Archive for Wednesday, March 4, 1998

AN EDUCATION IN FOOD TAKES A MAN FROM DISHES TO TORTELLINI.

March 4, 1998

Advertisement

For many, the college dining experience is an endless series of ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese, punctuated by the occasional Taco Bell run. So when Jon Freed reached beyond packaged foods into the unknown world of homemade pasta, sauces and fresh herbs, his friends were a little surprised.

It began simply enough. One of Freed's main staples was, and continues to be, rice and beans -- an easy dish to prepare -- but his version packed an extra punch that sent his roommates raving.

``Of course, that kind of cooking doesn't really take any skill,'' Freed said of the meal. ``It's just a matter of knowing what ingredients to use.''

When two of his roommates suggested cooking a special meal for their friends, Freed volunteered to make lasagna. ``It seemed like an easy, hearty dish to feed a lot of people,'' he said.

The meal was an instant hit. Kansas University senior Adrienne LeFevre said that after taking one bite she remarked that it was better than any sex she'd ever had.

Given such enthusiastic endorsement, it's no surprise that Freed's friends pooled together to buy him a pasta roller and gourmet pasta cookbook when he graduated last December.

``We always joke about getting him a present so that he could make great food for us, so in essence it's pretty selfish,'' said recent Kansas University graduate Amy Stezler.

Dish rags to riches

Although Freed says he's always found the idea of cooking appealing, the impetus for his culinary development occurred when he responded to an ad for a line cook at Teller's restaurant in November 1996.

``I remember asking one of my friend's fathers how he learned so much about cooking, and he told me that he had a job at a restaurant in college,'' Freed said. ``At Teller's they charge a lot of money for their food, but that means that everything that goes out has to be good. If you're willing to work at it, you can have a great opportunity to pick up some skills.''

When the Teller's manager discovered that Freed had no relevant work experience to qualify him for being a line cook, he sent Freed to the dish room. After three months of washing dishes, he got his first taste of the Teller's kitchen as a prep cook. He worked as a prep cook until last November, when he quit to devote more time to studying for his finals. Then in January he returned to Teller's and received a promotion to the pizza station/grill.

``The nice thing about working there (Teller's) is that you get to see how the whole meal goes together. You can watch people and learn.''

Great food at a cost

Freed is planning to begin law school in the summer or fall, but for now he is enjoying working at Teller's full time.

``I don't have any serious aspirations of becoming a chef, but I really think knowing how to cook is such a good thing.''

His friends certainly agree and say they're always happy to place Freed in charge of a meal, although it can be expensive.

``One of the problems with my cooking with friends is that it always

See Taking risks, page 3D

Continued from page 1D

ends up exceeding the budget. I think that's my fault because I always want to use fresh herbs, and stuff like that gets expensive. But if it's good and you've got enough people to split up the cost, they usually don't mind,'' Freed said.

A romance with food

College living conditions aren't always conducive to gourmet cooking, and Freed's kitchen is no exception. He shares his already-cramped kitchen with five other people. While cooking for a recent dinner he utilized nearly every inch of counterspace to roll out the dough for his experimental, or, in his words, ``on-the-fly'' tortellini.

For the dinner, he transformed some leftover pork tenderloin into a delicate, savory pasta dish. Forming the dough into individual tortellini was a painstaking process -- one Freed wouldn't recommend on a large scale unless ``you have a large family who can sit around and wrap the dough,'' he said.

While he does try to spice up his everyday foods, Freed admits he falls into the same eating ruts as many college students.

``I go in waves,'' he said. ``I usually end up making the same thing everyday for a week, and then I switch to something else totally different.''

For the most part, Freed says he reserves his more extravagant preparations for a large group, usually friends celebrating a special occasion, such as a birthday or a new job.

``Cooking doesn't have to be all that hard,'' he said. ``You don't even have to be able to read to cook. The main thing is to pay attention to it and know that you'll have to make a dish a few times before you'll get it down. Or as my old roommate would say, you just have to give it a little love.''

Jon Freed's ``On the Fly'' Tortellini

For filling: combine equal parts

Finely chopped roasted pork tenderloin (or shrimp, chicken or beef)

Ricotta cheese

Parmesan cheese

Pesto (blend lots of basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper in food processor or blender)

For the sauce: There are several sauce possibilities. You can use a ready-made spaghetti sauce or create your own. Start by sauteing garlic and fresh traditional Italian herbs -- basil, thyme, oregano -- and let simmer about 10 minutes or until you can really smell it. (This is also a good base to which a ready-made sauce can be added). Then slowly add your tomato base, which can consist of plain tomato sauce, tomato paste and water, or, preferably, a can of whole tomatoes that has been mashed into a sauce.

Variations include adding a little cream, half-and-half or whole milk (please, no skim) for a creamy sauce, a splash of red wine, or some crushed red pepper for a spicier sauce. You can also add vegetables, such as mushrooms, onions, zucchini, or broccoli for a primavera sauce.

For the Tortellini: Roll out pasta dough (recipe follows) until very thin, preferably using a pasta roller, and cut into small squares. Add filling and fold in corners to create tortellini shape. Boil about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain pasta. Cover in sauce. Garnish with basil leaves.

Basic Pasta Dough

eady-made spaghetti sauce or create your own. Start by sauteing garlic and fresh traditional Italian herbs -- basil, thyme, oregano -- and let simmer about 10 minutes or until you can really smell it. (This is also a good base to which a ready-made sauce can be added). Then slowly add your tomato base, which can consist of plain tomato sauce, tomato paste and water, or, preferably, a can of whole tomatoes that has been mashed into a sauce.

Variations include adding a little cream, half-and-half or whole milk (please, no skim) for a creamy sauce, a splash of red wine, or some crushed red pepper for a spicier sauce. You can also add vegetables, such as mushrooms, onions, zucchini, or broccoli for a primavera sauce.

For the Tortellini: Roll out pasta dough (recipe follows) until very thin, preferably using a pasta rolin. Cut it into desired shapes.

-- Recipe from ``The Joy of Cooking.''

Commenting has been disabled for this item.