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Old 08-06-2006, 10:58 PM   #1
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Asking for a bit of advice and an introduction

Hey guys! I'm new here (and to cooking, but we'll get to that later). Let's see here...a little about myself...I'm 18, and moving into my senior year of high school. I recently decided that I'd begin to teach myself how to cook (actually cook, not Hamburger Helper and frozen french fries and stuff like that). I don't really want to be one of those college kids that cant cook, I love to eat, it's a chick magnet, and...well...food is just a great way to have a good time with friends. My "taste for food" has been on the rise since I started working at Primo Resteraunt (the only real resteraunt around here, thank God I'm getting my influence there and not some crappy chain resteraunt or something) (I don't actually think Resteraunt is officially part of the name) here in Maine a couple years ago dishwashing, scraping food off pans (yes, I'm a peasant), getting food when they messed up plating it or heard the order wrong or what have you.

There you have my story. I just ordered a few books- some type of "college cookbook" (I'm hoping it'll teach me what to look for in fruits and veggies and herbs and stuff), The New Making of a Cook (recommended by the boss lady), Mediterran Women Stay Slim, Too (written by the boss lady, which is part of the reason I got it other than for the recipes- I'm not too concerned with staying slim [have that covered]), and Grub- Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen. Any questions I can't answer in these books (probably very few, judging by the size of The New Making of a Cook) I'll probably ask here, or ask someone at work. My mom doesn't have much time to teach me how to cook, she does a lot of the afforementioned frozen fries (not that I have a problem with that, but it can't be healthy to eat for your whole life). She doesn't have a whole lot of time on her hands.

In the short term, I plan on making fresh pasta with some type of a light oil based sauce and garlic. What type of flower do you guys suggest? I've heard semolina, but I've heard people denouncing that and saying to use 00 grade all purpose (not positive...at all on that one, just on the grade). I guess I'll need a pasta roller too. Any good brands or models to look at?

So far I've made fettuccini alfredo, a chocolate cake, quiche (sp?) a long time ago, and a family tomato based pasta sauce. I have a lot of Italian blood (however, I don't get the taste for the 'way of life' from that side of the family) and a lot of Italian cultural influence (which somehow skipped my mom) and trickled down to me...not sure how that worked out. Well that's why you'll see me here for a lot of Italian food questions.


That's a long one, sorry.
Mike

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Old 08-06-2006, 11:05 PM   #2
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Welcome aboard, Mike. I moved your intro to a more appropriate forum.

You picked a great place to hang and get advice and answers. There is a great group of knowledgeable people who are willing to offer help. You'll have a great time.
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Old 08-07-2006, 03:11 AM   #3
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How about a chicken tetrazzini over egg noodles?
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Old 08-07-2006, 05:44 AM   #4
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Hi and welcome. You'll get answers to any question you might have here. I think it's wonderful that you are taking such an interest at a time of you life when most young adults have such limited time. Good luck.

As for the pasta, I suggest you use semolina flour. There are alternatives but I've always felt the pasta comes out lighter and more flavourful when I use semolina.

For a nice sauce, toss some roasted red pepper strips into a pan that you've already browned some garlic and fresh mushrooms in. Add the cooked pasta and toss with olive oil and red pepper flakes. When you plate it, grate some cheese on top.

Again, good luck.
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Old 08-07-2006, 07:23 AM   #5
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Welcome to the site!
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Old 08-07-2006, 07:39 AM   #6
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Hi Mike - I have a feeling within the next six months you are really going to be hooked on cooking!!! One quick hint for cooking ideas is be sure to check your produce area and meat/seafood areas in the stores you frequent. Normally there are little cards stuck everywhere in those depts. with recipes. They are great ideas for you....and free!!

