Cheese For Dummies by Laurel Miller [amazon books]

  • Full Title : Cheese For Dummies
  • Autor: Laurel Miller
  • Print Length: 408 pages
  • Publisher: For Dummies; 1 edition
  • Publication Date: May 15, 2012
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118099397
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118099391
  • Download File Format: pdf


An accessible guide to selecting, cooking with, and makingcheese

From a pungent Gorgonzola to the creamiest Brie, the world ofcheese involves a vocabulary of taste second only to wine. With the rise of artisanal cheeses, this once humble foodmade from curdled milk is now haute cuisine. And to make the newworld of cheese less intimidating, Laurel Miller and ThalassaSkinner have created a handy primer to selecting cheese, pairingcheese with wine, cooking with cheese, and making cheese. InCheese For Dummies, everyday cheese lovers will learn how tobecome true cheese connoisseurs.

Not only will readers get a look at how different cheeses aremade around the world, in Cheese For Dummies, they’lldevelop enough of a palate to discern which cheese is right forthem.

  • Explains how to assemble the perfect cheese plate
  • Includes recipes for cooking with cheese
  • Details how to make five cheeses, including Mozzarella, Chevre,and Ricotta
  • Supplemented with a 16-page photo insert

With artisanal and imported cheeses now common to mainstreamgrocery stores, the everyday cheese lover needs more than simplyhis nose to make the best choice. Offering wise (and delicious!)advice on every page, Cheese For Dummies is a guide foranyone interested in making every mealtime with cheese a specialoccasion.


From the Author

Books ordered direct from author Laurel Miller’s Amazon store will be signed, and may be customized at time of order.

From the Back Cover

The accessible guide to selecting, cooking with, and makingcheese!

From a pungent Gorgonzola to the creamiest Brie, the world ofcheese involves a vocabulary of taste second only to wine. Thecheese section of the grocery store and cheese shop can seem, forsome, a bewildering experience. With the increasing popularity ofartisanal cheeses, this humble food made from curdled milk hasbecome a national obsession. To make the world of cheese lessintimidating, we’ve created a handy primer to selecting cheese,pairing cheese with wine, cooking with cheese, and making cheese.In Cheese For Dummies, everyday cheese lovers will learn how tobecome true connoisseurs!

  • Discover new tastes — develop a palate to discern whichcheese is right for you
  • Take a tour — explore different cheeses from around theworld
  • Examine the process of cheesemaking — review the keyingredients in cheese and how they come together
  • Explore the history of cheese — find out how cheese wasaccidentally created over 12,000 years ago
  • Discover the types of cheeses available — note thedifference between fresh, surface-ripened, washed-rind,natural-rind, and blue cheeses
  • Delve into cheesy combinations — create an impressivecheese plate with the right accompaniments
  • Learn to accessorize — explore different cheese boards,knives, and other accessories for your needs
  • Find the right temperature — learn about the best servingtemperature and storage methods for your favorite cheeses
  • Get hands-on experience — discover how you can make yourown cheese at home

Open the book and find:

  • The benefits of daily dairy consumption
  • Different cheese styles and rind types
  • Questions to ask your cheesemonger
  • How to select the best quality cheeses
  • Recipes that make cheese the life of the party
  • Details on domestic and imported cheeses
  • How to pair cheese with wine, beer, and other beverages
  • Online cheese resources
  • Photos of different styles and varieties of cheese

Learn to:

  • Appreciate cheeses from around the world
  • Pair cheese with wine, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Prepare delicious recipes featuring cheese
  • Make your own cheese



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few extra lire (I’m dating myself) I had on restaurants in less expensive, more southerly cities like Brindisi and Napoli, but Capri nearly bankrupted me, and by the time I got to Roma, I was subsisting on crusty pane and gelato, trying to stretch what I had left.

