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Archive for the ‘vegan calzone’ Category

I don’t make friends easily in new situations. Every time I start a new job, place my kids in a new school or move to a different town, my ability to engage people in meaningful discussions or even hold something resembling a conversation diminishes. I can’t even manage small talk. My vocabulary dwindles down to one syllable words, I struggle with thinking up questions to ask, and my tendency to make snarky, inappropriate jokes about my children increases monumentally. If my first impression doesn’t offend or frighten people away, I eventually start making friends, but only after a lengthy period of time has passed and I have had a chance to redeem myself of that first encounter. My friend Erin on the other hand, is the Pied Piper of friendships. She could coax an agoraphobic recluse out a cave if given the opportunity. The community that has taken me three years to create, Erin can replicate in a foreign country with a language barrier in about six weeks. She is charming, extroverted, feisty, and funny. She walks into a room and people love her, almost instantly.

I would not have survived my six months of stay-at-home status without Erin. Only she could welcome and appreciate a desperate, “my child awoke at the crack of dark and if I don’t get out of the house, someone is going to die” 6:30 am phone call and request to meet at the park. Especially because she herself had most likely already been woken up by 5:00 am. I can always count on Erin to be up for a bit of spontaneity, just as long as it is before the sun sets, which is fine because really, at this point in my life, late night outings cramp the little sleep I get, and I am not going to sacrifice the precious bits of rest I do get for a cheap drink on the town.

Over the last few years, we’ve taken to gathering our friends and their kids together for spontaneous Friday night dinners. They are spontaneous because we generally don’t start inviting each other over for dinner until about an hour before mealtime. We’ve nicknamed these evenings “Noodle Nights” because after a full day of work, pasta and a sauce bar (vegan alfredo, pesto or marinara) is about all we can throw together in the 20 minutes between arriving at home and receiving hungry children and parents at the front door.

But lately, Erin has been rocking the homemade pizza dough and creating calzones. Vegan calzones. And now I want to eat those. all.the.time.

I had never really understood the point of the calzone while growing up. Who wanted pizza fillings wrapped in dough when you could just eat the pizza? So I skipped the calzone section of the menu and chose its cheesier, greasier, more popular cousin. But for the past 13 years, that popular cousin has shunned me. Most pizza, when you omit the cheese, becomes a dry, cardboard-like meal. I always end up eating copious amounts of vegan pizza in hopes that the more I eat, the more flavor I will taste. Oddly enough, that strategy never works.

Oh how I love vegan calzones. They keep the veggies hot, flavorful and moist all wrapped up in a blanket of soft dough. And the steam inside that tasty pocket of goodness actually melts vegan cheese. When you add grilled zucchini, caramelized onions, homemade pesto, and mushrooms, well, I could continue to gush annoyingly or you could just make one yourself. After a long week of work, nothing tastes better than a calzone (vegan or not) with a seasonal salad tossed with a rich, local olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a cold beer with your best friends. Really.


The Best Pizza Dough

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups flour
1 cup warm water
2T honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 package)

Directions
Combine water, honey, salt and yeast. Leave it to rest for five minutes until it gets foamy. Add to the flour and oil and mix until fully moistened. Knead two or three times and then cover. Let rise for 45 minutes.

At this point you can either start creating pizza or calzones, or if you have more time and people aren’t clamoring at your door, you can punch down the dough and let it rise again for another 45 minutes. Erin says punching down the dough makes an even better pizza dough, but I say it is fabulous either way. She also recommends using this recipe for foccacia.

Vegan Calzones

Ingredients (makes enough for four adult-sized calzones and four kid-sized)
One batch of “The Best Pizza Dough”
One jar of marinara (or make your own with a can of tomatoes, 3-4 cloves of minced garlic, salt, pepper and a dash of dried basil and oregano if you are feeling chef-y)
Pesto (one bunch of fresh basil without the stems, 3-4 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper to taste, a handful of pine nuts and about 1/4 cup of olive oil thrown into a food processor and blended to a moist paste. Add more olive oil if it seems too dry.)
St. Ives Vegan Pepperoni (should be able to find this in the deli section of your local Whole Foods or natural food store)
Grilled zucchini
Caramelized onions
Kalamata olives
Mushrooms
Whatever else you like on your pizza or in your calzone

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Take a fist size of pizza dough and roll out into a flat circle similar to a small pizza. Load up one side with sauce and yummy stuff (I like to do a pesto/marinara combo). Fold the other half of the dough over the ingredients to make a pocket and cinch the edges so that they are closed together (almost like folding a pie crust).
Lay on an oiled pizza pan that is sprinkled with a little corn meal and place in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the dough is golden brown and baked completely.
Once baked, sit down to a nice homey meal and give thanks for your friends.

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