Have fun!
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Old 08-07-2006, 09:51 AM   #7
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Hey Mike, so glad you found this forum. These members seem to know everythng about everything and are so generous with their time and recipes.
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Old 08-07-2006, 10:13 AM   #8
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Welcome Mike. I was in your shoes many years ago, but not smart enough to learn to cook. Me and ole' Betty Crocker eventually met and I learned to cook. Might I suggest that you get a copy of "The New Food Lover's Companion" and "The New Food Lover's Tiptionary." The Companion explains a lot of terminology and the Tiptionary of course gives a lot of tips of how to do things, etc. You can get them on Ebay or Amazon used for next to nothing. It is a rare day that I do not open one or the other [frequently both] of them. As you mentioned, cooking well can be a great "chick" magnet and a relaxing pleasure.
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Old 08-07-2006, 11:20 AM   #9
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Don't get too hung up on the minutia of the debates over the best of this or that. You'll have plenty of time to refine your likes and dislikes, and when you're in college and for some time after, cost is going to be a bigger concern -- unless you picked your parents better than most of us.

The main thing is this: JUST DO IT! Along with a couple of other life skills that you've perhaps begun to master, cooking is one where practice makes perfect. Technique is far, far, far more important than the differences between one pasta and another. Experiment, but keep it simple in the beginning and work your way up to complex recipes. A properly cooked piece of fish or meat or chicken is much more enjoyable than a poorly made "gourmet" dish.
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Old 08-07-2006, 11:24 AM   #10
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Ciao from Rome and "benvenuto" to DC, Mikey!! And congratulations on your decision, you have a proper attitude of being an authentic foodie, so you will love hanging out here!! You will find so many great ideas just going through this forum, and if you ever have any questions, doubt, or need some inspiration, don't hesitate to ask, there will always be someone to offer a helping hand!!

Well, for a starter, to make a wonderful homemade pasta, here is my proven recipe... It shows you how to make it successfully even without a pasta making machine. This is written for ravioli, but after you stretch out the dough, you can cut into different shapes, larger squares to make either lasagne or cannelloni, or cut into thin strips for tagliatelle, to be enjoyed with your choice of sauce/condiment.

To cook fresh, homemade ravioli or tagliatelle, boil plenty of water, don't cook too much at a time (max. one portion at a time), and as soon as they float onto the surface, they are ready to be scooped out.
For lasagne and cannelloni, no precooking of the pasta is necessary, just arrange everything and bake directly. However make sure to use plenty of sauce, cover each pasta completely...

Hope this will help you for your pasta challenge... keep the questions coming!!

p.s. in Italian, type 00 flour is a regular all purpose flour, and that's what I usually use for regular pasta!
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Old 08-07-2006, 11:30 AM   #11
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Welcome. This is a good place to learn.
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Old 08-07-2006, 11:48 AM   #12
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Hi

Sounds like you are jumping in w/both feet! More brave than I am.



You picked a great place to hang and get advice and answers. There is a great group of knowledgeable people who are willing to offer help. You'll have a great time.


Couldn't agree w/you more. Has helped me to make it another day. Good luck to you.
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Old 08-07-2006, 02:00 PM   #13
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welcome. Glad to hear of your interest. Durham semolina, (durham wheat, half grind) is the standard for dried pastas. THe flavor can't be beat. BTW, this is the wheat grown in North Dakota, and many pastas made in this country are excellent...Creamettes for example, despite the weird name. 00 all purpose is often prefered for home made fresh pasta...much easier to work with. However, if you have a good machine give the durham a try.

Sauces can be simple...garlic, wine, hand crushed san marzano tomatoes, basil shreds. To that add clams or a favorite sausage. DO olive oil garlic sausage and some dark green like brocoli rabe or kale. Make a bolognese with several meats, milk, cheese and hand crushed tomatoes. Traditions, local fresh ingredients, and your creativity are your guides.

Good books for the Italian side would be by Mario Batali, Giada de Laurentis, Lidia Bastianich. Good basic texts are the All New Joy of Cooking, The Essentials of Cooking by James Petersen, THe New York TImes Cook Book and the new Gourmet Cook Book. Of course Julia CHild's mastering the art of French Cooking is still a classic for that country's culinary heritage.