Hunger and curiosity made me say yes to a pasta lunch prepared by the nonna of one of my new Italian friends, and I’m fortunate I did, because it was the best meal of the trip. She wanted to make me spaghetti alla gricia, which has guanciale in it, but I was vegetarian at the time. I brokenly pantomimed this to her, much to her disappointment. She did not see how guanciale—cured pork jowl—constituted meat, since it wasn’t beef, and it was cut into such tiny pieces. I nodded assent and smiled bravely, mentally preparing myself to eat around chunks of pig cheek (current me thinks former me was an idiot, for guanciale is meltingly good), because I was graciously invited into someone’s home, after all.

I think she must have seen the trepidation on my very non–poker face, because instead, she made us big, sloppy bowls of cacio e pepe, which I can close my eyes and taste to this day. People say the New York water is what sets New York bagels above any competition. Well, there is something about pecorino cheese from Lazio that makes your eyes roll back in your head and your mouth hang open like a star-struck sheep. Whipped with a frenzy of black pepper and whorls of spaghetti, pecorino is at its most luminous. I dreamed of that meal during the last, lean weeks of my first Italian adventure, but I didn’t attempt to re-create it for at least a decade, not wanting to soil the memory.

A few years later—punctuated by a trifling amount of growing up—Jonas, my boyfriend of three months who is now my husband, informed me that he was transferring to Italy for his job, and he had negotiated an open-ended ticket for me, should I wish to join him. His exact words were: “I like you enough to bring you with me, but not enough to stay here for you.” Really, what person in their right mind would not move to Italy if the stars aligned? I was finishing a graduate degree I could easily do remotely, and despite having dated him for only a short time, I knew he wasn’t a psychopath, so I went along. We lived in Torino, the heart of the Piedmont region and, in my very unbiased opinion, the ne plus ultra of la vita bella.

I steeped myself in Piemontese culture in those few years, but at first it was a land grab for knowledge that began with the pronunciation of cucchiaio. Cucchiaio is a four-syllable word that means “spoon” in Italian, and it’s initially hard for an American to pronounce—even if that American had, very recently prior to said pronouncing, nabbed an undergrad degree in Latin.

Jonas and I had been there for a week and decided to quiz each other on basic words like forchetta, cucchiaio, and coltello. We were both really tripped up on cucchiaio, which sounds like “coo-key-aye-oh.” Knowing we needed to commit it to memory, we decided to lob it back and forth across the table in a very quiet, very bright ristorante. If you’ve spent much time there, you know that the lights are almost always too bright in restaurants in Italy. As is the case when you’ve had plenty of wine and you’re talking quickly to try to outdo your tablemate, our voices began to escalate. Suddenly we looked around and saw that we were on full display for being the two pazzi stranieri animatedly shout-singing, “Spoon spoon spoon spoon spoon.” Suffice it to say I will never forget how to pronounce the Italian word for spoon!

Before Torino, I wondered how I could possibly eat pasta nearly every night of the week and not get sick of it. Little did I know. When I moved there, I viewed pasta as a finite thing, completely unaware just how vast the canon of shapes combined with sauces could be. I came to realize I could barely scratch the surface of pasta in my lifetime, let alone in a few short years.

Now that we have been back in Washington State for ten years, with barely annual Torino trips to appease us, the only way through has been constant daily pasta making. Then, when my son, Bentley Danger, turned five a few years ago, he went through one of those phases. Nothing on his plate could touch anything else. So help you if you tried to sneak any vegetable besides a carrot into him. I tried pureeing spinach into smoothies—nope. Tucking greens under the cheese in pizza—no way, with a side of dramatic gagging.

One day I realized I had made green pasta dough using nettles plenty of times. Vegetable-dyed pasta has a centuries-old history in Italy, so why wasn’t I using other vegetables in my own noodles too?

I banked on Bentley not being able to taste the vegetable ingredients, and I confess to telling the parental white lie that all the colors were edible Play-Doh. That proved to be the ticket, and suddenly he was not only eating vegetables in every color of the rainbow, he was also in the kitchen with me, playing with the dough and providing me with a lifetime of treasured mama-son memories. He eats vegetables like a boss now, no matter the form, and I’m happy I found a way to get him over the tiny hurdle without giving up and resorting to chicken nuggets on the regular.

