Calzone

Calzone might be the greatest of pizzas.  It more than doubles the wonderfulness of pizza by basically quadrupling the toppings and serving them up all gooey and delicious inside a bready pocket of loveliness.  However, not long ago I found out that in Philadelphia a calzone comes with sauce on the side, and if you want sauce inside the pizza you must order a stromboli, a distinction made nowhere else in the world (where a stromboli differs from a calzone in that it is rolled, like a spiral).  And sometimes restaurants will not make stromboli, only calzone.  This seemed like a terrible travesty to me, so I decided to make my own.  Along the way I discovered that home made calzone is way better than home made pizza, in a way that is not true of their restaurant equivalents, and that making your own pizza dough is not only delicious, but very easy. (Jack theorizes that home ovens cannot replicate restaurant pizza because they cannot get hot enough, so the crust is never quite right, but that because calzone is all about the filling it works well in a domestic oven. It seems as good an explanation as any).

This particular calzone was filled with sauteed onions, mushrooms and spinach, roasted red pepper, mozzarella, ricotta and a spicy, garlicy tomato sauce.  Gorgeous.

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • about 3 cups flour
  • 1 packet rapid rise yeast
  • a little salt
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup warm water

Filling:

  • olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 pint mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch spinach, washed and trimmed
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup ricotta
  • 3/4 cup grated mozzarella
  • 1 red pepper, roasted (under the broiler works well, see this post for directions), and sliced
  • 1 8 oz (250 ml) can tomato sauce (try to get one with as few ingredients as possible, and definitely no sugar)
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • pepper, red pepper, salt, oregano, basil (for sauce, to taste)
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced

Directions:

Preheat oven 375 degrees.

For the crust, in large bowl, mix together 2 cups flour and yeast, then add salt, oil and warm water.  Combine, adding flour until dough forms and is no longer sticky.  Knead on floured surface for about 5 minutes, until smooth, adding flour as needed.  Cover with a dish towel and set aside.

Set pepper to roast.  Heat a little olive oil in a pan to saute onions, saute, seasoning with pepper, until soft and lightly caramelized, add sliced mushrooms, cooking until water is released and cooked off. Add spinach, cook until well wilted. Remove from heat, add ricotta and mix until well combined.

Combine tomato sauce, diced tomato, spices (heavy on the oregano) and garlic.  Remove dough from bowl (it will have increased in size, about doubled), roll out either on floured surface on directly onto oiled pizza pan (if you roll it on a surface and transfer to the pan, you can use cornmeal instead of oil to stop it sticking.  Spread sauce on half the pizza, leaving about an inch of crust around. Add spinach mixture, sliced red peppers and mozzarella cheese only to the area covered by the sauce. Pick up the other side of the dough and stretch over the toppings, to form a crescent, pressing the edge together with your fingers (if necessary use a little water or oil to make it stick).

Bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes, until crust is golden.  Cut into wedges (a bread knife works well), and serve.  Feeds 3 or 4. If you want to double it, you can either make two crescents, or make one large round calzone.

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Savory French Toast Sandwich

Most days I cook for two.  I appreciate this, because it forces me to think in advance about what I’m going to cook and begin prepping in a timely manner.  (Also, Jack does all the chopping. Lovely).  But on occasions where I have to cook for myself I never want to put in the effort to make something, but also don’t want to just eat something fast like cereal, or the leftover soup I also ate for lunch.  This conundrum usually ends in my waiting much too long to begin cooking, and so by the time I do I’m really hungry and particularly do not want to put effort into things.  It’s about this point that I start googling random ingredients I happen to have on hand to see if something interesting pops us.  That is, until I discovered the website Cook Think, which includes a recipe guessing tool where you input ingredients, cuisine types, dishes, or moods, and out comes a list of dishes with links to recipes.

I don’t remember what combination of words I inputted, but it brought me to recipe for savoury French toast.  I’d never considered savoury French toast before, but it makes perfect sense considering that most breakfast dishes made with eggs are savoury.  So I ran with the idea, and it turned out to be delicious – the bread had the texture of french toast (which I love), but a completely different flavour profile.  Think of it as a spin on a breakfast sandwich, rather than a spin on french toast.

Ingredients

  • two slices of bread
  • 2 eggs
  • a splash of milk (I used buttermilk, because it’s what I had)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup frozen spinach
  • half a tomato, sliced
  • slices of brie cheese

Directions

Place eggs, milk and salt and pepper in a bowl and beat lightly with a fork.  Dip bread slices in egg mixture until coated on both sides.  Place soaked bread in a dish or on a baking sheet, and pour remaining mixture over the bread.  Let rest while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Defrost and cook slightly the spinach by sweating it in a pan until most of the liquid is evaporated. Season with pepper. Slice tomato and cheese. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil, and butter it so the bread does not stick (I didn’t do this and the bread did stick, as visible in the picture).  Place the first slice on the sheet, top with cheese, tomato, spinach and the second bread slice.  Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until outside of bread is toasted, and inside all melted.

