Strange how these stories come about.
Lily, our mini doxie, and I are out walking the block on a snowy day. We chance upon a plow driver pulling a foil-wrapped package out of his — say what? — engine block.
It smells so good. Lily is very intrigued.
“Man, what do you have there?”
“Lunch,” he said.
He unfolded the hot package. We stared at what looked like a medium pizza folded into a mega turnover. By now, Lil’s begging on her hind legs. Big trucks, flashing lights and hot pizzas are her obsessions. Just like me.
I figured the chap had pretty much the perfect world. Six-wheeler truck, smell of diesel and a portable feast warming on the header while he piled up snow. Life can be happy.
His pleasure zone was a calzone baked by his wife the night before. You could see love in every bite.
“She’s Italian. Her mother taught her. She made these for her husband who worked at the Republic mill. Pretty soon she had her own calzone business on the northeast side.”
It fits your fantasy of a work lunch: Easy, filling, jammed with energy food to keep you plowing for the rest of the day.
The crust keeps the sauce and melted cheese neatly inside. You don’t even need a napkin. All you need is a heat source such as a blast furnace or a Cummins diesel. Or in a pinch, eat them cold, no matter.
The classic calzone remains a crust stuffed with a smear of tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, pine nuts and pesto. I like vegetarian ones, but Lil prefers pepperoni and mushrooms. Forget the mozzarella cheese — it would run out. Ricotta is crucial; it is melt-proof. It needs some flavor help, and grated parmesan does the deed.
The crust is folded over and sealed with fork tines. If the calzone is going to work, it is prebaked and eaten cold or warmed. Punch some small holes in top to let out the steam just before microwaving or you will have a calzone bomb.
This being an Italian delicacy, there’s some controversy. The question is, does the tomato sauce go inside or as a dipping sauce on the outside? No answer here, but Ray prefers inside.
“That way you can eat and work at the same time. Don’t tell my boss.”
NE SIDE CALZONES
• 2 t (one packet) dry yeast
• 1 cup warm water
• 1 T olive oil
• 1 t white sugar
• 1 t salt
• 2 1/2 cups flour
• 1 egg, beaten, optional
• 1 t olive oil
• 2 cups ricotta cheese
Page 2 of 2 - • 2 T parmesan cheese, grated
• 1 cup diced pepperoni or cooked Italian sausage
• 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
• 1 t dried basil or marjoram
• 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
• 1 t olive oil
• 1 t dried basil, oregano or marjoram leaves
• Salt and pepper
Dissolve yeast in warm water, about 15 minutes. Add oil, sugar and salt. Mix in one cup of flour and beat until smooth. Gradually mix in the rest of the flour until dough is smooth and workable. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for about five minutes or until it is elastic. Place dough in a bowl coated with 1 teaspoon olive oil, flip over, cover and let rise for 45 minutes or until almost doubled.
While dough is rising, combine filling and refrigerate.
Punch down dough and separate into 2 parts. Roll into thin circles on a lightly floured surface. Fill each circle with half of the cheese/meat filling and fold over, securing edges by folding in and pressing with a fork. Brush the top of each calzone with egg (optional) and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes. Serve hot or cold.
Makes 2 large calzones.
Note: If this is going to lunch, spread a layer of tomato sauce on the inside of the dough and add rest of fillings. If for at home, serve heated sauce as a dipper.
Jim Hillibish is a columnist at The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.