So ask away and cook!
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Old 08-07-2006, 05:59 PM   #14
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Welcome to DC!
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Old 08-08-2006, 02:51 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Robo410
BTW, this is the wheat grown in North Dakota,
Ahem... and also Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada. Canada is the biggest exporter of durem in the world. North Dakota borders Manitoba.
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Old 08-08-2006, 04:53 AM   #16
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When I was a girl at school (many years ago now!) - Canada's wheatfields were known as the 'breadbasket of the British Empire'.
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Old 08-08-2006, 11:14 AM   #17
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Welcome to DC, Mike!

I'll start with the easy question first - Type 00 Flour. There is no exact equivalent anywhere else in the world outside of Italy - unless you can find it imported from Italy ... the nearest would appear to be German Type 405. Italy, France and Germany have a much more sophisticated (specific) method of grading flour than we have in the US. For example, in the US - AP flour can be different in different parts of the country ... harder in the North and softer in the South and Pacific Northwest ... and National brands run somewhere inbetween, but not always because some are harder than others. ARRGH!!! In Italy, France, Germany ... when you buy a Type of flour it is consistent ... AP flour in the US is more like a "catch phrase" for a wide varity of blends at best. And, Canadian AP is still different from most US AP. Oh, yeah - Ishel reminded me of something else - Semolina imported from Canada is generally labeled as Manatoba Semolina - to differentiate it origin from Italian grown Semolina.

If you are really interested you might want to read this treatise on flour from The Artisan for a better understanding of why my answer seems vague at best.

Dry pasta commercially made in Italy is Semolina flour and water - by law (I thought I had the page bookmarked but I can't find it right now ... I just remember it took me a couple hours to translate when I found it 2-3 years ago). Homemade pasta seems to traditionally be an egg-noodle - Type 00 flour and eggs in the Northern regions - a mixture of Type 00/ or 0 and Semolina in the Southern regions. Italian cooks such as Lidia Bastianich, Nick Stellino, Biba Caggiano, Carlo Middione, and even Mario Batali say that in the American kitchens - just use AP flour, it's as close as we can get. Like I was unable to find a definitive explanation on Type 00 Flour - there is no definitive "one way" to make homemade pasta recipe. This is a fairly good primer ... but browse around some of these homemade pasta recipes and you will see that while many are similar they are not exactly the same. You might also find some more information by searching our "Pasta, Rice, Beans, Grain ..." Forum and our "Ethnic Food" Forum.

As for a Pasta Machine ... Atlas and Imperia are comperable, about the same price, and made in Italy. Both have similar attachments (although the Imperia seems to have more). As similar as they look - the attchments are not interchangeable between brands. We've had several indepth discussions about these in our "Cookware and Accessories" Forum - most are under the "Cook's Tools" sub-forum but a few might be still be in the "Cookware" or "Appliances" sub-forums.

As for cookbook suggestions for the new cook ... check the "Cookware and Accessories" Forum - under the "Cookbooks, Software, etc." sub-forum. This is a common recurring question.
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Old 08-09-2006, 09:33 PM   #18
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Thanks so much for all the comments and encouragements everyone! I looked at a supermarket today for semolina flour, which was fruitless. I'll try with all purpose, like suggested above.

Yeah, I don't really take to hobbies slowly. When I got into boas, I did all my research and learned all kinds of stuff I never even would've guessed at that probably saved me hundreds in vet bills. When I took up guitar playing, I learned a lot of the ins and outs of the gear and music theory (still working on that...tough subject. My two newest endeavors are Russian Literature (Crime and Punishment anyone?) and cooking.

Expect a post about knives later, particularly about sharpening and washing them.

PS: I chicken noodle soup tonight. This is fun!
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Old 08-10-2006, 02:47 AM   #19
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Oh, Russian Literatures are brilliant!! If you liked Crime and Punishment, try Brothers Karamazov, also by Dostoyevsky, that is my favourite (and also white nights by the same author, short but a beautifully told story!)... I also recommend the poetries of Pushkin
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Old 08-10-2006, 05:32 AM   #20
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Oh, Russian Literatures are brilliant!! If you liked Crime and Punishment, try Brothers Karamazov, also by Dostoyevsky, that is my favourite (and also white nights by the same author, short but a beautifully told story!)... I also recommend the poetries of Pushkin
Another person after my own heart! Yevtushenko's poems are also beautiful!
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