Sunday, September 11, 2011

Calzones !

Turkey, Spinach and Smoked Gouda in back; Sausage with Mozzarella and Marinara up front
So there we were...first NFL Sunday of the year upon us, and some extra pizza dough in the fridge, (The dough was left over from a deep fryer adventure...I'll get around to blogging one of those someday !) . My usual goal is to get whatever I'm making started before kickoff, and I thought calzones would fit the bill very nicely. Of course, I didn't get my butt to the store and back in time to start these before kickoff...hey, it wasn't the Pats anyway :).

Calzones - the original Hot Pockets, as the crazy men who live here refer to them - are really wonderful little marvels of the kitchen. They are astoundingly easy to make (especially if someone buys pizza dough at the store, like with this batch; homemade dough is also pretty simple, if you're into it. Which I am :) ), they cook surprisingly quickly, and you can throw just about anything in the damn things. They hang out happily at parties and on buffet tables, they're great by themselves (veggie-filled ones need nothing else; meat ones play quite nicely with a simple salad for dinner), and they're even great left over.

I am giving you a basic recipe here, with three filling variations The half round one was made on a pizza stone, and the oblong ones were made on CushionAir pans - both worked very well, though a regular baking sheet would be just fine too.

Definitely have fun with this one, the sky's the limit !

dough ready to fill
Italian Cold Cuts and mozzarella
sausage, waiting for provolone
ready for the oven
Turkey, Spinach, Smoked Gouda
Basic Calzone

1 pound pizza dough (from supermarket, or your favorite recipe....enough for one pizza)
2 - 3 cups filling
beaten egg, for brushing
coarse cornmeal

Preheat oven to 400. Roll dough out - round or square, depending on your pan and your preference. Sprinkle pan with cornmeal, and place dough on pan. Cover half the surface with your chosen filling, fold over and pinch together to make a seal. Brush with egg. Bake for 25 - 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool before slicing.

Turkey, Spinach and Gouda filling

1 lb turkey breast cutlets
1 T canola oil
1 lb spinach leaves, stems removed if large
salt and pepper
1/2 lb smoked Gouda, cut into small cubes

In large saute pan, heat 2 tsp of the oil over medium-high heat. Saute turkey about 5 minutes per side, until done. Remove turkey, add rest of oil to pan. Add spinach, lower heat and cover tightly. The spinach will have wilted in a few minutes. Remove from heat, and and add salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Spread over prepared dough, seal, and bake as directed.

Sausage and Cheese filling

1 package (8) Italian sausages
1/2 lb provolone, sliced
1 cup marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 350. Prick sausages with fork and place on broiler pan. Bake for about 45 - 50 minutes. or until done. Let cool briefly, and slice

Spread marinara sauce over prepared dough. Spread sausages over sauce, and cover with cheese slices. Seal and bake as directed.

Italian Cold Cut filling

1 tsp olive oil
3/4 lb assorted Italian cold cuts (we used capicola, prosciutto, and a little pepperoni)
1/2 lb mozzarella cheese (grated or sliced)
sesame seeds, for sprinkling (optional)

Drizzle olive oil over prepared dough. Layer cold cuts, then cheese on dough, fold over and seal as directed. Sprinkle top with sesame seeds, if desired. Bake as directed.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tortellini with Shrimp, Pesto, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I have to admit, Sandra Lee kind of cracks me up. I know there's a lot of foodies out there - both famous and not so much (including some good friends of mine :) )  - that love to diss her, since often what she's doing is basically throwing together packaged stuff and calling it cooking. And those "tablescape" things kill me - I mean, I like to show off my food too, but there's so much crap on the table that none of the damn food would fit  !! On the other hand...she's always having so much fun. And you just know she mixes up a killer cocktail (all of her shows seem to include them) . I bet her parties actually kind of rock - and she'd definitely be the friend to go to when, say, you just got dumped by your boyfriend and you need a night of those self-indulgent foods that you know you love (we ALL have them), washed down with prodigious amounts of booze.

On the other hand...there actually are a lot of really excellent meals you can make that start with some already prepared items. It's a great way to get started when you're pressed for time, of course, but also if you're just starting to get into cooking, or if your skills are not quite where you'd like them to be yet and you want to make a dinner that's kind of impressive. This dish is exactly that - quick and easy (if you use prepared pesto and cooked shrimp), yet elegant and really, REALLY good. And when you're ready to take it to the next level, it's very easy to make your own pesto (recipe below, or use your favorite) and/or to simply saute raw shrimp in a little olive oil, salt and pepper until done. Just don't tell anyone if you use the prepared stuff...or a little voice in your kitchen might say "wow, Mom...that's kind of like the stuff that Semi-Homemade lady makes". Thanks, Alex :)

We first ate this dish many, many years ago at a place called Stromboli's, which is no longer there (actually, it was replaced by our favorite Italian restaurant, Fiorella's.). The components are so easy that we instantly came home and recreated it....and that first summer we had it, we were absolutely obsessed - I think we had it at least once a week. The dish works equally well as a hot pasta dish or a cold pasta salad, so there was plenty of opportunity...and as I recall someone was supplying us with plenty of fresh basil, so we were constantly making pesto and making this dish. I don't think I could even look at pesto for a few years afterwards, but man oh man, it was nice while it lasted.

I have made this many times since - both with prepared pesto and homemade - and while the homemade is better, making it with prepared pesto will still give you excellent results. Just use the best quality stuff you can find, and I promise you will love it !!

Tortellini with Shrimp, Pesto, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Serves 4 (really it does - very, very filling !)

20 oz package of fresh tri-color tortellini  (or 2 9 oz bags,  frozen )
1 lb cooked shrimp, tails removed
8.5 oz jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (chopped or whole, your preference), drained, oil reserved.
1 1/4 cup pesto (11 oz container of Buitoni works perfectly)

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and mix with other ingredients, drizzling in as much of the sun-dried tomato oil as you need or like.

Basic Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
2 - 4 cloves garlic (to taste)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste

In food processor, pulse basil, nuts and garlic until chopped. With processor running, drizzle in olive oil. Add cheese and process briefly to combine. Add salt and pepper if needed.