Veggies on the counter

Red Pepper and Spinach Calzones

Posted in appetizers, baked goods by veggies on the counter on August 20, 2011

This year, I spent one week vacation in Spain, in a village – El Escorial – close to Madrid, with our friends Ana and Jaime. It was good and calm, as any proper vacation should be. I also happened to taste some typical spanish dishes such as Patatas Bravas and Gazpacho (this last one being prepared by Jaime, who’s spanish) or beverages like Horchata, which I’m now very fond of. I might also tell you that Spain (as well as Portugal) is not an easy country when it comes to eat vegan food, specially if you want to eat local. Anyway, Patatas Bravas, a traditional tapas made of crispy fried potatoes and a hot, firey sauce, is a favorite of mine and I had a great serving of it while having lunch in Madrid – I’ll post up a recipe for it in the meantime. Until then, we’ll have Calzones.

I recently came across a recipe for basic homemade bread in Happy Days with the Naked Chef – it can be found here – which was worked in many different ways by Jamie so that you could make banana and honey bread, onion baguettes, calzones,  – just to name a few – using the very same base. Calzones were what I had decided to make this time around and they turned out amazing. The dough was fluffy and flavorful, as any bread dough should be; the filling, which I made in promptu in an attempt to clean up the fridge, didn’t disappoint as well. Anyway, feel free to make your own filling if you want to. I leave you with some ideas I might try  in the next batches: sautéed butternut squash with sage, slow roasted tomatoes with crumbled tofu and basil, ratatouille-like stew with green olives. Also, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking that you could certainly spread a thin layer of tapenade in the base of each calzone before adding the filling – it’d be just delicious. I wish you a great and sunny summer, just as mine is being so far : )*

Red Pepper and Spinach Calzones

(makes 16)

for the bread dough:

1 kg strong bread flour

30 grams fresh yeast

625 ml slightly warm water

2 teaspoons fine grain salt

for the filling:

olive oil

1 small red chili pepper, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon paprika

4 small red onions (about 65 grams each), sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup (125 ml) red wine

200 grams (one package) spinach leaves, washed and well drained

1 cup (250 ml) canned tomato purée

1/2 cup (60 grams) black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

1 cup (250 grams) roasted bell peppers (I roasted mine, but it’s ok to use canned ones), cut into strips

1 cup (140 grams) cooked Puy lentils

salt to taste

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in half of the water required (about 315 ml). In another bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture, gradually, to the flour mixture, starting to work with a wooden spoon and ending up with your hands. You’re looking after a smooth, elastic and slightly sticky dough here: to achieve that, kneed the dough on a floured surface for 5 minutes, adding a little more flour or water if necessary.

2. Dust a little flour over the dough and place it in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave it to proof for 1 hour in a warm place (most of the times, I end up placing my the dough in the oven).

3. Pre-heat the oven at 200ºC.

4. Once the dough has proofed, knead it in the bowl for 30 seconds, to remove the air pockets that might have formed. Now, divide the dough into 8 equal portions and place them in a large baking dish dusted with flour. Again, leave the dough to proof, in a warm place, until almost doubled in size (this might take from 30 minutes to an hour).

5. In the meantime, make the filling: Heat a large pan over medium heat and add a generous glug of olive oil, the minced chili, sliced onions, garlic, oregano and paprika and fry for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onion has softened. Add the red wine and cook for additional 3 minutes, or until it has been almost absorved and the onion looks caramelized. Add the spinach to the pan and cook, stirring often, until it’s soft and wilted. Now, add the tomato purée, followed by the olives, roasted peppers and Puy lentils, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and reduced a bit. Add the salt, have a taste, and adjust the seasonings. Leave the filling to cool down for a while; we’re going back to the dough.

6. Now that your dough has proofed a second time, let’s roll it out. But first, divide each ball of dough (you have 8 of them) in half, so that you end up with 16 pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a disk in a floured surface: don’t roll them too thin (the ideal thickness is about 0,5 mm), has this dough is so flavorful you really want to feel and properly taste it while you bite into your calzones.

7. Place a good heaped tablespoon of the filling in the center of the disk; fold it in half and seal it by working the dough with your hands or using a fork. Brush the calzone with olive oil, make 3 diagonal cuts in the pastry, and transfer it to a oiled baking dish while you prepare the remaining calzones, by repeating this process.

8. Bake the calzones for 15 minutes in the pre-heated oven. They’re best eaten the day they’re made.

The basic bread recipe is adapted from this one, from Jamie Oliver. There’s also a Calzone recipe, using this very same bread dough, in Jamie’s book Happy Days with the Naked Chef, first published in September 2001