home cooking

Calzones

Being from New York, I have a deep fondness for all things Italian “fast food”.  I am still convinced there is no pizza like a slice from any pizzaria in my home town!  (Sorry artisanal blah blah pizza…!)  In college there was a tiny little pizza kitchen in the student union, which had previously been a bar,  and they made fresh cheese calzones that were amazingly good!  That’s all I would eat, and boy did I love it!  In case you don’t know what they are, think hand pies, or they are called pasties in Michigan.  You can fill them with all kinds of goodness!

I was trolling my Twitter feed the other day, ad came across this article from Saveur magazine, a recipe for homemade fried calzones.  I was intrigued, and read with skepticism.  It would be way too complicated, waiting for dough to rise, etc.  Well, it turns out it’s the simplest possible dough, no rising, no waiting for yeast to proof.  So, dear reader, here is the simplest dough possible, and with a little imagination, an easy and yes, fast, evening dinner.  If you’re really ambitious and have some time, you can also make your own ricotta for this with this recipe.

For filling, you can honestly use a small amount of anything, veggies, meat, different additions of cheeses or a combination of any of them.  Just remember, more is not better with these.  Small amounts of flavor work really well if you’re frying them and the baked method shouldn’t be overstuffed, it will cause them to explode when cooking.  Baking takes about double the time to make them, but they come out just as delicious!

Calzones (makes 6 pies)

  • 4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1½ tbsp. canola oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 ½ cups cold water
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz. chopped prosciutto/cooked and cooled sausage/cooked and cooled mushrooms/cooked and cooled spinach or any filling you like
  • 6 oz. mozzarella, shredded
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

If you’re baking these, when you’re ready, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, start this about 20 minutes before you’re ready to bake them.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, mix them well.  Add the oil to the water and stir to combine, then add to the flour mixture.  Stir well with a wooden spoon, the mixture will be rather sticky.  Turn all of the contents of the bowl out onto a lightly floured surface and knead with your hands.  It will feel too dry and then suddenly will spring into a lovely soft dough.  Once the dough is well kneaded, form it into a ball or square, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.  While it’s resting you can make the filling.

Since I make these for the Hubby and I, I split the ricotta into two bowls, I make one a meat eaters mixture and one a veggie mixture.  Combine the ricotta and the filling items you have in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and any other seasoning you may want.  Take a pinch and see if it tastes good to you.  If not, amend until you like it.   Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

Once the dough has rested, cut the ball in half, then each half into 3 even pieces.  At this point, if you’re frying them, put about 2 inches of canola or peanut oil in a high sided pan, put a plate nearby with some kitchen towel ready to drain the pie.  Put it on a medium heat, until a little flour sizzles when you drop it in.

Take the first piece of dough and put it onto a clean dry surface, and press it into a round shape.  Then use a rolling pin to roll it into a roughly 9 inch circle.  Once you’ve gotten the shape, take 2/3 cup of the ricotta mixture and place it on the center of half of the dough, and spread it until it has a 1 inch border of free dough.  Sprinkle mozzarella over the mixture, to cover it.  Wet the 1 inch edge all around with some water and your fingers, just dabble the edges, it will look like the photo below.

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Yummy!

Once you have wet the edges, carefully pull the edge over the filling to form a half moon shape.  Be sure to get as much air out of the pie as you can, and use a fork to crimp the edges closed.  If you’re only making one, you can stop here and freeze the rest of the cough and filling for another time.  If you’re making more follow the same directions.

If you’re frying these, check the oil, to make sure it’s hot, and cook these one at a time, 3 or 4 minutes on one side until it’s golden brown, then flip and cook the other side, another 3 – 4 minutes.

Fried dough pocket

Remove the completed pie from the oil and drain it on the paper towels you prepared earlier.

If you are baking them, make all the pies and line a jelly roll tin, or a cookie sheet with parchment or foil.  If using foil, brush it with a little oil so nothing sticks.  Bake them in the oven for 10 minutes, then flip them and cook another 5 – 10 minutes, or until they are puffed and start to turn golden.

You can serve these with some marinara sauce for dipping, or just as they are.  They’re hot, so be sure to let them cool before you bit or cut into them.

