Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mushroom, Sun Dried Tomato and Spinach Calzones

When I asked J a few weeks ago to name a few dishes that he would like me to try to vegan-ize, I was surprised at the scope of different things he named. I wrote them all down and so far, I've managed to give most of them a try. This one was kind of random, but actually quite successful: Vegan Calzones. I haven't eaten a calzone in years and years. My family will remember a short time during my childhood when we were really into the calzones at a now defunct Lexington restaurant named Bel Canto and the mere mention of a calzone made me feel strangely sentimental. I've never made a calzone before, vegan or otherwise, but it seemed about the same as making a pizza. I actually found a recipe for a vegan calzone in the back of a book we own called No More Bull! to start with. The filling was extremely similar to the tofu filling I make for stuffed shells, lasagna and other Italian dishes. The main difference was that it also included a kind of "sauce" made from silken tofu and spinach. I thought this was a pretty clever idea as it creates an additional texture, similar to the combination of ricotta cheese and melted mozzarella cheese. I made a few adjustments to the suggested recipe and then jazzed it up a little with some items I think of as pizza toppings and voila! delicious calzone filling. Here are the ingredients for the filling:

1 cup cooked frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry
4 ounces silken tofu
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2-1 cup mushrooms, chopped
3 scallions or 1/3 of a red onion, chopped
1 16-oz package extra firm tofu, crumbled
2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

First, blend the spinach, silken tofu and salt and pepper until smooth. Next heat and spray a skillet with oil. Add the garlic, mushrooms and scallions or onions. Cook for about 3 minutes until the mushrooms begin to soften, then add the crumbled firm tofu, basil, oregano, sun dried tomatoes and nutritional yeast. Cook while stirring until heated through and any liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in the spinach/silken tofu mixture. Set aside.

I have to admit that I just used store bought Trader Joe's pizza dough. You can certainly make your own, but this is just so easy and I like the way the TJ's kind tastes. Split the dough in half and roll each half into a large circle on a floured surface with a rolling pin. Fill the dough with half the filling, fold it over and seal the edges. Transfer the calzone to an oiled baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. The crust should be golden brown by the time you are finished. Let the calzone cool for about 10 minutes before attempting to eat it (I know, it might be hard to wait...but in a family of brass players we are very protective not to burn our lips!)

I think I definitely rolled my dough out too much. This meant that some parts of the dough were too thin and other parts where I folded it over a second time, were too thick. This is an easy mistake to fix and I won't do it again.

I served each calzone with a generous ladle of marinara sauce. Whenever I use marinara sauce from a jar (which is often) I always like to add a few of my own touches. You would be surprised how much a few sauteed onions, garlic and mushrooms and a few shakes of basil, oregano and crushed red pepper will amp up the flavor of a store bought sauce.

I think this dish was a sure success. It doesn't look too glamorous and may not be something I serve to guests anytime soon, but we liked it a lot. The flavors are spot on and if you've never tried this sort of tofu filling for an Italian dish, you absolutely should. The resemblance to cheese is uncanny. I also liked the addition of the silken tofu sauce. I usually just add the chopped spinach right to the crumbled tofu mixture, but I really liked the variety of textures accomplished by this sauce. This is a simple, delicious and healthy weeknight meal, especially if you use store bought dough and sauce. There is no excuse not to try it out!

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