% of the total weight, the egg white 58% and the yolk 30%.

The color of chicken eggs are determined by the breed. Breeds with white feathers and ear lobes lay white eggs; breeds with red feathers and ear lobes lay brown eggs.

Brown eggs have thicker shells, which makes them great for boiled eggs - they don't crack as easily.

Buy white eggs and brown eggs alternately, and you will always which eggs in the refrigerator are the oldest.

When you are going to beat egg whites, let the eggs sit at room temperature for half an hour before using them. You’ll get more volume when you beat them.

Epazote
 

Epazote (Chenopodium ambrosioides) is a pungent herb used in Mexican and South American cooking.

Fennel

Virtually all of the fennel plant is edible: the roots and stalks can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable; the stems chopped and added to salads; the bulb eaten raw or cooked; chopped leaves used in soups, with fish or added to salads; fennel seeds are used in pickles, liqueurs, tomato sauces and sausages; fennel oil is used in candy, liqueur and perfume.

Often mistaken for celery, this vegetable has a different taste that is quite similar to anise or licorice. Fennel is often grown for its seeds and oil from the leaves and used for various food flavorings.

Five Spice Powder
 

Chinese five-spice powder consists of star anise, fennel, cinnamon, cloves and Szechuan (Szechwan) peppercorns.

Garlic
 

Cooking garlic decreases the strength of its flavor making it much milder. The longer it is cooked, the more mild it tastes. Be careful not to sauté garlic too long at too high a temperature, it will brown very quickly and can become bitter.
To bake garlic, place whole, unpeeled bulbs rounded side down in a shallow baking dish, drizzle with oil, cover with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 325ºF

Grapefruit

Salt makes a grapefruit taste sweeter.  Grapefruit ripen completely on the tree. They can be left hanging on the tree for up to a year before harvesting.

Grapes
 

Grapes do not continue to ripen after they have been picked.

The easiest and best way to pick the freshest grapes in your local market is to hold a bunch by the stem. Shake gently - if grapes drop off the stem, they have been in storage for too long. If the grapes are firmly attached, are plump and bright, they are fresh.

Italian Parsley
 

Italian parsley, is a plain flat leaved parsley, with darker green leaves than curly leaved parsley, and a stronger but less bitter flavor. It is best added during the last few moments of cooking for the best flavor.

Jicama

Jicama is the edible starchy, tuberous root of a South American vine of the legume or bean family. Jicama looks like a turnip, tastes like a cross between an apple and a water chestnut, with a delightful crunchy texture. Jicama may be used raw in salads, or may be baked, boiled, mashed, or fried like potatoes.

Kumquat
 

The kumquat is a tiny orange/yellow, football-shaped fruit native to Eastern Asia, and closely related to citrus fruits. They are unusual in that the edible skin is sweet and the flesh is quite tart, and the combination leaves a pleasant citrus taste in the mouth. Kumquats are eaten whole, candied, pickled, and used to make relishes, preserves and marmalades.

Lemon grass

One of the most important flavorings in Thai cooking, this herb has long, thin, gray-green leaves and a scallionlike base. Citral, an essential oil also found in lemon peel, gives lemon grass its sour-lemon flavor and fragrance. Lemon grass is available fresh or dried in Asian (particularly Thai) markets. It's used to make tea and to flavor soups and other dishes. Lemon grass is also called citronella and sereh.

Lemons
 

Oranges do not ripen after they are picked, but lemons do.

Lemons store best at 50 - 60 degrees F with high humidity, they will last several months. Lower temperatures cause deterioration.

4 lemons yield about 1 cup of juice.

Lemons contain 30 to 45 percent juice depending on variety, climate, maturity when harvested, and storage conditions. The extracted juice contains between 4.5 and 8.5% organic acids (mostly citric).

Limes
 

Limes store best at 40 - 45 degrees F. and last only about 2 weeks.

10 limes yield about 1 cup of juice

Lobster

Up until the end of the 19th century lobster was so plentiful that it was used for fish bait. In the Crustacean Family, the most popular variety in the United States is the Maine lobster. It has 5 pairs of legs, the first of which is in the form of large, heavy claws (which contain a good amount of meat). Maine lobsters are found off the Atlantic coast of the northern United States and Canada. They are closely related to the European lobsters that live in Mediterranean and South African waters and along Europe's Atlantic coast. Spiny lobsters (commonly called rock lobsters) are found in waters off Florida, Southern California, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. They're easily distinguished from the Maine lobster by the fact that all 10 of their legs are about the same size. Almost all of the meat is in the tail because the spiny lobster has no claws. Outside California and Florida, most of the spiny lobster meat sold in this country is in the form of frozen tails, usually labeled "rock lobster tails." Live lobsters have a mottled shell splotched with various colors, generally greenish blue and reddish brown. Their shell turns vivid red only after the lobster is cooked. Fresh lobsters are available year-round and are most economical during spring and summer.  Because bacteria form quickly in a dead lobster, it's important that it be alive when you buy it. To make sure, pick up the lobster — if the tail curls under the body it's alive. This test is especially important with lobsters that have been stored on ice because they're so sluggish that it's sometimes hard to see movement. Lobsters come in various sizes and are categorized as follows: jumbo, over 2 1/2 pounds; large (or select ), from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pounds; quarters, from 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds; eighths, from 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 pounds; and chicken lobsters, which average about a pound. Lobsters must be purchased the day they're to be cooked. They will die in fresh water, so must either be kept in seawater or wrapped in a wet cloth and stored for no more than a few hours on a bed of ice in the refrigerator. All lobsters must either be cooked live or killed immediately prior to cooking. They may be cleaned before or after cooking, depending on the cooking method and the way in which they are to be used.

