Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February 1, 2011: Cold Weather Italian Dinner – Calzones and Minestrone

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When it’s chilly outside, what’s better than hot soup and sandwiches? Most of us consider tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches comfort food, but this combination of Italian favorites takes that old standby and kicks it up a notch.

Since it’s only my husband and I eating, this recipe is enough for two people, although it makes six calzones (freeze the leftovers for a healthier, homemade “Hot Pocket” – great for a quick lunch).

Pizza Calzones

1 cup warm water
2 ¼ t. yeast
1 T. olive oil
1 t. sugar
1 t. salt
2 ½ cups flour
1 egg, slightly beaten
Garlic salt (optional)

In the warmed bowl of an stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add the olive oil, sugar, salt, and 2 cups of flour. Process on speed 2 for about 2 minutes; gradually add the remaining half cup of flour. Continue processing on speed 2 until the dough cleans the side of the bowl. Turn dough out into greased bowl; cover and let rise about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Note: If making by hand, mix ingredients as directed in a large bowl. When mixed, turn out onto floured surface and knead by hand until dough is smooth and elastic.

Punch down dough and separate into 6 equal pieces. Roll out each piece into a 7-inch circle on lightly floured surface.

Pizza Filling:
1 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ can stewed diced tomatoes, undrained
1 pillow package pepperoni
5 mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
10 – 12 large black olives, sliced
1 8-ounce package shredded Italian cheese blend

In small saucepan, heat olive oil on medium. Add diced garlic and cook for about a minute, then add the sliced mushrooms. When the mushrooms are soft, add the diced tomatoes and cook on low until most of the liquid is reduced. Toss in the sliced black olives.

Assemble Calzones:

For each circle of dough, place 8 – 10 pepperoni slices on lower half, spoon one-sixth of the sauce with vegetables over the pepperoni, then top with one-sixth of the cheese. Fold the top of the dough circle over the bottom and press edges together with the tines of a fork (use your fingers to seal the edge if necessary). Brush the top with beaten egg and sprinkle with garlic salt (if using). Place on greased baking sheet.

Bake in oven heated to 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Minestrone Soup

1 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ white onion, medium dice
½ can stewed diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can vegetable broth
1 smallish carrot, peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 small can green beans (or about 1 cup frozen green beans)
1 – 2 t. Italian seasoning blend
½ - 1 cup water
1 dry cup salad macaroni (or macaroni variety of your choice)

Heat the olive oil in medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and the onion. Cook for a couple minutes, until the onion is soft. Add the rest of the ingredients, through Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about half an hour. Add the water if the soup is too thick and return to boil. Add the uncooked macaroni and boil over medium-high heat for about ten minutes, until the macaroni is al dente.

Tip: Start the two dishes at the same time. Get your saucepan and pot out, heat and add the olive oil to each, then toss one clove garlic and the mushrooms in the saucepan and one clove garlic plus the diced onion in the pot. Divide the can of stewed tomatoes between them when ready. The calzone sauce will be done first, but you can keep it warm while you prepare the dough.

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