Serve immediately.

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Sesame Noodle Salad

So, while I’ve gushed about the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook in the past, I have failed to note that I pretty much only make two recipes out of it consistently – ‘African Yam Stew’ and the ‘Nearly-Raw Tahini Noodles.’  But they have both become meal staples for me.  For the stew, I follow the recipe essentially exactly (failing if I don’t have an ingredient on hand), with the exception of a little added fenugreek (it was hard to find, I bought a lot of it, so I put it in everything I possibly can).  The salad, on the other hand is sort of infinitely variable, so I’ve made it all sorts of ways. I’ve cooked the vegetables, I’ve left them raw. I’ve used zucchini, peppers, cabbage, cucumber, onion, green onion, celery, spinach, broccoli in various combinations, and chopped or grated or sliced in a number of ways.  I’ve added chick peas, I’ve added tofu.  I’ve used whole grain spaghetti, buckwheat soba noodles, brown rice spaghetti.  I’ve replaced the tahini with peanut butter and with almond butter.  It’s always delicious, and delightfully light and refreshing.  One of the best quick meals, and very excellent for hot summer days when we all try to keep turning on the stove to a minimum.

All that you really need is the incredible dressing recipe.  Using tahini (as the recipe originally intended) is probably my favourite way to make the dressing, but it’s probably wonderful with any nut or seed butter.

Ingredients

The dressing

  • 1/4 Cup Tahini (less if you’re using ‘sesame paste,’ which is stronger tasting)
  • 2 Tbs Soy Sauce
  • 3 Tbs Water
  • 1 Tbs Sugar
  • 1 Tbs Rice Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Chili Sauce (I use sriracha)
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • Black Pepper

The salad

  • 1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti (or other long noodles of your choice), boiled and rinsed in cold water until cool.
  • any vegetables you want (I recommend thinly shredded cabbage, grated carrots, broccoli and green onions, but it’s delicious with everything, so feel free to use whatever you have on hand.)
  • I can chick peas, drained and rinsed (I almost always do this. They go really well with the tahini and add a little protein to the meal).

Directions

Mix dressing ingredients together and toss with salad ingredients until well coated (tongs work well for this). Serve and enjoy.

Also, this recipe is also on the Vegan Yum Yum blog, if you’d like to check out the original (and see a lovely picture of the meal).

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Bailey’s Chocolate Cake. No, really.

So, last week I had the best idea I’ve ever had. What if I make a chocolate cake, I thought, instead of finishing my day’s writing? And what if I glaze that cake, twice? With chocolate glaze AND with Bailey’s glaze?

Once it occurred to me, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The mere thought of Bailey’s-glazed cake haunted every word I wrote until finally I gave up and started to bake. Aaaaaand… I bombed. I tried to develop my first gluten-free cake recipe, and I definitely didn’t master it. (I promise you wheat-free folks that I will get the hang of it soon!) However, I didn’t regret that cake because it was still good, just a little crumbly. And more importantly, I discovered that double-glazing (in chocolate-Bailey’s form, as well as in window form) is in fact blow-your-mind good.

So, after eating that entire cake myself, I decided I better develop a different recipe that might do more justice to the topping. And thus, this version was born. The cake’s not bad: rich, dark, chocolately goodness. And the glazing is still stupidly delicious.

Cake Ingredients

  • 1 c. plain white flour
  • 1/2 c. ground almonds
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • about 4 oz. dark chocolate (mine was semi-sweetened, but if you use unsweetened you will want to add more sugar – the cake is not that sweet as is)
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c. warm water (more or less as needed to get consistency of cake batter)

Cake Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease 8-inch cake pan and set aside. Mix dry ingredients (flour to baking soda) in a large bowl. Melt chocolate at a low heat, stirring often; if you melt your chocolate on the stovetop, use a double-boiler so it is off the direct heat. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, mix wet ingredients (oil to water), then stir in chocolate once it is melted. Make a well in dry ingredients and add chocolate mixture, and stir until mixed well. Pour into greased cake pan and bake for about 15 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Glaze Ingredients

  • about 5 Tbsp. icing sugar
  • about 1 oz. dark chocolate (semi or unsweetened), melted as above
  • about 1 tsp. Bailey’s Irish Cream

Glaze Directions

Sift 2 Tbsp. icing sugar into a small bowl. Slowly add melted chocolate, mixing thoroughly. In another small bowl, sift another 2 Tbsp. icing sugar. Slowly add Bailey’s, mixing thoroughly. In both cases, you can add more icing sugar to thicken the consistency or more liquid to thin it. This is partly personal taste. I usually have it so that the glaze thickens but does drip off the spoon fairly readily, while hardening on the cake. Then again, the thinner it is, the more it will soak into the cake – also a delicious option.