Mahi Mahi

Though this is actually a type of dolphin, it shouldn't be confused with the dolphin that is a mammal. To avoid this misunderstanding, the Hawaiian name mahi mahi is becoming more widespread. Also called dolphin fish and dorado, mahi mahi is found in warm waters throughout the world. It's a moderately fat fish with firm, flavorful flesh. It ranges in weight from 3 to 45 pounds and can be purchased in steaks or fillets. Mahi mahi is best prepared simply, as in grilling or broiling.

Malt

A grain (typically barley) that is sprouted, kiln-dried and ground into a mellow, slightly sweet-flavored powder. This powdered malt has many uses including making vinegar, brewing beer, distilling liquor and as a nutritious additive to many foods. Malted-milk powder and malt vinegar are two of the most popular malt products available today.

Mango

 The mango tree originated in India and is considered sacred.  Now this delectable fruit is cultivated in temperate climates around the world, including California and Florida. Mangoes grow in a wide variety of shapes (oblong, kidney and round) and sizes (from about 6 ounces to 4 pounds). Their thin, tough skin is green and, as the fruit ripens, becomes yellow with beautiful red mottling. The fragrant flesh is a brilliant golden orange, exceedingly juicy and exotically sweet and tart. Perhaps the only negative to the mango is the huge, flat seed that traverses its length. The fruit must be carefully carved away from the seed with a sharp knife. Mangoes are in season from May to September, though imported fruit is in the stores sporadically throughout the remainder of the year. Look for fruit with an unblemished, yellow skin blushed with red. Because the seed is so oversized, the larger the mango the higher the fruit-to-seed ratio. Under ripe fruit can be placed in a paper bag at room temperature. Ripe mangoes can be placed in a plastic bag and held in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  Green mango is the unripe fruit, which has many uses in the cuisines of India, Malaysia and Thailand. This tart fruit is used fresh in various vegetable and lentil dishes, as well as to tenderize meat (just like PAPAYA, green mango contains enzymes that will break down connective tissue).

Marinate

To soak a food such as meat, fish or vegetables in a seasoned liquid mixture called a MARINADE. The purpose of marinating is for the food to absorb the flavors of the marinade or, as in the case of a tough cut of meat, to tenderize. Because most marinades contain acid ingredients, the marinating should be done in a glass, ceramic or stainless-steel container — never in aluminum.

Marjoram

There are many species of this ancient herb, which is a member of the mint family. The most widely available is sweet marjoram, usually simply called "marjoram." It has oval, inch-long, pale green leaves and a mild, sweet, oregano like flavor. In fact, wild marjoram is another name for OREGANO. Marjoram is available fresh in some produce markets and supermarkets with large fresh-herb sections. Marjoram can be used to flavor a variety of foods, particularly meats (especially lamb and veal) and vegetables. Because marjoram's flavor is so delicate, it's best added toward the end of the cooking time so its essence doesn't completely dissipate.

Masala

A word used throughout India for a spice blend with myriad variations. It can refer to a simple combination of two or three spices (such as CARDAMOM, CORIANDER and MACE) or a complex blend of 10 or more ingredients. The principal masala blend used in India is GARAM MASALA, the variations of which are countless, depending on the cook and the dish being seasoned.

Meat tenderizers

Hanging and aging is how many meat processors tenderize meat, but the home cook can easily do so by simple mechanical or chemical methods. Tenderizing meat mechanically is accomplished by breaking down the meat's tough fibers through pounding. Meat pounders (also called meat bats, mallets and tenderizers) come in metal or wood and in a plethora of sizes and shapes. They can be large or small, have horizontal or vertical handles and be round-, square- or mallet-shaped. Some have smooth surfaces while others are ridged. Tenderizing meat chemically refers to softening the meat fibers by long, slow cooking, by MARINATING it in an acid-based MARINADE, or by using a commercial meat tenderizer. Most forms of the latter are a white powder, composed mostly of a papaya extract called papain, an enzyme that breaks down tough meat fibers. The use of this enzyme is nothing new — South American cooks have been using papaya juice to tenderize meat for ages. Powdered meat tenderizer is available at most supermarkets. Most brands contain salt, sugar (in the form of DEXTROSE) and the anticaking agent calcium stearate.

