The Zone Call – Mini Calzoni al Forno

Even though – for understandable reasons – a bulk of my food-related reading tends to be in Italian these days, I do use some publications in other languages for culinaristic inspiration as well. One of them is a Finnish foodie magazine called “Glorian ruoka ja viini”. Obviously it doesn’t really qualify as a proper source for Cucina Fintastica – the magazine being in Finnish and all. However, the latest issue included a recipe for mini calzones that looked so delicious that I just had to find a loophole.

My sneaky strategy was to utilise this recipe for the dough and the recipe from my Finnish magazine only for the filling. In addition, I experimented with another filling of my own as I had some funnel chanterelles in stock. Both of them worked quite nicely! The pizza dough I used this time also required less kneading and time to rise than the other Italian ones I have tried earlier.

To my own amazement, I currently seem to be on a winning streak when it comes to baking (knocking on wood…) as I have been moving from one success to the next recently. Maybe I should start filling in applications for the Great Finnish Bake-Off after all… Well, maybe not.

Mini Calzones in Oven

For the dough (of ~20 pc):

300 ml warm water

500 g flour + some extra for kneading and rolling out the dough

25 g fresh yeast

10 g salt

1 tsp sugar

Filling 1 (for ~10-15 calzones):

5 dl kale, chopped

2 garlic cloves

½ dl olive oil

200 g goat cheese

½ dl parmesan, grated

1 tl salt

pepper

100 g sour cream

Filling 2 (for ~10 calzones):

3 dl mushrooms (e.g. funnel chanterelles)

1 onion

olive oil/ butter

½ dl parmesan, grated

½ dl gruyere cheese, grated

salt, pepper

100 g sour cream

Start by preparing the pizza dough. Mix the yeast in one half of the warm water and add the sugar. Stir well. Measure the flour into a bowl. Make a little hole in the middle of the flour and pour the yeast water into it.

Mix the salt with the other half of the warm water in another bowl and add the olive oil. Combine the mixture with the flour and yeast water. Knead until you have obtained a smooth and elastic consistency. Add some flour as much as needed while kneading (at least my dough was quite wet in the beginning). Cover the bowl with a towel and leave the dough to rise for at least 3 hours in a warm place.

Prepare the fillings. Remove the kale leaves from the thick stems and chop them. Peel, crush and slice the garlic cloves. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the kale leaves and garlic cloves. Cook at medium heat for 3-4 minutes, remove the pan from the stove and add the goat cheese (in crumbles). Add the grated parmesan and season with salt and pepper.

Clean and slice the mushrooms of your choice. Peel and chop the onion. Heat the olive oil/ butter in a pan and add first the onion and after a few minutes the mushrooms. Cook until the excess liquid of the mushrooms has evaporated. Remove the pan from the heat and add the grated parmesan and gruyere and season to your taste.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a block that is about 2 mm thick (I rolled out one half of the dough first due to limitations of my kitchen space…). Use a mold (a diameter of 10 – 15 cm) to separate round pieces of the flat dough. Save the excess dough for later use. Spread some sour cream onto one half of each round. Add a spoonful or two of the filling of your choice on top of the sour cream. Fold the clean half of each calzone on top of the one with the filling to create “half moons”. Press and seal each half moon tightly from the sides (you can check out the impressive fork technique of Giallo Zafferano here). Roll out the excess dough and repeat the aforementioned steps until you have used it entirely.

Sprinkle the calzones lightly with some olive oil and bake them in the oven at 230C for 10-15 minutes. Serve warm (although they do taste quite pleasant also a bit colder!).

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Making Same Difference – Crostini Caldi con Funghi & Bruschette al Pomodoro e Mozzarella

Sometimes one can feel quite relaxed about Italian cooking even as a Finn. Even if you dare to try some classics as old as Rome, there are usually at least as many opinions on the proper way of making them as there are capers in my kitchen cabinets. Hence you can usually be sure that there is at least some remote Italian village with a version of the dish similar to yours (with the exception of my somewhat unusual interpretation of torta della nonna, that is).

I am a long term fan of both bruschette and crostini but it is quite unclear to me what the difference between those two really is. The English version of Wikipedia sheds very little light on the question: it defines crostini as toasted bread with toppings and bruschette as grilled bread with toppings. Toasted, roasted, grilled – all same to me when you have one oven in a city apartment to make both dishes. Fortunately with my ever improving Italian skills I was equipped to do some further Sherlock work on this – even if Benedict C wouldn’t drop by (Benedict you are still quite welcome to though!).

