Wraps and Calzone
Susan’s eyes brightened, as eyes often do in light-bulb moments of Scrabble games. She leaned forward, and with both hands gathered up all of her seven letters, carefully placing them vertically on the squares in the bottom left corner of the board. “Calzone!” she said, with a Scrabble smirk and whoop of victory.The board wobbled on a (no relation) Lazy Susan.
“There,” she said. “I got rid of my Z, all my letters, and it’s a triple word score!” She searched for a high five, but predictably, no one was too excited about sharing her moment. “Is calzone named after someone?” asked Jim. “Because, if it’s named after someone, you know we won’t allow it. And whatever it is, it’s a foreign word. House rules. And if I may respectfully inquire, what the heck is a calzone anyway?”
“It’s one of those things made from flour that you stuff with mushrooms and cheese, or whatever you want,” said Susan. “Like pita pockets, tortillas, samosas, empanadas and wraps. And it’s not a cal-ZONE, it’s a cal-ZONEY. Like … it’s Italian. Cal-ZONEY.”
She added Venetian attitude. “They have them at all of the trendy chains.” “OK,” said Jim. “Take your 134 damn points. Sheesh! We’re giving it away.” Despite his testy reluctance to accept the high-scoring calzone entry, Jim eventually won the game; going out with ZOWIE, a hotly contested, equally lame extension of the calzone’s Z.
But as usual, what the game did was inspire conversation, much of it centred on foods, like calzones, that also serve as handy-dandy containers for fabulous fillings. And, we concluded, if you add to wraps and puffy pockets things like pies, pasties and foldable flatbreads, the world’s cultures have certainly discovered over the centuries that invention is one mother of a food idea. And eating the whole hand-held package sure saves on the knives and forks. On the subject of convenience, we dare not forget Britain’s oddball Earl of Sandwich, who ordered up roast beef between slices of bread, which not only made it possible for him to continue with a card game, but kept his fingers clean as he played. And while it’s a stretch, do we include as a wrap the nori that neatly holds a round of sushi in place? And how about the spring roll family, or the delightful chimichanga, full of beans, cheese or even ice cream? Your call, sweet reader.
Common to almost all of these food containers — my descriptor — are the simplest of ingredients that make them foldable and bring them to useful life. Flour of some kind, water and/or oil, yeast on occasion, salt, and not much else. Heat to fry or bake before or after they’ve been stuffed with mounds of worldly good tastes.
Checking with friends and fellow travellers who, like me, stick to street stalls for grub on the long global road, there seemed to be a never-ending list of foods that fold, encase, and pack ready for the world’s vacation challenges — the climb up from Kathmandu, the long flight to get there in seat 43C, the lonely bus ride home from Vegas — there’s always a corner in the backpack for a wrap of some kind. At last count, not including common-garden calzones, empanadas and chimis, I had a count of 40 variables, and there are probably scores more. Bammies from Jamaica, barbari bread from Iran, laxoox from Somalia, bolanee from Afghanistan, crepes, of course, from France, and flammkuchen from Germany, to name just a few with innocent beginnings that morph into exotics when they’re oomphed with toppings and stuffings.
Wraps and their sisters and cousins were foods that happened because they are such a sound, common-sense idea; because they are portable and easy, but mainly because they so potentially delicious. And dare I say it, in these difficult economic times, their folds can encase foods that don’t need to cost a fortune. But tucked inside, all nice and squishy, they are the best of moveable feasts.
And because you knew this was coming? That, dear reader, is a wrap.
This recipe will make a great appetizer plate for 6.
Not just a great Scrabble word, the calzone is another versatile package that has everything a pizza has except openness and shape. Don’t be scared of the dough. It’s more than half the fun of putting these babies together.
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp olive oil
1. Pour water into a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top and stir in sugar until dissolved.
2. Beat in the salt and flour, and when too thick to mix, turn out onto a floured counter and knead, adding more flour to prevent sticking.
3. Shape into a ball and return to oiled bowl, cover with a moistened cloth and leave in a warm place for the dough to rise. In a couple of hours the ball will be twice its original size.
4. Punch down the dough, divide into 6 equal portions, and roll each portion into a 6-inch circle.
5. Add the filling (see below) and crimp the edges with a fork.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
120 g sliced mushrooms
1 lb fresh spinach
5 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp dried basil (3 tbsp if fresh)
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup smoked mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1. Heat oil to medium, add onion and mushrooms and sauté for 10 minutes.
2. Add spinach, garlic, basil, salt and pepper to taste, sauté 3 more minutes and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta and the 2 mozzarella cheeses. Add the spinach mixture and stir until combined.
4. Preheat oven to 450°F and grease a baking sheet.
5. Place 1/2 cup of the filling on one half of the circle of dough, leaving 1/2 inch rim around the outside edge. Sprinkle filling with parmesan cheese.
6. Moisten the outside rim of the dough with water, fold the dough over filling and crimp the edges. Prick the top of the calzone to let the steam escape while baking.
7. Arrange calzones on the baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Brush the tops with butter or oil during the last 5 minutes of baking. Serve warm.
Lambrusco will work as you tuck in.
I consult for a restaurant family in Western Canada called abc Country. The brand caters to a range of customers who like the tastes of wholesome comfort. Included in abc’s list of breakfast items is this wrap, kindly provided by chef Lawrence Hawkins.
170 g hash brown potato
60 g mix of chopped green pepper, green onion and tomato
30 g sliced mushrooms
1 flour tortilla
30 g shredded cheddar cheese
60 g salsa
1 cup fresh fruit salad
1. Grill blanched hash browns until golden brown.
2. Scramble eggs and cook with pepper, onion, tomato and mushrooms. Season to taste.
3. Heat tortilla in a pan and sprinkle the surface with cheddar, then salsa. Top with hashbrowns, then the egg-vegetable mixture.
4. Fold two sides of the tortilla together over the mixture, then fold the ends to enclose the package.
5. Cut the wrap on an angle and present with a fresh fruit salad.
Serve with coffee, of course
I first tasted empanadas, another member of the food-pocket family, in a Mexican-American hole-in-the-wall in Barstow, California. With a frosty Corona. This recipe comes from Chelsie Kenyon, who keeps things authentic for her work on about.com. My Colombian-born friend Lisa swears by a pork-stuffed version served with a liberal squeeze of lime.
3 cups flour
pinch of salt
2 tsp sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup lard or shortening
3/4 cup chicken stock
Oil for frying
1. Mix the dry ingredients together and cut in the lard with a pastry cutter or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
2. Whisk egg and mix into chicken broth. Mix the broth and egg into the flour mixture and knead until dough forms. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Lightly flour a surface and roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 4-inch circles for small empanadas, 5-inch for medium, or 6-inch for large.
4. Place 1 tbsp of filling in the centre of the dough circle for small empanadas, 2 tbsp for medium and 3 tbsp for large.
5. Fold dough over to make a filled half circle and use a fork to press the edges together. Refrigerate uncooked empanadas for 3 hours.
6. Fry in 350˚F oil for 6 to 7 minutes or until golden brown.
1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp oil
2 lb ground beef
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup green olives, finely chopped
1/2 cup raisins
2 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
2 small potatoes, diced into 1-inch cubes and boiled until soft
1. Sauté the onions and garlic in the oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the ground beef and begin to brown.
2. When the beef is cooked through, add the broth, green olives, raisins and bring to a simmer. Let the liquid reduce until almost gone.
3. Fold in the eggs and potatoes and spoon onto the empanada dough (as above) and cook accordingly.