Milk

Milk has been used for human consumption for thousands and thousands of years, as proven by cave drawings showing cows being milked. Today cow's milk is still one of the most popular (especially in the United States) animal milks consumed by humans. Around the world, people drink the milk from many other animals including camels, goats, llamas, reindeer, sheep and water buffalo. Most milk packs a nutritional punch and contains protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins A and D, LACTOSE (milk sugar) and riboflavin. On the minus side, milk's natural sodium content is quite high. Most milk sold in the United States today is PASTEURIZED, which means the microorganisms that cause diseases (such as salmonella and hepatitis) and spoilage have been destroyed by heating, then quick-cooling, the milk. Pasteurization eliminates the possibility of disease and gives milk a longer shelf life. Most commercial milk products have also been HOMOGENIZED, meaning that the milk fat globules have been broken down mechanically until they are evenly and imperceptibly distributed throughout the milk. The end result is that the cream does not separate from the milk and the liquid is uniformly smooth. Almost all other pasteurized and homogenized milks are fortified with vitamins A and D. Whole milk is the milk just as it came from the cow and contains about 3 1/2 percent milk fat. Lowfat milk comes in two basic types: 2 percent, meaning 98 percent of the fat has been removed; and 1 percent, which is 99 percent fat-free. Nonfat or skim milk must by law contain less than 1/2 percent milk fat. Both lowfat and nonfat milk are available with milk solids added, in which case the label states "Protein-fortified." Not only does this boost the protein to 10 grams per cup, but it also adds body and richness. Federal law requires that both lowfat and nonfat milk be fortified with 2,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin A per quart. Buttermilk in the past was the liquid left after butter was churned. Today it is made commercially by adding special bacteria to nonfat or lowfat milk, giving it a slightly thickened texture and tangy flavor. Some manufacturers add flecks of butter to give it an authentic look. Dry or powdered buttermilk is also available.  Sweet acidophilus milk (whole, lowfat or nonfat) has had friendly and healthful lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria added to it. It tastes and looks just like regular milk but many scientists believe it has an advantage because the acidophilus culture restores nature's balance to the digestive tract. Low-sodium milk, in which 90 percent of the sodium is replaced by potassium, is a special product available in limited supply for those on sodium-restricted diets. Lactose-reduced lowfat milk is for people suffering from lactose intolerance. The lactose content in this special lowfat milk has been reduced to only 30 percent. Ultra pasteurized milk has been quickly heated to about 300°F, then vacuum-packed. It may be stored without refrigeration for up to 6 months until opened, after which it must be refrigerated. Though the high heat destroys spoilage-causing microorganisms, it also gives a "cooked" flavor to the milk. There are a variety of dry milk and canned milk products on the market. Buying milk: Always check the date on the carton to make sure the milk you're buying is the freshest available. Pull dates are intentionally conservative, and most milk in a market with rapid turnover will keep at least a week after purchase. Storing milk: Refrigerate milk as soon as you get it home from the store. Milk readily absorbs flavors so always close milk cartons or other containers tightly. The storage life of milk is reduced greatly when allowed to sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes or more, as it would if put in a pitcher for serving. Rather than returning such milk to its original carton, cover the pitcher with plastic wrap, refrigerate and use that milk within 2 days.

Mint

There are over 30 species of mint, the two most popular and widely available being peppermint and spearmint. Peppermint is the more pungent of the two. It has bright green leaves, purple-tinged stems and a peppery flavor. Spearmint leaves are gray-green or true green and have a milder flavor and fragrance. Mint grows wild throughout the world and is cultivated in Europe, the United States and Asia. It's most plentiful during summer months but many markets carry it year-round. Choose leaves that are evenly colored with no sign of wilting. Store a bunch of mint, stems down, in a glass of water with a plastic bag over the leaves. Refrigerate in this manner for up to a week, changing the water every 2 days. Mint is available fresh, dried, as an EXTRACT, and in the form of oil of spearmint or oil of peppermint, both highly concentrated flavorings.

Mizuna

Mizuna originated in Japan, a feathery, delicate salad green available from spring through summer. Choose mizuna by its crisp, green leaves. Wash and thoroughly dry just before using.

Molasses

During the refining of sugar cane and sugar beets, the juice squeezed from these plants is boiled to a syrupy mixture from which sugar crystals are extracted. The remaining brownish-black liquid is molasses. Light molasses comes from the first boiling of the sugar syrup and is lighter in both flavor and color. It's often used as a pancake and waffle syrup. Dark molasses comes from a second boiling and is darker, thicker and less sweet than light molasses. Blackstrap molasses comes from the third boiling and is what amounts to the dregs of the barrel. It's very thick, dark and somewhat bitter. Though it's popular with health-food followers, it's more commonly used as a cattle food. Contrary to what many believe, blackstrap is not a nutritional panacea. In truth, it's only fractionally richer than the other types of molasses in iron, calcium and phosphorus and many of its minerals are not absorbed. Whether or not molasses is sulphured or unsulphured depends on whether sulphur was used in the processing. In general, unsulphured molasses is lighter and has a cleaner sugar-cane flavor. Light and dark molasses are available in supermarkets; blackstrap is more readily found in health-food stores.