As usual, Italians are not exactly in unison about this. One suggests that for crostini you typically use cheese that you melt on top of the bread whilst toasting it. Another says that the only acceptable topping on a bruschetta are tomatoes, otherwise it is a crostino. What most people seem to agree on is that crostini should be crispier whereas a bruschetta has a crunchy crust but should remain soft inside. Crostini are also typically smaller served as antipasti while bruschette can also be larger and serve as a light meal.

Well, I’m not sure if I was really any wiser after this little Googtective session though, and infatti, chose these two recipes based on what I readily had in my fridge: chanterelles and mozzarella. For the mushrooms, I found this crostini recipe. I quite enjoyed the combination of a more strongly flavoured cheese with my chanterelles. For the mozzarella, I went for the usual – albeit very nice– version of bruschetta with tomatoes and basil.

All in all, while bruschette and crostini still mean about the same thing for me, I did learn one thing: if you test both bruschette and crostini at the same time, you will end up with a very full stomach!

Warm Crostini with Mushrooms

4-5 slices of white bread

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

olive oil

3-4 dl mushrooms (e.g. chanterelles), cleaned and sliced

~50 g Gruyere cheese (or another strong cheese – I used strong English cheddar), grated

salt, pepper, red chilli (fresh or flakes)

fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the garlic cloves for a few minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook them. When ready, season to your taste with salt, pepper and red chilli (if you like). Preheat your oven to ~200 C (use the “grill mode” if available). Place the bread slices on an oven tray and sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Bake in the oven for ~5 minutes until the bread is crusty and cheese nicely melted. Add the mushroom topping and serve warm.

 

Bruschette with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Serves 2

4 slices of (white) bread

3 ripe tomatoes, deseeded and sliced into cubes

1/2 package of fresh mozzarella, sliced into cubes

1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped

olive oil

fresh basil, chopped

salt, pepper

parmesan, sliced into cubes or grated into rough flakes

In a bowl, mix the garlic, tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Season with some olive oil and salt. Toast the bread in an oven at ~200 C (or grill it) for a few minutes. Add the topping on the bread slices and complete with the parmesan and pepper. Serve immediately.

The Swiss Twist – Risotto all’Arancia

A food blog on Italian dishes in a Finnish kitchen would not have been feasible twenty years ago. Not only had the internet barely been invented and the most interesting log of the time was carried by a weird lady on Twin Peaks but also it would have been next to impossible to find half of the ingredients of the recipes in the Finnish supermarkets. Yet although in today’s Helsinki you can buy everything from carnaroli rice to organic Italian clementines, there are still some ingredients that require considerable effort to obtain or at least some creativity to substitute.

This recipe is from another Italian magazine – the Italian Elle. Their web pages contain quite an impressive range of delicious-looking dishes! The list of the ingredients for this risotto is quite short but yet long enough for my impatient (Italian) temper to miss one of them when shopping: the Taleggio cheese. I’m not sure if I have ever even tried this cheese in my life, and it certainly wasn’t available in my corner store where I dashed in the middle of cooking the risotto (don’t worry – I didn’t leave the stove unattended!). For substitute, I got some Swiss Gruyère and it worked quite nicely. The full flavour of the salty cheese is nicely balanced with the acidity and sweetness of the oranges. Based on my Google research, it seems that Gruyère wasn’t too far off from the Taleggio thingy either!

All in all, whilst I certainly appreciate the availability of Italian and other international food in Helsinki these days, I think it is also nice that not everything is imported. That way we still have room for some culinaristic (substitute) adventures at home, and some different flavours to look forward to when travelling!

Orange Risotto

Serves 4

2 organic oranges

1 leek finely chopped

olive oil

white wine

vegetable broth

100 g Taleggio cheese

parmesan cheese

Rinse the oranges and grate their zest. In a (non-stick) pan, gently fry the leek and the orange zest in some olive oil. Add the rice and roast the mixture for a few minutes. Pour in some wine and stir until the liquid has evaporated. Start gradually adding the broth and continue stirring to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan. At the mid point of the cooking, add the juice of the oranges into the risotto, and a few minutes before the end of the cooking, the Taleggio (/ Gruyère/ whatever cheese you can find in your supermarket) diced. Season with salt, pepper and parmesan to your taste.