And my own obsession grew. Single-color strands gave way to two-sided noodles, and that quickly veered into rainbow territory. Then I realized that with a few basic tools and some imagination, I could make a whole mess of patterns right on my pasta sheets. These days it’s not uncommon to find me sneaking a photo of the design on a stranger’s shirt, stalking wallpaper like a wallflower, or ordering a pair of shoes just so I can turn the pattern on their toe-box into pasta.

However unconventional it may be, I have found my art, and with that, my true path. My parents always cautioned me to go the practical route—find something dependable and, well, depend on it. In today’s society, I’m not sure that is the best advice. It’s undeniably important to develop a foundation and work hard and smart, but if I hadn’t challenged the norms and put diamond dowels in round holes time and time again, I fear I would never have found the thing that satisfies my soul, not just my monthly creditors.

It will please me to the sweetest end if you want to make the noodles in my book, but I don’t expect colored pasta to be the other side of your BFF heart necklace as it is mine. I do hope that in joining me for a part of this journey, no matter how young or old you are, how busy or free, you are inspired to set aside moments every day to pursue what you really want in life, even if you don’t know exactly what that is. Dedicating the time to figure it out is enough that eventually a door will burst open like a Watermelon Bubblicious bubble, and you’ll know, without a dust mote of doubt, it’s right.

While I have many people to thank for my journey into the colorful, nutritious world of pasta art, I’m fulfilled to the brink of tears that I can attribute my current career and lifelong passion primarily to the most important little guy in my life, Bentley.


Here’s a little history lesson that will blow your mind if you’re pasta-obsessed. Let’s talk for a moment about tortelli, ravioli, and gnocchi. What we think of as ravioli—filled pasta—used to be known as tortelli, which is the word still commonly used throughout Italy. Ravioli, rather, were shaped dumplings rolled in such a way as to mimic the round-rooted turnip called rabiola in Latin or rape nowadays. In other words, ravioli was a type of gnocchi—pasta dumplings—rolled into the shape of tiny turnips.

I find that anecdote, gleaned from Giuliano Bugialli’s Classic Techniques of Italian Cooking, fascinating from an evolutionary perspective, because both language and our manipulation of culinary ingredients constantly metamorphose. I don’t presume to comprehend the entirety of Italian pasta, because it is ever-changing, but those of us who endeavor to innovate should do so with as much awareness and respect for the traditional versions as possible.

Breaking that down further, I know I’ll irk some Italian traditionalists with my—shall we say colorful?—approach to pasta, but that is certainly not my intention. I am constantly learning everything I can about noodles that exist or once existed somewhere in the world, but when I set out to make my daily batches of dough, the resulting pasta is mine alone. I began this section by showing that even something as pervasively known throughout the world as ravioli was at one point a completely different thing. By this I mean to gently nudge purists to see that things change, and most of the time it’s okay. Sometimes it’s even for the better.

After all, we wouldn’t have burrata cheese without the enterprising minds of some innovative Pugliese cheesemakers in the 1950s. Looking for a way to use up the scraps left over from mozzarella production, they began to make a final “kitchen sink” cheese at the end of the day. They kneaded the mozzarella scraps into a vessel-like form, poured in some fresh cream for binding, and tied it up in a pretty topknot. Thus, burrata was born, and the world—well, Puglia—rejoiced! Because burrata is so perishable, it rarely traveled outside that region until recently, when global demand caused cheesemakers to duplicate burrata (not quite as well, but still) with pasteurized dairy.

Which brings me to my next point. Those cheesemakers employed a very important Italian notion called . . .


Cucina povera literally means “poor kitchen,” but there’s more to the story. Cucina povera has roots in southern Italy, and hearkens back especially to several postwar periods when food was scarce for everyday people. Beyond just the notion that nothing should go to waste, enterprising cooks found ways to cobble together ingredients like flour, legumes, wild greens, and typically discarded parts of vegetables, such as turnip tops, so they could feed their families.