Mushroom

Today there are literally thousands of varieties of mushroom. Sizes and shapes vary tremendously and colors can range from white to black with a full gamut of colors in between. The cap's texture can be smooth, pitted, honeycombed or ruffled and flavors range from bland to rich, nutty and earthy. The cultivated mushroom is what's commonly found in most U.S. supermarkets today. Because so many wild mushrooms are poisonous, it's extremely important to know which species are edible and which are not. Extreme caution should be taken when picking them yourself. The readily available cultivated white mushroom has a mild, earthy flavor. The cap ranges in size from 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter and in color from white to pale tan. Those labeled "button mushrooms" are simply the small youngsters of the cultivated variety.  They're sold in bulk and in 8-ounce packages. Look for those that are firm and evenly colored with tightly closed caps. If all the gills are showing, the mushrooms are past their prime. Avoid specimens that are broken, damaged or have soft spots or a dark-tinged surface. If the mushrooms are to be cooked whole, select those of equal size so they will cook evenly. Fresh mushrooms should be stored with cool air circulating around them. Therefore, they should be placed on a tray in a single layer, covered with a damp paper towel and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Before use, they should be wiped with a damp paper towel or, if necessary, rinsed with cold water and dried thoroughly. Mushrooms should never be soaked because they absorb water and will become mushy. Trim the stem ends and prepare according to directions. Canned mushrooms are available in several forms including whole, chopped, sliced and caps only. Frozen or freeze-dried mushrooms are also available. Dried mushrooms are available either whole or in slices, bits or pieces. They should be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. Mushrooms are one of nature's most versatile foods and can be used in hundreds of ways and cooked in almost any way imaginable.

Nuts

Any of various dry fruits that generally consist of an edible kernel enclosed in a shell that can range from medium-hard, thin and brittle to woody and tough.  Some foods we know as nuts are actually seeds (such as the BRAZIL NUT) or LEGUMES (like the PEANUT). Among the more popular of the other "nuts" are ALMONDS, CASHEWS, CHESTNUTS, MACADAMIAS, PECANS, PISTACHIOS, PINE NUTS and WALNUTS. Most nuts are sold both shelled and unshelled. Shelled nuts come in many forms including blanched or not, whole, halved, chopped, sliced or minced. Additionally, shelled nuts come raw, dry-roasted, oil-roasted, with or without salt, smoked, candied and with various flavorings such as jalapeño and garlic. They're sold in plastic bags and boxes, and vacuum-packed in cans and jars. When buying unshelled nuts in bulk, choose those that are heavy for their size. The nut's kernel should not be loose enough to rattle when shaken. Shelled nuts should be plump, crisp and uniform in color and size. In general, nuts should be purchased as fresh as possible. Rancid nutmeats will ruin whatever food they flavor.  Shelled nuts can be refrigerated and should be stored in airtight containers for up to 4 months, frozen up to 6 months. As a general rule (and depending on their freshness at the time of storage), unshelled nuts will keep about twice as long as shelled.  Nuts are high in calcium, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E and fiber.  The flavor of most nuts benefits from a light toasting, either on stovetop or in the oven.

Oils

In general, oils come from vegetable sources — plants, nuts, seeds, etc. Oil is extracted from its source by one of two methods.  In the solvent-extraction method, the ground ingredient is soaked in a chemical solvent that is later removed by boiling. The second method produces cold pressed oils, which is somewhat a misnomer because the mixture is heated to temperatures up to 160°F before being pressed to extract the oil. After the oil is extracted, it's either left in its crude state or refined. Refined oils — those found on most supermarket shelves — have been treated until they're transparent. They have a delicate, somewhat neutral, flavor, an increased SMOKE POINT and a longer shelf life. Unrefined (or crude) oils are usually cloudy and have an intense flavor and odor that clearly signals their origin. Most oils can be stored, sealed airtight, on the kitchen shelf for up to 2 months. Oils with that are high in monounsaturates — such as olive oil and peanut oil — are more perishable and should be refrigerated if kept longer than a month. Because they turn rancid quickly, unrefined oils should always be refrigerated.

Olive Oil

Pressing tree-ripened olives extracts flavorful, monounsaturated oil. The flavor, color and fragrance of olive oils can vary dramatically depending on distinctions such as growing region and the crop's condition. All olive oils are graded in accordance with the degree of acidity they contain. The best are cold-pressed, a chemical-free process that involves only pressure, which produces a natural level of low acidity. Extra virgin olive oil, the cold-pressed result of the first pressing of the olives, is only 1 percent acid. Extra virgin olive oil can range from a crystalline champagne color to greenish-golden to bright green. In general, the deeper the color, the more intense the olive flavor. After extra virgin, olive oils are classified in order of ascending acidity. Virgin olive oil is also first-press oil, with a slightly higher level of acidity of between 1 and 3 percent. Fino olive oil is a blend of extra virgin and virgin oils (fino is Italian for "fine"). Products labeled simply olive oil (once called pure olive oil) contain a combination of refined olive oil and virgin or extra virgin oil. The new light olive oil contains the same amount of beneficial monounsaturated fat as regular olive oil . . . and it also has exactly the same number of calories. What the term "light" refers to is that — because of an extremely fine filtration process — this olive oil is lighter in both color and fragrance, and has little of the classic olive-oil flavor. Olive oil should be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. It can be refrigerated, in which case it will last up to a year. Chilled olive oil becomes cloudy and too thick to pour. However, it will clear and become liquid again when brought to room temperature.

