Good Meals in Small Packages

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I have a thing for fillings in dough. Turnovers. Empanadas. Burritos. Cornish pasties (these a traditional lunch of Scandinavian immigrants like my great-grandfather-in law, who mined iron ore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula). But calzones are my current favorite. As easy to make as pizza, but better: every bite is surrounded by crunchy-chewy crust. Also, unlike individual pizzas, I can fit four calzones in my oven, so if I want Swiss chard and roasted peppers in mine, or some cheese other than mozzarella, well, I don’t have to negotiate with anyone about it (the one in the photo is chard and ricotta). It’s also a good way to use up small quantities of leftover vegetables, meat or cold cuts.

Calzones for Everyone

Make some pizza dough. I like Mark Bittman’s (a version here). One recipe makes enough dough for 4 large or 5 medium calzones. You can mix it up in about 5 minutes in a food processor in the morning and let it rise in the refrigerator all day, and bring it to to room temperature before proceeding. (OK, use store-bought dough if you must. But try making it. You won’t be sorry.)

Preheat your oven to 475 F.

Get the fillings ready. Almost any toppings that you like to put on pizza work inside a calzone. It’s best to use cooked vegetables rather than raw, however, or crust can get soggy. We like carmelized onions, strips of roasted red pepper, greens (such as chard or spinach) sauteed with garlic, broccoli, ham, pepperoni, salami, crumbled sausage. Cut any large pieces into bite-sized chunks. If you cook the vegetables in advance, or if they’re left over from another meal, this step takes no time.

Shred, or crumble, your cheese. You can use any cheese you would like on a pizza, but I like ricotta (although it can be runny when baked), chevre or feta more than the usual mozarella.

Tear off some dough and form into a ball slightly bigger than a fist, and shape it into a circle as you would a pizza.

Place the circle on a lightly floured (and clean) counter, cutting board, or your baking pan and push the dough around to fill any holes or very thin spots.

Mound the cheese and other fillings on the bottom half of the circle, leaving some room at the edges (as you would for a pizza). The cheese and fillings blend together nicely if you mix them together first. Use about 3/4 cup filling, or as much as you can fit and still be able to close up the edges. Stretch the top half over the bottom and press the edges together to seal.

Put the calzone carefully on a baking sheet or pizza pan and continue making the remaining calzones

Place the baking pan with the calzones on a rack in the center of the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the pan around and bake for another 5-6 minutes, until the crust is golden. (Note: You can also bake these on a pizza stone, if you have one, or on the grill. If you use a pizza stone, preheat it  when you start preheating the oven, and sprinkle some cornmeal on the stone before you put the calzones on it to prevent sticking. Use tongs to rotate the calzones on the stone halfway through cooking. In the summer, I make calzones on the gas grill. Set the grill on medium–475-500 degrees. Place the calzones directly on the grill and cook for about 4 minutes, rotate with tongs and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until the crust is golden. But pay close attention the first few times you do this, because not all grills are alike. If the calzones start to burn, they’ll burn quickly.).

Serve topped with tomato sauce (or not) and a green salad.

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