Glossary  C

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Capers: Flower buds of a Mediterranean shrub that are pickled and used as a condiment.

Cane syrup: Thick, very sweet syrup made from sugar cane. Used in Creole and Caribbean cooking. An English brand, Lyle's Golden Syrup, is available in specialty markets.

Cannellini bean (kan-eh-LEE-nee): Large, white Italian kidney bean. Available dried and canned.

Canola oil: The market name for rapeseed oil. Mild flavored and lower in saturated fat than any other oil.

Cardamom (KAR-duh-muhm): A relative of ginger native to India, this aromatic spice is used widely in Scandinavian and Indian cooking. It comes ground or in a pod containing small black seeds. The pods can be easily crushed with a mortar and pestle to release the spicy-sweet seeds.

Celeriac (seh-LER-ay-ak): Knobby brown root of a celery variety cultivated specifically for its root. Also called celery root.

Chard: Hearty green with crinkly leaves and silvery stems, also called Swiss chard. Good source of vitamins A and C and iron.

Chayote (chi-OH-tay): Pale green gourd-like fruit used as a vegetable in Southwestern cooking. White, bland flesh can be prepared in any way suitable for summer squash, such as stuffing and baking or raw in salads. Called mirliton in the South and christophene in France.

Chutney: Sweet, spicy jam-like condiment served with Indian curries. Made with fruit, often mango, and vinegar, sugar and spices.

Cheese: Dairy cheeses, especially hard, ripened varieties such as cheddar and Parmesan, usually contain a meat byproduct called rennet, an enzyme extracted from calf stomachs used to coagulate milk. Pig pepsin is another coagulating agent. Fresh, un-ripened dairy cheeses, such as cream cheese and goat cheese, usually contain vegetable rennet, a microbial enzyme produced from a mold culture. This is sometimes listed on labels as "cheese culture." 

Cheese spreads sometimes contain gelatin, another meat byproduct. Some dairy cheeses available in natural foods stores are labeled rennetless or rennet-free. These are made with chymosin, a genetically altered bacteria that reproduces the "blueprint" of a cow rennin gene. Chymosin is usually listed on cheese labels as "enzymes."

Another label to look for is kosher. Many Kosher cheeses are rennet-free because Jewish dietary Law forbids the mixing of dairy and meat byproducts, except under certain strict conditions. Check with the manufacturer if it is not clear on the package.

 Soy and nut cheeses, while free of meat byproducts, usually contain a milk protein called calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate or casein. Call the manufacturer to determine if a dairy cheese contains meat byproducts or if a nut or soy cheese contains milk byproducts.

Chipotle chili (chih-POHT-lay): Dried, smoked jalapeno chili with sweet, smoky flavor. Available dried, pickled and canned in sauce.

Chinese cabbage: Large oval head with tender, thin, crinkled leaves that shade from white at the bottom to light green at the tips. It is mild in flavor and crisp in texture. Also called Napa cabbage.

Chinese five-spice powder: Pungent mixture of five ground spices, usually equal parts, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns. Available in Asian markets and supermarkets.

Chickpeas: Also called garbanzo beans, these light-brown beans have a nutty flavor. They are available dried or canned.

Chili oil: Orange-red, chili-infused oil found in small bottles in Asian markets. A drop or two adds a spicy kick to dishes.

Coriander seed (KOH-ree-an-der): Dried, ripe fruit of coriander plant, a relative of parsley. Coriander leaves are also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley. The seeds and leaves are not similar in flavor.

Corn husks: Dried, papery husks tied around tamales for steaming. Husks must be softened in hot water for 30 minutes before using. Available in Latin markets.

Couscous: A pellet made from semolina flour, which is made from steamed, dried and crushed durum wheat. Common in North African dishes.

Crimini mushroom (kray-MEE-nee): Tan to rich brown variety related to white mushrooms but with an earthier flavor. Also called brown or Italian brown mushroom.

Currants: Seedless, dried Zante grapes that resemble small, dark raisins.

Curry: A catchall term meaning a number of hot spicy dishes from India. Curry powder is a blend of dry herbs and spices used in curry dishes. Thai curry paste is a blend of fresh and dry herbs and spices.