Pancetta

An Italian bacon that is cured with salt and spices but not smoked.  Pancetta can be tightly wrapped and refrigerated for up to 3 weeks, or frozen up to 6 months.

Panko

Bread crumbs used in Japanese cooking for coating fried foods.  Panko is more coarse that other bread crumbs.

Paprika

Used as a seasoning and garnish for a plethora of savory dishes, paprika is a powder made by grinding sweet red pepper pods. The pods are quite tough, so several grindings are necessary to produce the proper texture. The flavor of paprika can range from mild to pungent and hot, the color from bright orange-red to deep blood-red. Most commercial paprika comes from Spain, South America, California and Hungary, with the Hungarian variety considered by many to be superior. Indeed, Hungarian cuisine has long used paprika as a mainstay flavoring rather than simply as a garnish. All supermarkets carry mild paprika, while ethnic markets must be searched out for the more pungent varieties. As with all herbs and spices, paprika should be stored in a cool, dark place for no more than 6 months.

Pasilla chile

In its fresh form this CHILE is called a CHILACA. It's generally 6 to 8 inches long and 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. The rich-flavored, medium-hot pasilla is a blackish-brown color.  This chile is sold whole, and powdered. It's particularly good for use in sauces.

Pepitas

An edible pumpkin seed, popular ingredient in Mexican cooking. With their white hull removed, they are a medium-dark green and have a deliciously delicate flavor, which is even better when the seeds are roasted and salted. Pepitas are sold salted, roasted and raw, and with or without hulls.

Peppercorn

The world's most popular spice is a berry that grows in grapelike clusters on the pepper plant (Piper nigrum), a climbing vine native to India and Indonesia. The berry is processed to produce three basic types of peppercorn — black, white and green. The most common is the black peppercorn, which is picked when the berry is not quite ripe, then dried until it shrivels and the skin turns dark brown to black. It's the strongest flavored of the three — slightly hot with a hint of sweetness. Among the best black peppers are the Tellicherry and the Lampong. The less pungent white peppercorn has been allowed to ripen, after which the skin is removed and the berry is dried. The result is a smaller, smoother-skinned, light-tan berry with a milder flavor. White pepper is used to a great extent for appearance, usually in light-colored sauces or foods where dark specks of black pepper would stand out. The green peppercorn is the soft, under ripe berry that's usually preserved in brine. It has a fresh flavor that's less pungent than the berry in its other forms. Black and white peppercorns are available whole, cracked, and coarsely or finely ground. Whole peppercorns freshly ground with a pepper mill deliver more flavor than does pre-ground pepper, which loses its flavor fairly quickly. Whole dried peppercorns can be stored in a cool, dark place for about a year; ground pepper will keep its flavor for about 4 months. Green peppercorns packed in brine are available in jars and cans. They should be refrigerated once opened and can be kept for 1 month. Water-packed green peppercorns must also be refrigerated but will only keep for about a week. Freeze-dried green peppercorns are also available and can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

Pequín chile

These oval-shape, tiny (about 1/2-inch-long) dried chiles are a beautiful red-orange color. Their flavor is slightly sweet and smoky and their heat quotient fiery.

Pesto

An uncooked sauce made with fresh basil, garlic, PINE NUTS, PARMESAN or PECORINO CHEESE and olive oil. The ingredients can either be crushed with MORTAR AND PESTLE or finely chopped with a food processor. This classic, fresh-tasting sauce originated in Genoa, Italy, and although used on a variety of dishes, it is common to pasta.

Pheasant

A medium-sized GAME BIRD, originally from Asia but now found in Europe and North America. As with many birds, the male has a more brilliant plumage than the female and is larger, weighing 2 1/2 to 5 pounds compared to the female's 3-pound average. The female's flesh is plumper, juicier and tenderer.  Farm-raised pheasants do not have the same flavor as the wild birds. Pheasants are sometimes found dressed and frozen in specialty meat markets, usually by special order.

Plum

There are hundreds of plum varieties cultivated throughout the world. All grow in clusters, have smooth, deeply colored skin and a center pit. Plums can range in shape from oval to round and in size from 1 to 3 inches in diameter. Their color can be yellow, green, red, purple, indigo blue and almost anything in between. The pale silvery-gray, filmy-looking coating on a plum's skin is natural and doesn't affect quality. Fresh plums are available from May to late October. Choose firm plums that give slightly to palm pressure. Avoid those with skin blemishes such as cracks, soft spots or brown discolorations, the latter indicating sunburn. Very firm plums may be stored at room temperature until slightly soft. Refrigerate ripe plums in a plastic bag for up to 4 days. Some plums are grown specifically to be dried as PRUNES. The majority, however, are enjoyed fresh for out-of-hand eating or for use in a wide variety of sweet and savory preparations. Also available are canned plums, packed in either water or sugar syrup. Plums contain a fair amount of vitamin A and potassium.

