Diner's dictionary Defining unfamiliar menu terms

Rita's pan-seared grouper with smoked tomato coulis.

Coulis (coo-LEE)

Coulis is a broad term for a thick sauce of fruits or vegetables. It can be sweet or savory, hot or cold. Typically, a coulis is prepared by heating the starring ingredient — perhaps with the addition of sugar if fruit's involved, or olive oil in the case of a vegetable — and then pureeing it in a blender.

The coulis that restaurant goers usually see are the green vegetable coulis dotted on butternut squash soups, and the red berry coulis squiggled over chocolate cake. If Google can be trusted, it's the latter coulis that makes a lasting impression. Cooks turn to the Internet for raspberry coulis recipes more than any other coulis recipes (tomato coulis and strawberry coulis are the runners-up.)

“You don't have to be a pro to make a coulis. They're vibrant in color, generally. They add an aromatic punch to whatever you're making or producing,” chef Brian Hein told the Toledo Blade. “It makes the home cook look pretty savvy real quick.”

Rita's Seaside Grille (Pan-seared grouper with smoked tomato coulis, $20)

Bottled coulis exists, but if you have five minutes and a blender (and a strainer, if you're working with the ever-popular raspberries or strawberries), you can produce your own. Consider your nearest farmers market your personal coulis ingredient pantry.

Coulis is such a standard item that it's not always mentioned on menus, but you're sure to find it at Nigel's Good Food, where a red pepper version tops the grits alongside fried green tomatoes; Angel Oak, which serves pepper coulis with its smoked fish; and Lana Restaurant, home to a lemon tart finished with raspberry coulis.