Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Delicious Days

What’s the most delicious day of the week?

I wish I could say every day is the most delicious day of the week. But far too many days are consumed by too much work and not enough play, too much worry and not enough joy, too much stress and not enough peace. Too much so-so food and not enough truly phenomenal food.

But after every round of Monday to Friday, another glorious weekend arrives and brings with it the most delicious day of the week: Saturday.

To me, Saturday is the most delicious day of the week because I do my most ambitious and best-tasting cooking on Saturday. It’s usually the one day of the week that I deliberately set aside for self-care: cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning. And if I’m lucky, I’ll spend part of my Saturday with lovely people like my friends Ian and Daphna.

Ian and Daphna are married to each other. They are crazy-in-love-with-each-other and a joy to be around. They are radiantly happy together. And I, in turn, am happy they met each other! It was through Ian that I met Daphna and we discovered that we share a love for cooking, recipes, and fabulous food. After years of talking about it, this weekend we finally had a cooking party and the results were just phenomenal.

After a trip to the market to collect our ingredients, we headed back to Ian and Daphna’s place to commence cooking. The menu was a hodgepodge set of dishes, each picked out by a different person. We had a three-course meal: Spinach and Zucchini Calzones (my choice, recipe follows) and Chana Masala (Daphna’s choice) followed by these fabulous brownies (Ian’s choice with some help from Daphna in the recipe department). I would not have guessed that calzones and chana masala would pair well together in a meal, but the tomato sauce in which we dipped our bites of calzone transitioned nicely into the spicey and fragrant tomato sauce of the Chana Masala. Different continents, perhaps, but a world of flavor in both.

And those brownies! Oh my, were they good. Definitely a celebratory brownie, too rich for everyday eating, and worth every last crumb. They have a divine texture: the top is lightly crispy, and below the top the texture is slightly damp and deeply, richly chocolatey. Heavenly chocolatey. Daphna sent me home with a big chunk of brownie that will take me a good three days to finish. Thanks, Daphna! Savor these brownies; they are dynamite. Brownies always make for delicious days. Good friends make for the best of days.

Spinach and Zucchini Calzones
Serves 4
Adapted from “Tuscan Calzones with ‘The Works,’” Express Lane Meals by Rachael Ray

Yes, it’s another recipe adapted from Express Lane Meals. I adore these calzones. This recipe is one-third adapted, two-thirds true to the original. The original calls for portobello mushroom caps, but I don’t care for shrooms, eating or otherwise. I replaced them with zucchini and was quite pleased with the results. I also tinkered with the seasonings to suit my tastes; I encourage you to do the same. These calzones are packed with vegetables and cheese, making them hearty and delicious.

A few words about the dough: I have made these calzones with homemade pizza dough and with storebought pizza dough. Both options are great. Choose the one that suits your energy level and cooking time. For a good homemade pizza dough recipe, I recommend Mollie Katzen’s recipe in Vegetable Heaven. It’s my favorite.

2 medium zucchini
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ tsp. dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 10-oz. box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
1 15-oz. can white beans, such as Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed.
13-16 oz. pizza dough, either homemade or storebought
A bit of flour for rolling out the dough
1-2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
Spicy Italian seasoning blend, such as Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Pizzaz from The Spice House in Evanston, IL, to taste
1 15-oz. can pizza sauce

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and set aside. Alternatively, you can line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and then set it aside.
2) Chop the zucchini by quartering them lengthwise and then slicing along the lengths into ~1 cm pieces. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini and two-thirds of the garlic. Saute for several minutes until zucchini is softened and the garlic is aromatic but not browned. Add the basil, stir it around, and remove the pan from heat.
3) Place the thawed and squeezed spinach in a medium-sized bowl. Add the white beans and remaining garlic. Use a spoon or a potato masher to mash and mix the beans into the spinach. Add lots of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Set aside.
4) Begin the calzone assembly: divide the dough into four equal parts. Lightly flour a large flat surface and roll the dough out into a thin oval about 16 cm long and 8-10 cm wide. These dimensions are not precise at all, so don’t fuss about them. Add the fillings on one half of the dough: a quarter of the zucchini mixture, a quarter of the spinach-bean mixture, and a quarter of the cheese. Sprinkle your spicy Italian seasoning blend on the empty side of the oval and use your fingers to lightly press the seasonings into the dough. Fold the empty side over the filled side to close the calzone. Use your fingers to pinch it closed, stretching the dough as needed to completely cover the fillings. Place the assembled calzone on the prepped cookie sheet. Repeat this step for the remaining three calzones. Leave a few inches between calzones; they will expand and puff a bit as they bake.
5) Using a spoon, pour a little olive oil onto the spoon and then drizzle it over each of the closed calzones, using the back of the spoon to spread it over the dough.
6) Bake the calzones at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough is fully baked and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and serve with pizza sauce at the table. Knives and forks are optional here!


pere qui s'inquiete said...

Yay, we had so much fun too! Can't wait for a repeat. :)

-daphna and ian

p.s. next time we're making masana chala! (-Ian :)

Rosiecat24 said...

Hey Daphna and Ian,

Can I come over for masana chala?

My goodness, how are we going to top this meal? It was outstanding!

Okay, you two lovebirds take care until we meet again.


Beth Ann said...

I hope you don't mind Rose-Anne, but I blogged about you and the famous Tuscan Calzones from RR. I made them and wanted to share them-but couldn't find the recipe anywhere!
Thank you so much for helping me out!
Beth Ann

Rosiecat24 said...

Link away, Beth Ann! You are more than welcome to share the calzone recipe. I'm awfully fond of it myself. Thanks for leaving me a note!