Pomegranate

Nature's most labor-intensive fruit is about the size of a large orange and has a thin, leathery skin that can range in color from red to pink-blushed yellow. Inside are hundreds of seeds packed in compartments that are separated by bitter, cream-colored membranes. Each tiny, edible seed is surrounded by a translucent, brilliant-red pulp that has a sparkling sweet-tart flavor. Pomegranates are grown throughout Asia, the Mediterranean countries and in California. In the United States they're available in October and November. Choose those that are heavy for their size and have a bright, fresh color and blemish-free skin. Refrigerate for up to 2 months or store in a cool, dark place for up to a month. To use, cut the pomegranate in half and pry out the pulp-encased seeds, removing any of the light-colored membrane that may adhere. Pomegranates can be eaten as fruit, used as a garnish on sweet and savory dishes or pressed to extract the juice. They're rich in potassium and contain a fair amount of vitamin C.
Ponzu sauce

A Japanese sauce made with lemon juice or RICE VINEGAR, SOY SAUCE, MIRIN and/or SAKE, KOMBU (SEAWEED) and dried bonito flakes (KATSUOBUSHI). Ponzu sauce is used as a dipping sauce with dishes like SASHIMI.

Pork

Though pigs are bred primarily for their meat (commonly referred to as pork) and fat, the trimmings and lesser cuts (feet, jowl, tail, etc.) are used for SAUSAGE, the bristles for brushes, the hair for furniture and the skin for leather. The majority of pork in the marketplace today is CURED — like BACON and HAM — while the remainder is termed "fresh." Slaughterhouses can (but usually don't) request and pay for their pork to be graded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The grades are USDA 1, 2, 3, 4 and utility — from the best downwards — based on the proportion of lean to fat. Whether graded or not, all pork used for intrastate commerce is subjected to state or federal inspection for wholesomeness, insuring that the slaughter and processing of the animal was done under sanitary conditions. Pork shipped interstate must be federally inspected. Today's pork is leaner (about 1/3 fewer calories) and higher in protein than that consumed just 10 years ago. Thanks to improved feeding techniques, trichinosis in pork is now also rarely an issue.  Cooking it to an internal temperature of 137°F will kill any trichinae. However, allowing for a safety margin for thermometer inaccuracy, most experts recommend an internal temperature of from 150° to 165°F, which will still produce a juicy, tender result. The 170° to 185°F temperature recommended in many cookbooks produces overcooked meat. Though pork generally refers to young swine under a year old, most pork today is slaughtered at between 6 to 9 months, producing a leaner, more tender meat. Though available year-round, fresh pork is more plentiful (and the prices lower) from October to February. Look for pork that is pale pink with a small amount of marbling and white (not yellow) fat. The darker pink the flesh, the older the animal. Fresh pork that will be used within 6 hours of purchase may be refrigerated in its store packaging. Otherwise, remove the packaging and store loosely wrapped with waxed paper in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Wrapped airtight, pork can be frozen from 3 to 6 months, with the larger cuts having longer storage capabilities than chops or ground meat.

Potato

In America, the potato can be divided into four basic categories: russet, long white, round white and round red. The russet Burbank potato (also simply called russet and Idaho) is long, slightly rounded and has a brown, rough skin and numerous eyes. Its low moisture and high starch content not only give it superior baking qualities but also make it excellent for FRENCH FRIES. The russet Burbank was named for its developer, horticulturalist Luther Burbank of Idaho. Although grown throughout the Midwest, the russet is also commonly called IDAHO POTATO (whether or not it's grown there). Long white potatoes have a similar shape as the russet but they have thin, pale gray-brown skins with almost imperceptible eyes. They're sometimes called white rose  or California long whites , after the state in which they were developed. Long whites can be baked, boiled or fried. The thumb-sized baby long whites are called finger potatoes. The medium-size round white and round red potatoes are also commonly referred to as boiling potatoes. They're almost identical except that the round white has a freckled brown skin and the round red a reddish-brown coat. They both have a waxy flesh that contains less starch and more moisture than the russet and long white. This makes them better suited for boiling (they're both commonly used to make mashed potatoes) than for baking. They're also good for roasting and frying. The round white is grown mainly in the Northeast where it's sometimes referred to by one of its variety names, Katahdin. The round red is cultivated mainly in the Northwest. Yukon gold potatoes have a skin and flesh that ranges from buttery yellow to golden. These boiling potatoes have a moist, almost succulent texture and make excellent mashed potatoes. There are a variety of relatively new potatoes in the marketplace, most of which aren't new at all but rather heritage vegetables that date back centuries. Among the more distinctive examples are the all blue potatoes, which range in color from bluish purple to purple-black. These small potatoes have a dense texture and are good for boiling. Other purple potatoes have skin colors that range from lavender to dark blue and flesh that can be from white to beige with purple streaking. Among the red-fleshed potatoes are the huckleberry (red skin and flesh) and the blossom (pinkish-red skin and flesh). New potatoes are simply young potatoes (any variety). They haven't had time to convert their sugar fully into starch and consequently have a crisp, waxy texture and thin, undeveloped wispy skins. New potatoes are small enough to cook whole and are excellent boiled or pan-roasted. Because they retain their shape after being cooked and cut, new potatoes are particularly suited for use in potato salad. The season for new potatoes is spring to early summer. Potatoes of one variety or another are available year-round. Choose potatoes that are suitable for the desired method of cooking. All potatoes should be firm, well-shaped (for their type) and blemish-free. New potatoes may be missing some of their feathery skin but other types should not have any bald spots. Avoid potatoes that are wrinkled, sprouted or cracked. A green tinge — indicative of prolonged light exposure — is caused by the alkaloid solanine, which can be toxic if eaten in quantity. This bitter green portion can be cut or scraped off and the potato used in the normal fashion. Store potatoes in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place for up to 2 weeks. New potatoes should be used within 3 days of purchase.

