• Stir It Up: Calzone finally gets some respect
     | July 04,2014
    Photo by Steve Legato

    More than an afterthought on a pizza menu, this delicious grilled calzone will get the respect it deserves. The photo and recipe are from “Patio Pizzeria,” by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig.

    Pity the poor calzone. First cousin to the pizza, about which tens of thousands of words have been written, the calzone is virtually ignored by food scholars. Neither “The Oxford Companion to Food” nor “The Oxford Companion to Italian Food” has a single entry for calzone. Even menu writers give it no respect, adding it as an afterthought to the pizza offerings.

    What is known is that the dough-filled pocket has a long history dating back to ancient Egypt, when it was apparently popular with the pharaohs. The calzone is a relative of Cornish pasties, German-Russian fleischkuekle, Spanish empanadas and Brazilian pastels. It’s a distant relative of turnovers, strudels, dumplings and other foods that involve a crust and a filling.

    Like pizza, the modern-day calzone was invented in Naples. (The word is from the Italian for “trouser”; the plural should be “calzoni” but is usually “calzones.”)

    While pizza itself has gone way upscale, with wood-fired ovens, organic toppings and artisan cheeses, the calzone usually shows up in not-very-trendy pizza and fast-food joints.

    A new book, “Patio Pizzeria” by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, gives the calzone its due. With homemade dough and a stuffing of three cheeses, artichoke hearts and sausage, this calzone is fit for fine company. The pulled pork version is a bit on the novelty side for my taste, but the fun part with both recipes is that you cook them on the grill. Note that the dough recommended for this recipe, while extremely easy, needs to be thrown together at least 24 hours in advance of serving.

    Melissa Clark, a cookbook author and writer for The New York Times, wrote that the calzone has “many of the perks of pizza.” It’s easy to make, it’s a good vehicle for using up odds and ends from the refrigerator, and it’s a crowd pleaser. I would also add the perk that, like pizza, a calzone can be eaten with the hands.

    But the calzone also “has some happy benefits of its own,” Clark wrote. One is that it is usually bursting with cheese, a boon for cheese lovers. Another is the element of surprise. “Pizza gives it all up as soon as it lands on the table; serve a calzone to a group and let them anticipate the moment when they find out what’s inside.”

    So give it up for the calzone. It might be pizza’s “poor relation,” but it’s rich in taste.

    Grilled Calzones With Italian Sausage, Artichoke and Ricotta

    Yield: 4 calzones

    For the dough:

    2½ cups bread flour

    1¼ teaspoons salt

    ¼ teaspoon instant or bread machine yeast

    1 cup lukewarm water, plus more if needed

    1 teaspoon honey

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    All-purpose flour for dusting

    For the filling:

    1 cup cooked and crumbled fresh Italian sausage

    ½ cup ricotta cheese

    ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

    ¼ cup grated fontina cheese

    1/3 cup artichoke hearts (jarred or canned)

    3 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes

    Zest of 1 lemon

    2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

    Make the dough: In a medium bowl, stir the flour, salt and yeast together. Combine the water, honey and olive oil; stir into the flour mixture until the dough comes together. If the dough is dry, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until the dough is just moist. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until doubled in size, 24 to 48 hours. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 3 days before baking. Let come to room temperature before using.

    Prepare a medium-hot fire in your grill.

    When ready to grill, divide the dough into 4 portions. Roll them into rounds about 6 inches in diameter on a lightly floured surface.

    Make the filling: In a food processor or a bowl, combine the sausage, ricotta, Pecorino Romano, fontina, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pulse to combine. The mixture should be chunky. Spoon equal amounts of the mixture into the center of each circle of dough, spreading to within 1 inch of the edge. Fold over each circle of the dough to form a half moon. Crimp the dough edges to seal in the stuffing. Place the calzones directly on the grill grates or on a hot griddle; grill for about 3 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Serve at once.

    Pulled Pork Calzone

    Mix 1½ cups shredded pulled pork and 1/3 cup spicy barbecue sauce (such as Sweet Baby Ray’s) together in a bowl. Divide among the four circles of dough. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese over each circle. Fold, crimp and grill as directed above.

    (Reprinted with permission from “Patio Pizzeria,” copyright 2014 by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig; Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.)

    Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.

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