The Valley Cafe

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.

Enjoy!

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Dining with the Brits

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Confession: I’m obsessed with Downton Abbey.

Downton

The fictional British series follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants as major historical events like the sinking of the Titantic and the outbreak of the World War I shift British social hierarchy away from large estates like Downton, reflecting the timeless battle between tradition and progression. The series has been popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland and the United States and has received critical acclaim from the film industry and Golden Globe and Emmy awards.

Some may question how thrilling a drama about a British estate can be…but it’s full of twists and turns and characters you fall in love with, hence my obsession. My semester abroad in England also probably makes me somewhat biased.

London

Theoretically, the members of the Downton staff would have relied heavily on a book called Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management for all types of tasks on the estate. The book was written by an Isabella Mary Mason who began by writing articles on cooking and household management for her husband, Mr. Beeton’s, popular British magazine. In 1861, the supplements were published as a single volume book adding charming insight into Victorian domestic management and instantly becoming a bestseller. The 21-year-old provided incredible knowledge on running a household, but died young at 28 before she could barely run a home of her own. However, her book would live on to help people like the staff at Downton Abbey and it also became increasingly important as traditionally aristocratic women evolved to manage a home on their own. The Crawley girls, particularly Edith, develop independence through the series that could eventually lead them to Mrs. Beeton.

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This week The Valley Café is focused on the classic Victorian British dishes inspired by the cooking tips of Mrs. Beeton. Taste the English dishes served at Downton tomorrow from 11:30-1:30 in the Cabaret!

MrsBeetonMenu

(Photos courtesy of PBS and Vintagecobweb.com)

 

Buns and Bursting

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The season of Lent arrives this week for the Christian community and is celebrated in many ways around the world. I bet you’ve heard of Mardi Gras as a common festival of Lent, but do you know anything about Bun and Bursting Day?

This holiday in Iceland follows  similar ideas as Mardi Gras–indulging in delicious food before the ritual fasting of Lent. Bun Day is a 100 year old tradition in which the population enjoys warm, fresh-baked buns stuffed with cream or jelly and topped with chocolate. Children wake up early to enjoy buns for breakfast and also bring them to school for lunch. Adults enjoy buns provided by their company to add a bit of sweetness to the work day.  Bakeries all over Iceland usually make about 1 million buns for this day and many families make home-made buns as well. In the end, each Icelander eats, on average, 3 buns a day.

Buns

After Ash Wednesday is Bursting Day (also known as sprengidagur). This day is celebrated by eating salted meat with peas until the point of near bursting. This is considered Iceland’s last proper meal before Lent, so the “bursting” is highly encouraged.  The meal traditionally consists of salted lamb with a side of pea soup.

Sprengidagur

Tomorrow, The Valley Café joins in on the Icelandic celebration with a menu featuring the best of Bun Day and Bursting Day. There will be split peas with salted meat as well as potato salad and cauliflower…and you bet there will be plenty of buns.

BunDayMenu

Join us from 11:30-1:30 in the Cabaret and get ready to Burst.

(Photos courtesy of reykjavik.com)

Prepare for Spring Break: Tips from Chef

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This week’s menu was packed with healthy dishes by Marist’s own Chef Anthony. Chef’s idea for the menu was to focus it around identifiable, local and relatively easy to prepare dishes. He was also focused on not making the meal itself scream HEALTHY, joking that then no one would want to eat it!

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But spring break is approaching and for many people that means bathing suit season after a long winter, so fitness seems to be on everyone’s mind…

When designing a well-balanced and nutritious meal, Chef Anthony adheres to general guidelines that can be applied to daily eating:

Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foodsNo single food supplies all the nutrients you need, so mix and match.

Enjoy plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetablesAnd don’t be afraid to get creative in how you incorporate them into your diet!

Control your portions Did you know the recommended serving of cooked meat is 3 ounces, similar in size to a deck of playing cards?

Eat regular mealsSkipping meals can lead to out-of-control hunger, which can result in overeating. So don’t be afraid to snack, just keep portions reasonable.

