Cooking Lesson: Fresh Mozzarella

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This week’s Italian Valley Café was a sell-out! The atmosphere was bustling and exciting as everyone enjoyed the tastes of southern Italy.

In addition, Chef Anthony was in the cabaret all afternoon turning fresh curd into a ball of stuffed mozzarella from which he was slicing pieces for customers drizzled in olive oil and garnished with a basil leaf. It was a great opportunity to see the fresh, local ingredients and kitchen’s culinary skills at work!

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But you don’t need to be a Chef to make your own mozzarella…just follow the Valley Café recipe!

1. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid to 1 cup cool water. Stir into 1 gallon of cold milk. Heat slowly to 90 degrees.

2. Remove pot from burner. Dilute a 1/4 tablet or 1/4 teaspoon of rennet in 1/4 cup cool water. Stir diluted rennet into pot for 30 seconds. Cover and leave for 5 minutes.

3. Check the curd. It should look like custard and the whey will be clear. If too soft, let set a few more minutes.

4. Now cut the curd into 1 inch squares with a knife that reaches to the bottom of the pot.

5. Place pot on stove and heat to 105 degrees while stirring slowly. If you will be stretching in water, heat to 110 degrees.

6. Take off the burner and continue stirring slowly for 2-5 minutes. Transfer curd to a colander or bowl using a slotted spoon.

7. Notice how the curd is beginning to get firmer at the whey drains. Continue separating the curd from the whey by gently pressing the curd to encourage the whey runoff.

8. Transfer curd to a microwavable bowl. Microwave for 1 minute on medium heat, then pour off the whey.

9. Knead and reheat for 30 seconds. Repeat if necessary until the curd reaches 135 degrees–almost too hot to handle.

10. Knead the curd as you would bread. If it is hot enough the curd will stretch. If it will not stretch, return it to the microwave as needed. Continue to pull and stretch. This will turn the curd into mozzarella.

11. Once the mozzarella appears smooth, form it into a ball and get ready to add it to your recipe or eat it as is.


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Ukrainian Cuisine

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On Tuesday, October 29th the Valley Café will feature cuisine from Ukraine!

Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe located just north of the Black Sea and bordered by countries like Russia, Poland and Hungary. The country has had its borders changed many times, especially during the Soviet era when it was one of the republics of the Soviet Union. During this time, the country experienced chronic food shortages which had a huge influence on the development of the country’s cuisine.


Ukrainian cuisine originates from peasant dishes based on inexpensive and easily accessible ingredients like bread, potatoes, cabbage and beets. Soups made from these ingredients were simple and easy to cook and the main part of a typical Ukrainian diet. These dishes were profound until the the 17th and 18th century when the tsars started to bring French and Italian chefs to the country to cook for their elaborate banquets. The more luxurious dishes soon left their influence on Ukrainian cuisine and added new spices and herbs such as black pepper, red pepper, salt, bay leaf, parsley, dill, garlic and onion. Meat is also now eaten more often (particularly due to the agricultural development of the country) with favorites being pork, beef and sausage prepared either as stewed, boiled, fried or smoked.

Today a typical Ukrainian meal is a blend of simple, rustic cooking and unique, modern dishes. Tuesday’s Valley Café menu incorporates many of these essential Ukrainian ingredients in the Beet Borschch Soup, Beef Goulash and Cabbage-Pepper Salad (see the full menu here). Join us Tuesday from 11:30-1:30 and experience tastes straight from Eastern Europe!


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Salute the Bean

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Thousands of years ago, hunter-gatherers and nomadic people changed their lifestyle and began to settle in one place. This would dramatically alter the course of human history. To support themselves they tilled the earth and grew crops, creating the first systems of agriculture.  Growing crops became essential to survival and a personal favorite of the time were beans.

Evidence has shown how prevalent the bean crop has been throughout history. The native people of Mexico and Peru were growing beans as far back as 7000 B.C. Chickpeas, fava beans and lentils have been found in 4000 year old Egyptian tombs. Parts of Asia were growing and using soybeans also around the same time period in 1500 B.C. High in fiber, protein and carbohydrates, the beans provided these people with everlasting energy.

Beans have been an integral part of the development of humanity and culture. This week’s Valley Café celebrates one of the world’s first cultivated crops by designing the menu around the bean. Other originally cultivated crops such as grains (including wheat, barley, millet, rice and corn) will also be included in the Valley Café menu. Together the amino acids of beans and grains complement each other to form a complete protein, the foundation for human growth and development and the ultimate meal!

It’s appropriate for the Valley Café to salute the bean in this week’s menu because doing so also celebrates the world’s first farmers. Traditional, local, hardworking farmers are at the core of the Valley Café.

Join us for a bean filled meal on Tuesday, October 15th!


Myanmar Cuisine: Combining the Best of Asia

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This week the Valley Café blends the best of Asian cuisine with a menu from Myanmar.


The Republic of the Union of Myanmar (also known as Burma) is the second largest country in Southeast Asia known for its well-preserved culture. Ancient Myanmar traditions are still very relevant today, despite the modernization of the region. Some key elements of the Myanmar culture are the country’s native music, its strong Buddhist beliefs and, of course, food.

Traditional Burmese cuisine is considered a unique fusion of Chinese, Indian and Thai. The use of noodles and soy sauce are adopted from China and the making of curry is an Indian tradition (although Myanmar curries are typically not as spicy). Thai influence comes from the use of lemongrass, fish sauce and coconut. When considering the blend of all three cultures, the food of Myanmar can be considered more rich than Chinese but not as spicy as Indian or Thai.

Burmese cuisine can also be classified by the variety of flavorful spices used in each cooking. Fish is  commonly used in dishes, especially in the coastal region of the country. Rice is also an essential part of each meal, as it is for many Asian cultures. White rice is the staple food of Myanmar but the most popular is the highly priced Basmati Rice.

Join us at the Valley Café this Tuesday to taste the many flavors of the Myanmar culture!


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French Cuisine with Auguste Escoffier

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This upcoming Tuesday, October 1st the Valley Café will be going to France.


Chef Anthony has designed the menu with inspiration from the work of French chef and restaurateur Georges Auguste Escoffier, who represents this week’s theme.

Escoffier is a legendary figure in the culinary field and a key leader in the development of modern French cuisine. He showed early promise as an artist and began an apprenticeship in his uncle’s restaurant in Nice by the age of thirteen. Later in life he ran the kitchen of Hotel National in Lucerne where he met César Ritz. Together they formed a hotel partnership, with Escoffier in charge of the kitchen. He eventually set up the kitchens and recruited the chefs for the high status clientele of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel chain in both Paris and London.

Escoffier introduced an organized discipline to the kitchen that helped elevate the status of the culinary profession. He also worked to simplify the elaborate cooking styles of the time, particularly the recipes for five mother sauces. Escoffier was France’s most distinguished chef of the early 20th century and the French press referred to him as roi des cuisiniers et cuisinier des rois (“king of chefs and chef of kings”).


Come enjoy the tastes of France at the Valley Café on October 1st!

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