Meat was expensive and uncommon, and if it was procured, no part went unused. Famous dishes borne of cucina povera often contain organ meats like tripe, brains, and liver. Some families could afford to buy tripe only once a week, and it was sold preboiled for convenience from shops called tripperie that were as common as vegetable vendors in any given villagio at the turn of the twentieth century. Those who could not afford the tripe itself had to make do with the broth used to boil it. It was a welcome flavoring for cheap legumes and grains, such as chickpeas and rice.

Pasta is the very definition of cucina povera. By mixing water (or eggs) with flour, forming it into a paste, then somehow cutting and drying it, early noodle makers the world over were preserving flour to make it last over long periods of famine, miseria, or swashbuckling adventures.

Nowadays cucina povera has come to mean a celebration of simple, inexpensive ingredients coaxed together in inventive ways, so as to waste nothing. While this book has a few pricy ingredients (only because of their current popularity or trendiness), at its core it is just flour, eggs, and things that grow from the earth. Granted, they are woven together in a manner a Genovese villager in the fifteenth century might consider sorcery or heresy or both, but it’s all in the spirit of resourceful Italian innovation.


Pasta making need not be complex. If you have a rolling pin, a bench scraper, and some elbow grease, you can make noodles. I’m in the habit of using a wine bottle to roll out a batch of pasta when I’m in hotel rooms if I’m lucky enough to have a means to boil water, just to keep my skills sharp. Nevertheless, I’ve put together a list of some items that will make your life slightly easier if you’re interested in scaling up your pasta station. (See also “The Means to Roll and Sheet Pasta Dough.”)


I like to use half sheet pans with lids, sometimes called baker’s half sheets or jellyroll pans, to store all my fresh pasta until I bake it. The pans are usually aluminum, and the thickness doesn’t matter a whole lot (unless you’re using them for something else), but if you’re investing in a few new ones, I suggest buying them in a set that includes the plastic lids, as I have noticed that not every lid fits every pan across all manufacturers. The lids snap on to the top of the pans and are raised above the pans about an inch, which is convenient for storing unruly pasta that lies higher than the edges of the pan. A standard half pan is 13 by 18 inches, more or less, and it is the right size for a sheet of parchment folded in half crosswise.

Half sheet pans are manageable to carry and fit inside most refrigerators, but if you have a smaller fridge, you may consider scaling down to quarter pans. Conversely, if you’re strong as an ox, plan to make industrial quantities of pasta, and have all the room in the world, a full sheet pan may be the way to go.


I use a lot of parchment paper in pasta making. It’s great for lining pans so that pasta doesn’t stick to them and also makes a very nice sling from which to slide pasta directly into the boiling water, eliminating the need to hand-mangle sometimes delicate pieces of pasta such as gnocchi, gnudi, or even ravioli if you’ve forgotten to flour the bottom and the filling is especially wet. Even if pasta is stuck to the parchment, once it all hits the boiling water it will dislodge, whereas if you try to pry wet pasta off parchment with your hands or a spatula, the pasta will often tear.

Parchment gets pricy when you buy tiny rolls from the grocery store, but if you have the space, it’s very inexpensive in bulk. Both half-and full-size sheets of parchment are available in packets of 1,000 and cost less than a nickel a sheet when you buy 1,000. If you can find only the more common full sheets, fold them in half to fit inside a half sheet pan.


If you go as mad for pasta as I have, you are going to use a lot of plastic wrap to store your dough. May I advise you again to buy in bulk? I prefer the 18-inch width, as it makes covering everything easier, but go with what works in your space. Unless you already have a cutter setup, be sure to purchase a box with the means to cut. A convenient search term to locate this plastic wrap is “PVC foodservice wrap film with slide cutter.”