Quinoa

Although quinoa is new to the American market, it was a staple of the ancient Incas, who called it "the mother grain." To this day it's an important food in South American cuisine. Hailed as the "supergrain of the future," quinoa contains more protein than any other grain. It's considered a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids. Quinoa is also higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbohydrates than most grains, and it provides a rich and balanced source of vital nutrients. Tiny and bead-shaped, the ivory-colored quinoa cooks like rice (taking half the time of regular rice) and expands to four times its original volume. Its flavor is delicate, almost bland, and has been compared to that of COUSCOUS. Quinoa is lighter than but can be used in any way suitable for rice — as part of a main dish, a side dish, in soups, in salads and even in puddings. It's available packaged as a grain, ground into flour and in several forms of pasta. Quinoa can be found in most health-food stores and some supermarkets.

Ramp

This wild onion grows from Canada to the Carolinas and resembles a SCALLION with broad leaves. Also known as wild leek, ramp has an assertive, garlicky-onion flavor. It can be found — usually only in specialty produce markets — from March to June. Choose those that are firm with bright-colored greenery. Wrap tightly in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to a week. Trim the root ends just before using.

Rice

The major rice-growing states in the United States are Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. Rice is commercially classified by its size — long-, medium- or short-grain. The length of long-grain rice is four to five times that of its width. There are both white and brown varieties of long-grain rice, which, when cooked, produce light, dry grains that separate easily. Short-grain rice has fat, almost round grains that have a higher starch content than either the long- or medium-grain varieties. When cooked, it tends to be quite moist and viscous, causing the grains to stick together. This variety (also called pearl rice and glutinous rice, though it's gluten-free) is preferred in the Orient because it's easy to handle with chopsticks. Italian ARBORIO RICE — used to make creamy RISOTTOS — and the Japanese MOCHI are also varieties of short-grain rice. Medium-grain rice, as could be expected from its name, has a size and character between the other two. It's shorter and moister than long-grain and generally not as starchy as short-grain. Though fairly fluffy right after being cooked, medium-grain rice begins to clump once it starts to cool. Rice can be further divided into two other broad categories — brown and white. Brown rice is the entire grain with only the inedible outer husk removed. The nutritious, high-fiber bran coating gives it a light tan color, nutlike flavor and chewy texture. The presence of the bran means that brown rice is subject to rancidity, which limits its shelf life to only about 6 months. It also takes slightly longer to cook (about 30 minutes total) than regular white long-grain rice. There is a quick brown rice  (which has been partially cooked, then dehydrated) that cooks in only about 15 minutes, and an instant brown rice  that takes only 10 minutes. White rice has had the husk, bran and germ removed. Regular white rice is sometimes referred to as polished rice. For converted or parboiled white rice, the unhulled grain has been soaked, pressure-steamed and dried before milling. This treatment gelatinizes the starch in the grain (for fluffy, separated cooked rice) and infuses some of the nutrients of the bran and germ into the kernel's heart. Converted rice has a pale beige cast and takes slightly longer to cook than regular white rice. Talc-coated rice is white rice that has a coating of talc and glucose, which gives it a glossy appearance. The coating acts as a preservative and the practice was once widely used to protect exported rice during long sea voyages. Today coated rice (which is clearly labeled as such) is available only in a few ethnic markets, usually those specializing in South American foods. It must be thoroughly rinsed before being cooked, as there is a chance that the talc can be contaminated with asbestos. Instant or quick white rice has been fully or partially cooked before being dehydrated and packaged. It takes only a few minutes to prepare but delivers lackluster results in both flavor and texture. Rice bran, the grain's outer layer, is high in soluble fiber and research indicates that, like oat bran, it's effective in lowering cholesterol. Rice should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry place. White rice can be stored this way almost indefinitely, brown rice up to 6 months.  Rice can be prepared in a multitude of ways, the method greatly depending on the type of rice.

