Friday, October 3, 2008

poppy's calzone

i've had three major culinary influences in my life; my mother, my paternal grandmother, and my maternal grandfather.

each is (or was) an exceptional cook in their own right, and each had their specialties. my mother has always been adventurous in the kitchen, and it is this that has given me my vast palate and appreciation for the foods of many cultures over the years. my paternal grandmother is southern and her main influence was julia child. she has always had an affinity for fresh vegetables and simple ingredients with touches of complex flavors in her sauces. my grandfather was a bit of a rogue cook, he loved very strong spicy flavors, and was the one who taught me to use chopsticks and introduced me to the wonders of thai food.

it is for my grandfather that these calzones are named. i have many memories of him showing up unexpected while my brother and i were watching tv. his hands would be full of grocery bags, and the bags would have sausages, tomatoes, peppers, onions and pasta. he would destroy my mother's kitchen each time, but he always let my brother and i help. we would stir the onions and peppers while he explained what sweating was. my brother would remove the sausages from their casings, enjoying the ooze of the seasoned meat. i remember my parents faces when they would come home from work, a blend of dread at the site of the kitchen (each and every pot and pan used) and joy at the sight dinner being ready. i believe that the thought of their children cooking with their grandfather also brought them joy, and michael (my brother) and i were always very close with poppy.

sadly, we lost him in 2002, which was hard on all of us. but his love of cooking, and his ability to completely trash a kitchen was passed down to me, and it is in his honor that i offer up these tasty calzones. they stray slightly from his famous sausage and peppers, but i think he'd like them all the same. and it is in honor of him that instead of my usual "enjoy", i'll leave you with one of his most famous quotes: "soup's on!"

1 vidalia onion, sliced thin into half moons
1 red and 1 green pepper, sliced thin
2 or 3 sausage links, sliced (i used aidell's sun-dried tomato and mozzarella, but raw sausage would work fine)
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 small can tomato sauce (or a can of crushed tomatoes)
1 jar sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, sliced
a handfull of cherry or plum tomatoes, chopped (mine were courtesy of one of my designers gardens - thanks galen!)
just under 2 cups of cheese (i used monterrey jack, but mozzarella or fontina would have been good too)
1 batch basic whole wheat pizza crust (available here)
olive oil

make the pizza crust per the recipe, and set aside to rise. preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

in a small saucepan heat the olive oil over medium high heat, add the garlic and stir until fragrant, then add the sun-dried tomatoes and saute for a few minutes more. stir in the tomato sauce, and bring to a simmer, then add the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of salt and reduce heat to low.

in a large pan heat more olive oil over medium high heat and then add the onions and peppers and a large pinch of salt (the salt helps the onions sweat.) stir these until they are soft and glassy, but not browned. add the sausage (if using raw sausage be sure to allow enough time to cook it through, but if you are using the aidell's like i did, they really only need a few minutes to bring the flavors out since they are already fully cooked.) turn off the heat and set aside.

divide the dough into four even balls and flatten out into large discs with your hands. stretch and pull them so that they are thin and even. lay on on a baking sheet (you may want to line it with a silpat) and fill one half of the dough disc with the sausage and pepper mixture, a small handful of cheese, and a little sauce. fold the other half over the first, and then pinch the edges together tightly. make three more and arrange on the baking sheet. top with some salt.

they need about 15 minutes in the oven and should be served with a side dipping bowl of the sauce.

these would be just as good without the cheese and without the sausage. they can be filled with anything really, and are pretty versatile. if you don't want sun-dried tomatoes in the sauce, just use more cherry tomatoes and some italian seasonings or herbs (oregano, basil, etc.) as the oil the tomatoes are in does add a lot of flavor.


Live.Love.Eat said...

OMG. Now these are calzones. I wish I wasn't so afraid of making my own dough. I never have before. Your story was super sweet. I, too, am a very messy cook and use up every pot & pan. This look amazing. If I ever do delve into the dough arena I will do this one first. You're amazing!!!!

Jen said...

These look terrific... I may have to take a stab at making them!

Sophie said...

These look delicious, I'm sure your grandpa would've loved 'em :).

I'd like to include your recipe on our blog! Please let me know if you're interested.

Sophie, Key Ingredient Chief Blogger