A child playing in the kitchen may not seem to be the most irritating thing, but our Cook of the Week, Dawn Ferrari, claims that not only is that possible but it was how she got her start with cooking. “I used to experiment with food out of boredom and to annoy my mother.” Now, at 19, Dawn is putting her curiosity about the kitchen to good use in the culinary arts program at Southern Maine Community College at its South Portland campus.

“I didn’t decide to go into the food preparation field until my sophomore year of high school, when I took food and nutrition. Then I asked the instructor if there was any room in her specialty food class that next semester. By graduation, I had taken every food-related class the high school had to offer.”

Dawn’s favorite class was during her senior year. The culinary arts program, offered by the Foster Technology Center in Farmington, required a lot of hands-on experience.

“We ran a restaurant called the Rainbow Café. Each week, a different student would manage the restaurant and make the menus for the entire week. Then, at the end of the semester, there was on-the-job training at local food service facilities.” Dawn completed her training at The Granary in Farmington. While there, she learned a great deal about the behind the scenes work at a restaurant.

Even with all of her training and experience, Dawn knows that starting out in the kitchen can be daunting. “It’s OK to start at the bottom and work your way up,” she advises. “There is nothing wrong with making salads when you first start out. You end up well-rounded in the end.”

Dawn, who lives in Farmington, works at the Homestead Bakery and Gifford’s Dairy. Her interests outside of the kitchen include reading, listening to music, singing and dancing.

Artichoke, feta and pesto pizzas

1½ cups and 2 tablespoons pitted kalamata olives

6 cloves of garlic

1½ cups and 2 tablespoons tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

1 2/3 cups olive oil

3½ cups fresh basil

1 1/6 cups pine nuts

1 2/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Pizza crusts:

14 cups unbleached flour

8 cups whole wheat flour

1¼ teaspoons fast-acting yeast

2 quarts hot water (130 degrees)

5 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup and 1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt

Six 6-ounce jars of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
7 cups herb-seasoned feta cheese
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

For Pesto: Put all pesto ingredients in food processor and pulse until blended.

For Crust: Combine half the flour and yeast in bowl. Then slowly add hot water. Add oil, salt, sugar and remaining flour. Mix until it forms a ball and put on a floured surface. Knead the dough 8 times, form it into a ball, cover and let it rest for 15 min.

Split dough in half; then divide each ball into 13 equal balls. Stretch each ball into 7-inch rounds. Put on an oiled baking sheet. Spread dough with pesto mixture. Then top with artichokes and sprinkle with feta cheese.

Bake in 500-degree oven on bottom rack until crust is golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Yield: 26
Cheese casserole
3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

1 10-ounce package sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 10-ounce package egg noodles
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven 375 degrees. Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add flour and stir. Slowly add the milk, constantly stirring. Stir until roux thickens. When the roux coats the spoon, add grated cheese and stir until melted. Add salt and pepper. Boil egg noodles until al dente, drain. Pour half the noodles into a medium-sized casserole dish and add half of the sauce, then mix. Add the remainder of the noodles and sauce, then mix. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. When finished, let it set for about 10 min.

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