Meatless Monday: Spinach, Mushroom, and Sweet Onion Calzones

There was this great little calzone shop in the town I grew up in for a few years. D.P. Dough. Man, those were some good calzones. When that shop opened up in town, it was the first time I’d ever had a calzone, and for a while there, I probably could have had one every day. Revelatory! They were actually a chain, I guess. There was randomly one in town where my cousins went to college.

A calzone is an oven-baked folded pizza that, according to the Interwebs, originated in Naples, Italy. A traditional calzone uses a salted bread dough, and is baked in a super hot oven after being stuffed with meat (ham or salami) and mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan or pecorino cheese. But I haven’t seen (or made) a traditional calzone in a while – and why limit yourself, really??

This past weekend, My Tiny Sous Chef and I took a little trip out east to visit my parents for a few days. Every time we take her back to my home town, where I lived from the time I was four until I left for college at 18, I share just one or two more childhood memories with her–often at least one of those has to do with food (of course). Maybe that’s why the idea of calzones popped into my head. Whatever the reason, I’m glad it did. You can get fancy and complicated with calzones if you want. Or you can keep it simple. Or somewhere in between. But on a weeknight — and a Monday after a weekend away, at that! — this easy and delicious version will satisfy every time, guaranteed. Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEEDcalzone6
* 1 bag baby spinach
* 5oz sliced button mushrooms
* 1/2 a sweet onion, sliced thin
* 2T olive oil, divided
* 8oz ricotta cheese
* 3/4C-1C shredded mozzarella cheese
* 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
* 2t minced garlic
* 1t dried oregano
* 1lb prepared pizza dough (I like Trader Joe’s)
* grated Parmesan cheese
* your favorite pizza or marinara sauce, warmed up, for serving

WHAT TO DO
Preheat the oven to 500F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray, set aside.

Boil some water in a medium-sized pot. When it gets to a rolling boil, turn off the heat and add the whole bag of spinach. Leave the spinach in the water just a minute, to wilt. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a pan and cook the mushrooms and onions just until softened, a few minutes. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, mix together the spinach, mushrooms, onions, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, the other tablespoon of olive oil, 1 egg yolk, garlic, and oregano.

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In a small bowl whisk together the full egg with two tablespoons of water to prepare an egg wash. Set aside.

Flour a working surface and cut your pizza dough into four equal sized pieces. Roll each out into an approximately 6-8-inch round. Place a quarter of the cheese and vegetable filling on one half of each round – pile it up. It will look like a lot, but you want it to be *stuffed* so don’t be shy with your filling. Be sure to leave about a half-inch to an inch border around the edge.

Fold the other half of the dough round over the filling and pinch the edges together. Crimp or fold the seam (or just press it together) to seal. Brush the seams and each calzone with the egg wash and place the calzones onto the prepared baking sheet. Use a sharp knife to cut 4-5 small steam vents in the top of each.

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Bake at 500F for 8 minutes. Then remove the calzones from the oven, brush the tops with the remainder of the egg wash, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake another 7 minutes. Allow the calzones to cool slightly before serving so that the filling can set and isn’t runny, and so you can pick up your calzone for ultimate dipping in the warmed marinara sauce!

Meatless Monday: Tortellini Sorrentina

At the end of high school one of my favorite part-time jobs was at a sweet little Italian spot in town called Pasta e Basta. It was a fresh pasta fast food-like restaurant where you ordered at the counter, choosing first your pasta, then your sauce, etc. The garlic bread was dangerously addictive and sitting in a big bin right beside me at the cash register, and another bonus was a pasta plate of your choice every shift. I almost always ordered the gemelli pasta with a Sorrentina sauce – tomato sauce with fresh mozzarella and basil. So simple, and so perfect. Crisp and acidic with the thick, fresh tomato sauce, balanced with the rich softness of fresh mozzarella, and finally topped with the earthy herbiness of fresh ribbons of basil. Whoa baby. Even just writing about it sends me back to that happy place. That right there–what I just described to you–is easily the best bowl of pasta on the planet. Oddly, I’ve never cooked it before. Never even thought to try. Until tonight. I served my sauce over spinach and cheese tortellini tonight. I wish I’d found gemelli (not an easy pasta to locate). But it’s all about this sauce. When the dinner table at my house is silent, you know you have a winner. When a little person hums while eating, you also know you need to add it to the regular rotation. Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEEDsorrentina6
*1/4C olive oil
* 4 stems flat leaf parsley
* 2 stems fresh basil (plus more for garnish)
* 1t dried oregano
* 1/2 sweet onion, diced
* 3t minced garlic
* 28oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
* 1t Kosher salt
* 1/2t ground black pepper
* 1/4C half and half (milk or cream would be fine as well – whatever you have; you can also leave this out altogether)
* 8oz package cherry sized fresh mozzarella balls, halved
* 1/2C grated Parmesan cheese
* 1 package tortellini (or other pasta of your choosing)

WHAT TO DO
In a large, high-sided, oven-safe pan heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the parsley, basil, and oregano and cook a few minutes, allowing them to infuse the oil with their flavor. When the herbs are crisp, remove them from the pan and discard.

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Add the onion and garlic. Lower the heat and saute until the onion is softened and transparent. Add the tomatoes, crushing each in  your hand as you add it to the pan, as well as the juice from the can. Add the salt and pepper and stir to combine. Simmer about 20 minutes, until the sauce thickens up. Stir in the half and half and remove from heat.