Sage

The name comes from a derivative of the Latin salvus , meaning "safe," a reference to the herb's believed healing powers. The narrow, oval, gray-green leaves of this pungent herb are slightly bitter and have a musty mint taste and aroma. There's also a variety called pineapple sage, which has an intensely sweet pineapple scent. Small bunches of fresh sage are available year-round in many supermarkets. Choose sage by its fresh color and aroma. Refrigerate wrapped in a paper towel and sealed in a plastic bag for up to 4 days. Dried sage comes whole, rubbed (crumbled) and ground. It should be stored in a cool, dark place for no more than 6 months.

Salmon

There are several varieties of North American salmon. All but one are found off the Pacific coast, and about 90 percent come from Alaskan waters. Among the best Pacific salmon is the superior Chinook or king salmon, which can reach up to 120 pounds. The color of its high-fat, soft-textured flesh ranges from off-white to bright red. Other high-fat salmon include the coho or silver salmon, with its firm-textured, pink to red-orange flesh, and the sockeye or red salmon (highly prized for canning) with its firm, deep red flesh. Not as fatty as the preceding species are the pink or humpback salmon — the smallest, most delicately flavored of the Pacific varieties — and the chum or dog salmon, which is distinguished by having the lightest color and lowest fat content. Pacific salmon are in season from spring through fall. The population of the once-abundant Atlantic salmon has diminished greatly over the years because of industrial pollution of both North American and European tributaries. The Atlantic salmon has a high-fat flesh that's pink and succulent. Canada provides most of the Atlantic salmon, which is in season from summer to early winter. Depending on the variety, salmon is sold whole or in fillets or steaks.

Serrano chile

A small (about 1 1/2 inches long), slightly pointed CHILE that has a very hot, savory flavor. As it matures, its smooth, bright green skin turns scarlet red, then yellow. Fresh serranos can be found in Mexican markets and some supermarkets. They are also available canned, pickled or packed in oil, sometimes with carrots, onions or other vegetables.

Shiitake

The cap of the shiitake is dark brown, sometimes with tan striations, and can be as large as 8 to 10 inches across. The average size, however, is 3 to 6 inches in diameter. Shiitake stems are extremely tough and are therefore usually removed. Don't throw them out, however — they add wonderful flavor to stocks and sauces. Discard the stems after they've been used for flavoring. Though both fresh and dried shiitakes are now available almost year-round in many supermarkets, they're very expensive. Spring and autumn are the seasons when fresh shiitakes are most plentiful. Choose plump mushrooms with edges that curl under. Avoid any with broken or shriveled caps. The versatile shiitake is suitable for almost any cooking method including sautéing, broiling and baking.

Short Ribs

Rectangles of beef about 2 inches by 3 inches, usually taken from the CHUCK cut. Short ribs consist of layers of fat and meat and contain pieces of the rib bone. They're very tough and require long, slow, moist-heat cooking.

Shrimp

Most of the shrimp in the United States comes from bordering waters, notably the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Gulf Coast. There are hundreds of shrimp species, most of which can be divided into two broad classifications — warm-water shrimp and cold-water shrimp. Shrimp come in all manner of colors including reddish- to light brown, pink, deep red, grayish-white, yellow, gray-green and dark green. Some have color striations or mottling on their shells. Because of a heat-caused chemical change, most shrimp shells change color (such as from pale pink to bright red or from red to black) when cooked. Shrimp are marketed according to size (number per pound), but market terms vary greatly from region to region and from fish market to fish market. Keeping that variance in mind, the general size categories into which shrimp fall are: colossal (10 or less per pound), jumbo (11-15), extra-large (16-20), large (21-30), medium (31-35), small (36-45) and miniature (about 100). In the United States, jumbo and colossal shrimp are commonly called "prawns," though the PRAWN is, in fact, a different species. Though there are slight differences in texture and flavor, the different sizes (except the miniatures) can usually be substituted for each other. In general, 1 pound of whole, raw shrimp yields 1/2 to 3/4 pound of cooked meat. Shrimp are available year-round and are usually sold sans head and sometimes legs. Many forms of shrimp are found in the marketplace — shelled or unshelled, raw or cooked and fresh or frozen. Before storing fresh, uncooked shrimp, rinse them under cold, running water and drain thoroughly. Tightly cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Cooked shrimp can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Freeze shrimp for up to 3 months. Thaw in its freezer wrapping overnight in the refrigerator, or place package in cold water until defrosted. Whether or not to DEVEIN shrimp is a matter of personal preference. In general, small and medium shrimp do not need deveining except for cosmetic purposes. However, because the intestinal vein of larger shrimp contains grit, it should be removed. Shrimp can be prepared in a variety of ways including boiling, frying, grilling, and even smoking.

Smithfield ham

Today's Smithfield hams come from grain-fed hogs. To be accorded the appellation of "Smithfield," the hams must be cured and processed in the area of Smithfield, Virginia. The elaborate processing includes dry-curing, seasoning, lengthy hickory smoking and aging of 6 to 12 months (sometimes up to 2 years). The result is a lean, dark-colored ham with a flavor that's rich, salty and dry. Smithfield ham can be purchased through mail order or from gourmet butcher shops or food stores. It may be served raw like PROSCIUTTO, but it's usually baked or boiled.