I recommend at least a 6-quart pot. I am in the habit of boiling my pasta in a large stockpot, regardless of how small the batch is. It’s partly because I’m lazy and I know just how much salt and water to put into my trusty old pot, but also because it’s always better to use more water, not less, when boiling pasta. When you add a lot of pasta to a little boiling water, it will take a long time for that water to come back to boil. Conversely, when you add pasta to plenty of boiling water, it will barely stop the boil. Temperature consistency is important for cooking al dente fresh pasta, as if it heats back up too slowly, it will make the noodles both mushy and tough at the same time. Ain’t nobody got time for that. A single batch of dough in this book is designed to boil in 4 quarts water, if this at all sways your pot purchasing preferences.


Stackable pasta drying trays have mesh material inside a wooden frame. The pasta rests directly on the net so air can flow all around it. The trays are rectangular and come with removable dowels so that you can stack many trays on top of one another on a relatively small countertop footprint. This stackability comes in handy when you’re making a large quantity in a small space. They can also be used to dry foods such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms. Look for the manufacturer Eppicotispai, available online.


The best, cheapest, and easiest way you can hang long pasta to dry at home is to go to your local hardware store and purchase some dowels. You can drape long noodles over them and use them to hold tubular noodles such as cannelloni in a circular form until they’re dry enough to hold their shape. I recommend dowels with about a ¾-inch diameter, but if you already have ½-or 1-inch dowels lying around and you don’t want to make a special trip, they’ll do just fine. I keep mine 48 inches long, the length they come at the hardware store. If you don’t have a good place to keep rods that long, saw them shorter yourself or have the hardware store do it for you—it’s usually a free service.

You can make your dowel system basic or complex. Resting the dowels between two chairbacks works well, and chances are you already have the chairs. If you want to get fancy, you can rig up your own dowel rack with S hooks suspended from screw-eyes beneath your upper kitchen cabinets. It’s a low-profile, easily removable way to get drying space on the cheap. Multiple S hooks linked together allow you to raise and lower the dowels for easier placement of noodles.


A bench scraper, sometimes called a pastry scraper or pastry cutter, is essential for handling pasta. Used for everything from prying sticky pasta sheets up off the bench to cleaning the work surface after a session, this tool is indispensable. Size matters here, friends. Look for one with an edge that is between 6 and 9 inches for maximum ease of use.


Many of you will already have a rolling cutter in your kitchen arsenal from pie making. It has a rolling wheel at the bottom that is either straight or fluted, and a handle extends upward from the wheel. The very best rolling cutters have wheels made of brass and last a long time. An online search for “rolling pasta cutter” or “brass pasta wheel” will yield plenty of results. I recommend both a fluted (sometimes called “festooned”) and a straight rolling cutter, for making straight or jagged finishing cuts along the edges of your pasta. Note that fluted rolling cutters come in various sizes. The “teeth” at the end of the wheel are wider or narrower, which determines the width of the zipper pattern on the pasta sheet.


In pasta making as in life, some of the smallest moments can be the most transformative. Take, for instance, the first time I rolled a sheet of pliant pasta against a silicone sushi mat and I realized I could stop harassing my husband into building me the biggest gnocchi board known to man so that I could make grooved, tubular pasta all day and all night and every second in between.

The silicone sushi mat solves so many problems because it’s lightweight, has grip and texture to impart grooves, and is bigger than most gnocchi boards, enabling you to make cool shapes such as paccheri and cannelloni, not to mention smaller grooved shapes like gnocchi, cavatelli, and garganelli. In short, get one. You’ll find them at most Asian grocers, on Amazon, and elsewhere online. Lékué makes a good one. They’re inexpensive and worth their weight in pasta-maker gold.

If old school is your thing and you opt for a gnocchi board rather than a silicone sushi mat, I recommend buying one as large as you can find, or making one yourself if you’re handy with a table saw.


Round cutters (sometimes called cookie cutters) are very handy for cutting shapes, making emoji ravioli, and cutting out pasta in general. I use both fluted and plain-edged, but I would start with plain-edged if I could choose only one.


Typically sold in cake-decorating shops for fondant art, these babies will save your fingers when making big patterns across pasta sheets. Note that they are less expensive if you purchase them in a set, and


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