Posted by: lisetta | July 25, 2009

Scoperte

My longtime friend Jeff was in town this weekend, with a newly rekindled interest in cooking. We caught up Saturday afternoon for some fun; decided to head down to the Italian Market, where we found ourselves reminiscing about Pittsburgh’s far superior Strip District.

Of our many discoveries that afternoon, we learned that Claudio’s sells cheese curd, in 5 and 10 pound blocks, for $3.99/pound. Reminded of the cooking class we once took on how to make mozzarella at home, we bought a block and decided to eat insalata caprese for dinner rather than heading out to a restaurant.

Making mozzarella is super simple. All you need is a big bowl, cheese curd, almost-boiling salted water and the will to work quickly with hands that burn. My friend Kim asks, “Why would you want to make at home what you can easily buy at the store?” I don’t know.

All I do know is that it is fun to make. The pace, the texture, the promise of something delicious?  Here’s what you do, in case anyone out there in cyberspace wants to try.

Cut up a half pound or so of cheese curd into blocks:

cheesecurd

Put them in a large mixing bowl. Cover with salted water and press gently with a wooden spoon until softened.

Drain, and cover again with the hot salted water. Working quickly, knead it into a soft ball, and drain again. It will look something like this:

cheesehand

Cover once more with the hot salted water and shape into a ball. Marvel at how simple that is, and toss it into a bowl of cold ice water. Eat immediately, or keep it in a bowl of salted water for a day or so.

You can shape it any way you want: in a braid, a disc, a square. I also like to flatten it out into a rectangular shape, add a thin layer of ‘filler’ on it (like basil, prosciutto, sun-dried tomato) and roll it up into a tight log. Slicing it gives you pinwheels of pleasure, and lots of admiration from your friends. 🙂

We sliced it with tomatoes and basil from my garden, and some EVOO from California. Nothing fancy. A perfect dinner with a great friend. What else could I want?

caprese

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Responses

  1. Lisa,

    I had such a wonderful time in Philly that weekend. I’m looking forward to more of them. I was so excited when we thought to ask about the mozzarella curd and they had it, because I have not known where to get it since coming to DC to work. And buying it in Pittsburgh was odd: we had to call a particular deli, make sure they had it, go to their back door in the alley, where we would make the exchange..like a drug deal. Something about not being allowed to sell unpasturized milk.

    So we found it in Philly and I bought 10 lbs. of it, since I didn’t know when I’d be back. If you buy a 10 lb. block, don’t worry, you don’t have to use it all at once! (however tempted you may be.) Just cut it into 1 lb. blocks and freeze it. When you want to use it, just thaw out a block in the fridge for a day, then prepare as Lisa describes above.

    To answer Kim’s question, why make it when you can buy it? Well, two reasons; one obvious and one not. The first has already been mentioned: it’s fun. The second has two parts: a) if you just buy it in your local supermarket, it’s crap, and b) if you buy it in an Italian food specialty store, sitting up on the counter in a big jar of water, swimming around with all the other little heads of mozzarella, you don’t know how long it’s been in there. Making it yourself insures that it’s really fresh. You can also salt it as much or as little as you want. Ok, I guess that’s really 4 reasons.

    More to follow…

  2. […] Homemade mozzarella: made with cheese curd from Claudio’s. […]


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