Enjoy!

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home cooking

Apricot Jam

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How many of you have ever eaten a fresh apricot?  If you’re like me, there are not many out there.  My favorite dried fruit has always been apricots.  I remember when I was a young teenager, I would go to the gourmet store in Forest Hills and buy them for myself.  I was the only person in the house that would eat them, and by the time I had walked home from Austin Street, they would be gone! 

I was introduced to fresh apricots only in recent years, mainly because I never really saw them in the stores, and they hadn’t really entered into the food I had cooked ever.  Then I remembered something that had eluded me for a while.  My youngest brother was an exchange student in high school, and his exchange family was in Vienna, so he spent an entire semester there.  They were a truly chic, European family.  The mom was Swiss, the father, Hungarian, and the boys had been born in Austria.  They lived in a fantastic apartment in a former Hapsburg princess’ palace (or at least that’s what I remember being told.)  It was a side of European life I had never been exposed to.  I visited for a few weeks and loved every single second of it!  One vivid memory was their breakfast.  Typically, they ate cold meats, bread, butter, jam and coffee or hot chocolate.  The jam was a special concoction called lekvar, made of apricots.  It was specially sent from the father’s sisters in Hungary to him every year.  It was wonderful, fruity and sweet but with a tang I have never found in a jam jar since then!

Flash forward 25 years or so, and I am married to a Hungarian man who loves jam.  We went to Costco recently and there were beautiful rafts of apricots.  I bought 3lbs of them, with the intention of making the lekvar.  In Hungarian, it’s called sárgabarack lekvár.  When I looked it up online, there were many recipes, and several methods of canning it, but the simplest is always the best.  Three ingredients (4 if you consider 1/3 cup of water) and about an hour of cook time.  One method of canning I saw was fascinating, it claimed the Hungarian women used any old clean jars with lids they had around, poured the hot liquid into it, and covered it with plastic wrap, put on the lids, and wrapped the whole thing in warm blankets, so they very slowly cooled, sterilizing the whole thing, no need for water baths, etc.  That is the method I used.  One more tip, you can skin the fruit, but it’s time consuming.  My suggestion would be try this with the skins on, they’re so delicate, you won’t even know they’re in there.  Or, after you cook it, you can run it through a food mill or a sieve and remove all the pulp and skin.  If you do that, return it to the pan, bring it to a boil, then complete the canning method below.  I have stored mine in the fridge, because I just do, but this should last in a pantry for about a year, if you don’t eat it all way before then!

As always, there are tons of variations you can use here, plums, cherries (very Hungarian too), under ripe pears, prunes, dried apricots, as a matter of fact any dried fruit, although you’ll need to add 2 cups of water, or a cup for every pound of fruit.  I think apples might be a bit too sweet and soft for this method, but I would think quinces would be great too!

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Hungarian Sárgabarack Lekvár

  • 2 pounds of apricots, cut into quarters, pits removed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • juice of one small lemon

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, place the quartered apricots and 1/3 cup water on a medium flame.  Stir occasionally but allow the mixture to come to a gentle boil.  When this happens, add the sugar and lemon juice, and cook and stir for an additional 20 minutes.  You’ll see the mixture begin to liquify and clarify, so it starts to be transparent.  Once this happens, cover the pot and lower the flame to low.  Allow this to cook for an hour, carefully checking and stirring every 5 minutes or so.  for the last 10 minutes, bring the mixture up to a hard boil, and keep stirring.  You’ll avoid burnt fruit and sugar on the bottom of the pan, remember this is basically a fruity sugar syrup which burns very easily.  

Once it’s fully cooked, I recommend putting it into a large glass heat proof pitcher, or as I did, an 8 cup Pyrex measuring cup.  It will make it easier to pour into the jars. 

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Any old jar will do, as I mentioned above, as long as it has a lid on it.  Pour the hot liquid into the jars leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch at the top.  Place the lids on and tighten, but not completely.  I put them on an oven mitt then bundled them into 4 layers of terry cloth tea towels.

Oh, one more thing.  Don’t throw out those apricot pits.  Soak them in some good quality vodka, and you’ll have, believe it or not, an almond flavor extract that you can’t beat!

   

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