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While the sauce simmers, boil water and cook the pasta to al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and add to the pan with the sauce and stir to coat.

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Sprinkle the fresh mozzarella around the pan and the sprinkle the Parmesan on top of that. Turn the broiler onto high and broil just 5 minutes in the oven, until the cheese melts and the top becomes a little browned and crispy.

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Cut additional basil leaves into thin ribbons for garnishing, serve, and enjoy!

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Dairy-free Corn Chowder

Corn chowder has the coziest corner of my heart (or belly) all to itself. cornchow3I associate the start of our love affair with one of my most favorite childhood memories – camping on Mt. Desert Island in Maine with our dear family friends, with whom we made this week-long trip each summer for years. Thinking about those weeks genuinely brings up one of the happiest feelings I have ever had. Everything about that week at the close of each summer was the best, but among those bests was the food. We were gourmet campers, the adults preparing menus weeks in advance, lugging, along with tents and sleeping bags, and tarps (so many tarps!), and bug spray, storage bins stuffed with spice jars and pastas and baking needs and other sundries unlike normal camping requisites. And we ate gloriously. And it ruled. And my mom and J still HAVE to figure out how to get it together and write their gourmet camping cookbook, because COME ON, don’t you want to camp gourmet? But I digress. Corn chowder. It was during one of those August weeks that I came to know the magic of corn chowder. (Gourmet corn chowder at that!) I have yet to replicate or encounter a version of this soup that matches that amazing food memory, but boy have I ever tried. Every version is good. This one, too. And what is great about this one is that *despite* being dairy-free, it still has a deep creamy richness and layers of flavor and texture. I’m pretty sure I could take it camping. But I’ll let you decide. Here you go.

WHAT YOU NEED makes 4-6 servings
* 1t unsalted butter
* 1/2 a sweet onion, chopped
* 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
* 1lb bag frozen sweet corn (according to my googling, you’ll need 3ish Cups fresh corn kernels off the cob if you want to go that route – but in the winter I find it’s hard to get good sweet corn fresh, so frozen works for me!)
* 3C low-sodium broth (veggie or chicken preferably, or water works, too)
* 1 medium potato (russet works great), peeled and diced
* 1t kosher salt
* 1t ground black pepper
* 3 slices turkey bacon (or regular, but I generally have turkey bacon on-hand, and it’s leaner, so why not), cooked to crispy and then chopped up
* 2-3 fresh green onions, chopped

WHAT TO DOcornchow1
Melt the butter in a soup pot and cook the onions in it, a few minutes, until they begin to soften and turn golden. Add the bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally, allowing it to soften as well.

Add the corn, broth (or water), potato, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, checking to make sure the potato chunks are fork-tender.

If you have an immersion blender, blend in the pot until you have a chunky, pureed consistency – you still want pieces of vegetables, but you also want it to thicken up. If you don’t have an immersion blender, no worries. Allow it to cool a bit, then transfer half of the soup to a regular blender or food processor and puree, then return it to the pot and mix it all together.

Add the bacon bits and green onions, and simmer again on low for about 10 minutes or so. And there you go. Serve it up and enjoy.

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Now. Close your eyes and picture yourself eating this yummy soup under a crystal-clear sky of shooting stars at a picnic table with a crackling fire beside you. Heaven.

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Spinach Croquettes

A year ago today I started this blog as a way to connect again with myself, and with something uniquely my own in my too-busy life – something that isn’t my job or responsibility but that nourishes me (ha! see what I did there?! didn’t even mean to do it!).

Life happens, and life happened over the last five months and I just couldn’t find my way back to the balance and routine of posting. But I’ve wanted to every single day. I think sometimes we just have to rip the bandaid off, though, don’t we? You have to start something in the first place in order for it to actually have the possibility to become a part of your routine.

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So with that in mind, here I am. Last week life happened again. My last living grandparent, my maternal grandmother, passed away in Israel. Since I couldn’t be with my family, I was feeling very lonely in my grief. Until, again, food memory came to the rescue. I decided to go home that evening and prepare a dish from my grandmother’s amazing catalog of recipes. And my little sous chef helped, so together we shared the tradition of passing on recipes and cooking together, and connected with generations of women in my family, honoring my beautiful, talented, loving grandmother Margalit. Her spinach croquettes were always a favorite for me. My mother has made them for me almost every single visit home since I left for college (a long time ago). Here you go:

WHAT YOU NEED
* 2-3 lbs fresh spinach
* 1 sm onion, finely chopped
* 1 egg
* a handful of fresh parsley, chopped (or 2T dry)
* 2T unflavored bread crumbs
* 1/2t salt
* 1/4t ground black pepper
* 2 cloves minced garlic
* 1/2t cumin

WHAT TO DO
Sautee the chopped onion in oil until golden. Set aside.

Wash the spinach drop for just 10 seconds into boiling water – just to wilt. Then drain and transfer to the food process for a rough chop.

In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients together.

Heat oil – not olive oil, but safflower, canola, or vegetable work well – over medium to medium-high heat. Form the mixture into small patties (about a tablespoon or two of mixture per croquette) and fry in the hot oil. Just 2 minutes or so per side. Remove from oil and dry on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Repeat until you’ve made as many croquettes as your mixture allows.

Serve hot or cold or any way you like. Pro Tip: as leftovers, they make a great veggie layer for sandwiches!

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Posted — and made — with so much love… always.