Reduce, don’t eliminate certain foodsYou don’t have to give up your favorite food if it’s high in fat, salt or sugar. Just moderate portions and how often you eat it.

Foods are not good or badSo don’t feel guilty for liking potato chips, apple pie or milkshakes.

Balance your food choices over timeMake sure you get all the foods you need in a reasonable a period of time.

The Valley Café always works to maintain its customer’s health, but enjoying healthy meals every day best starts with your habits!

What other successful healthy eating tips do you have??

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Eating Healthy for Spring

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Over the winter months we find ourselves snowed in and avoiding the harsh temperatures to sit in bed wrapped up in blankets, munching on cookies dunked in hot chocolate and awaiting the blossoms of spring. Winter is the ultimate couch potato month. In some ways that is the beauty of the cold, but it also can also encourage a more sedimentary lifestyle that may not always come with the best eating habits. By the time spring comes many people are not only eager for the warm weather, but also to burn off the winter calories and eat the fresh produce that is back in season.

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This week The Valley Café has designed an exceptionally healthy menu to help beat the winter blues junk food. Vegetables like cauliflower, zucchini, kale and spinach will be paired with classic favorites like chicken, potatoes and rice for a well-balanced and delicious lunch. And there will be dessert as well, of course. All made by Chef Anthony with your health in mind.

The Valley Café prides itself in the local farms that the food comes from, which is also an added health benefit. Local farmers grow their produce more naturally and the food is not exposed to heavy pesticides and other chemicals that are used in industrial farming practices. In addition, local produce arrives more fresh and full of ripe nutrients, unlike the items have that sat in the back of a truck for a couple of days.

Come celebrate the near end of winter with a change in your diet! Between a hearty menu and local ingredients, this week’s Valley Café will be the perfect kick off to a healthy spring. Join us for lunch on Tuesday from 11:30-1:30!

EatHealthyMenu

Returning to Asia

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The past couple of meals at The Valley Café have returned back to crowd favorites from last semester, back by popular demand.

Indian cuisine on February 11th featured lots of spices–chili powder, cumin, cinnamon and plenty of curry. The tastes of Asia continued the following week with the eclectic Burmese menu from the country of Myanmar, featuring briyani, cabbage and noodles.

Asia offers ingredients and tastes that are very unique to our American culture. Giving them a try at The Valley Café is a great way to learn to love them!

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For more information, you can also read about India and the Festival of Lights and the cuisine of Myanmar in my past posts.

More meals to come!

Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to

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The amount of potatoes that were present at today’s opening Valley Café was slighting overwhelming. The variety ranged from red potatoes, to Yukon gold and russet potatoes. Then there were our locally grown fingerling and deep purple Peruvian potatoes from RSK Farm in Prattsville, New York. (Unfortunately, the farm experienced significant damage from hurricane Irene in 2011 and is now working to re-develop its damaged farm land. Sourcing from RSK not only provides us fresh, local ingredients but also helps the farm recover!).

I learned quickly as I was filling up my plate  that I had to pick and choose which potatoes I wanted for lunch or else I would be consuming more starch than I could handle. But choosing from the many delicious and steaming recipes was no easy task. My favorites ended up being the oven baked parmesan fries seasoned in thyme, oregano, rosemary garlic and cheese. Chef Anthony and I went back for seconds, as he was a fan of them as well.

But dessert was my absolute favorite. Potatoes and dessert was never a concept that fit well in my head before today’s lunch. However, the fruit banana and sweet potato casserole was the perfect ending to my meal. The naturally sweet flavor of the bananas and sweet potatoes, enhanced by brown sugar and cinnamon, created one of those “melt in your mouth” desserts. I’ve never been much of a sweet potato fan, but this may have converted me.

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Chef Anthony will be sharing the recipe for the banana and sweet potato casserole for those of you personal chefs who wish to re-create this glorious dessert moment. I’ll keep you posted with the details!

It was great to see such a good turn out at The Valley Café’s first meal of the semester. Who else had a favorite potato dish from today??