When the cake is finished baking and has started to cool, start by spreading the chocolate glaze on. Cover the cake liberally! Then drizzle the Bailey’s glaze on top, and enjoy.

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Chickpea Curry Burgers

Homemade bean burgers are my newest obsession. They are surprisingly fast and easy to make, and much much better for you than any store bought processed soy based veggie burger (not to mention more delicious!).  I also love them because they are infinitely variable – you can add any spices, different kinds of beans, I’ve even thrown in chopped nuts.  As long as you have the basics – beans, an egg (or egg replacer for vegans – this is just for binding so probably any common egg substitute would work), bread crumbs, and spices – you can do pretty much anything you want.

This recipe is for chickpea curry burgers, but I’ve also made black bean almond burgers, and spicy black bean burgers. They were all delicious.  One standard 15 oz can of beans makes 3 good sized burgers, and the recipe doubles (and probably trebles) very easily if you’re feeding more people.  I’ve also been told you can make large batches and freeze them in ziploc bags, but I’ve never tried it. Plus, they’re so quick to make that having them fresh is not a hassle at all.

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 egg (or substitute, or egg white if you’re worried about cholesterol.  I always hate the idea of throwing out the yolk, and can never think of something else to use it for.)
  • black pepper, red pepper, cumin, curry powder, coriander, and turmeric to taste. (a teaspoon or two of each is a probably good).
  • bread crumbs – about a 1/2 cup
  • burger buns
  • condiments/fixings

Directions

Drain and rinse can of chickpeas, and place in medium mixing bowl.  Crush with potato masher, until you can a coarse mash.  You want some chickpeas to be in pieces, and some to be paste-like.  If you are substituting other beans, they can be crushed with a fork, and if they are small, like black beans, some of the beans can be left whole

Beat egg lightly with a fork and add to beans. Add spices as desired.  Stir until well-combined.  Add breadcrumbs a little at a time, stirring as you go, until the mixture is well-coated but still sticks together.  If the mixture is too wet or too dry, the burgers will fall apart – so add slowly and test the mixture often to see if it can be formed into disks easily.  Form into three patties.

Meanwhile, heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan. When patties are formed, add to pan, cooking on medium heat until heated through, flipping over once. About 6 minutes.

Serve on buns with any fixings you desire.  I find the chickpea curry burgers go well with spinach leaves, spicy mustard, and blue cheese.

I look forward to trying variations on this recipe in the future. I always use a bit of cumin, because it gives the burgers a bit of a smoky flavour, and I’ve been thinking about trying them with a bit of liquid smoke thrown in.  I also love the idea of caramelizing onions and mixing them in with the burgers. Or using crushed nuts or seeds as the base of the burgers.  I also like to try various condiments on the burgers.  I’ve served black bean burgers with avocado and smoky tomato jam, and with sriracha and mayo and fresh spinach. Delicious.

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Cran-Apple Yogurt Cake

Here is an eggless cake in celebration of two fruits that are readily available in temperate-climate winters: cranberries and apples. The yogurt gives it a bit of weight, but it still rises nicely. And it’s not too sweet, which helps people like me who live alone — and thus will eat the entire cake themselves. Maybe tonight.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c. flour (I used white)
  • 1/3 c. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 c. apple juice
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/3 c. yogurt (I used strawberry because that’s what I had)
  • 1/2 c. cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 peeled apple, 1/2 in thin slices and 1/2 diced
  • a sprinkle of white sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease an 8 inch cake pan (square or circular) and set aside. In one bowl, mix dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt). In another bowl, mix wet ingredients (juice, oil and yogurt). Make a well in the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients. Mix until smooth. Add cranberries and diced apple, and mix. Pour into cake pan. Arrange apple slices on top of the cake, then sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake about 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

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Cashew-Balsamic Dressing

So, New Year’s Day. You might be resolving to cook new dishes, cut back on take-out meals, eat more salad. Or not. Either way, here’s a really easy one to start off the year. Almost too easy to blog about, and definitely easy enough to keep making all year round!

  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 tsp. ground flax seed (see raisin and caraway risotto for notes about flax seed)
  • 2 Tbsp. cashews
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • dash of chili flakes and pepper, to taste

Blend ingredients until smooth. That’s it. A simple balsamic dressing with a nutty twist! Recipe makes about 1/2 c. and will keep in the fridge. Oh, and of course the recipe can be adapted. Try different nuts, different vinegars, more garlic, less honey. You name it, you eat it, you enjoy it!

In the photo, I have served the dressing on a spinach salad with sliced red onion, diced tomato, crumbled feta cheese and a splash of pine nut deliciousness. And voila, happy new year, happy cashew year! (Groan.)

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