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Kevin's Kitchen

By KEVIN FRISCH

SOME TIME AGO I wanted to make calzone. But there was a problem: I'd never made a yeasted dough before, and quite frankly I was a little nervous about it. So I read about it for a while, talked to some people, and finally felt ready. But just to be sure, I first made a plain old simple yeasted loaf of bread. It came out pretty well, and I felt psyched to go for the calzone.

I looked around and found a recipe that looked pretty good to me. After several hours, I finally managed to produce seven leaky calzones. But, actually, they were quite edible. So I tried several times more, and encountered many hazards along the way.

Perhaps the most horrifying was when I had my dough in the oven at 80@#F letting it rise. A certain person came into the kitchen and decided to preheat an oven. So the oven containing my poor half-risen dough got cranked to a good 400@#F. Now this was sort of sad, but it got worse because it could have been avoided. She actually thought, "Maybe I should check to make sure there's nothing in this oven." So she opened the oven, and sure enough, my mixing bowl full of dough was sitting in there. So, seeing the oven was taken, she preheated another. What she somehow forgot to do, however, was turn the oven back down. Needless to say, when I came in an hour later, there was little to be salvaged.

But at the cost of some dough and one of my favorite bowls, I did learn an important lesson: If you have dough rising in the oven, either stay in the kitchen to guard it or leave a big note on the oven. There are many other tales, but most of them involve my negligence, so I won't go into them.

Before I give you the recipe I should mention that if you are not familiar with making a yeasted dough, you should try to have someone around who is. Whatever the case may be, if you make this recipe with any degree of success you will be very pleased with the results -- as will anyone who is around to taste it.

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Spinach Broccoli Calzone

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Dough:

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13/4 cups warm water

2 tablespoons honey

4 teaspoons dry active yeast at room temperature

6-7 cups white flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 egg

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Measure out the water HOT from the tap, place in large bowl and dissolve in the honey. Now wait (usually several minutes) until the temperature drops enough to add the yeast. I test the temperature by placing a bit of it on my wrist -- it should feel neither cold nor hot at the right temperature. Officially speaking the temperature should be between 105@# and 115@#F. If it's too hot, the yeast will die, if it's too cool they won't activate. Most first-time breadmakers tend to make the water too hot.

At any rate, when the temperature is right, add the yeast and stir thoroughly. Now let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. If you've done everything right, the mixture should be somewhat frothy.

Preheat the oven to as low as it goes. If this is above 90@# turn it off when you put the dough in it to rise; otherwise, leave it on.

Start adding the flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after addition -- making sure to get out all the lumps (using an egg beater can be helpful). After the fourth cup or so add the salt and egg and mix well, and then continue with the flour. It's hard to say how much flour to use because it depends on all sorts of random, unknown factors. But basically the dough should be easy to handle, and only a bit sticky.

Now place the dough on a floured surface and knead it for 15 to 20 minutes. (If you don't know what kneading is, it's best to have someone who knows show you. It's like massaging the dough with your palms -- sort of what you do when someone has calve muscles that are sore.) The purpose of kneading is to make the dough totally homogenous, (moisture-wise) and it is essential.

Once you're done kneading, place the dough in a clean bowl AT LEAST TWICE the size of the dough, pour a touch of olive oil on it, and twirl it in the bowl so that the entire dough is lightly covered with oil. This is to keep the dough from drying out during rising. Now place the dough in the warmed oven (or some other warm, dry place) and let it sit there until it's doubled in bulk (about an hour or so). If you leave the dough for too long it will "fall," which is bad. When it's doubled, take it out and punch it in the middle to make it deflate. Now knead it for 10 minutes, oil it, and let it rise again -- just as before.

While the dough is rising you should make the filling -- this is not only time efficient, but allows you to keep an eye on the dough and protect it from passersby.

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Filling:

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20 oz. total of spinach and broccoli, chopped (I usually use just one frozen package of each)

@# cups onion, chopped well

4 good-sized cloves of garlic, minced

2 lbs. mozzarella (two one lb. packs of Sorrento are ideal)

@# cups parmesan, finely grated

1 lb. ricotta cheese

olive oil

salt

pepper

nutmeg

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Cut eight slabs of the mozzarella (each something like 3x11/2x3/8 inches), and grate the remaining cheese. Place the grated mozzarella in a large bowl along with the parmesan and ricotta and mix well. Cook spinach and broccoli according to directions on package, drain very well, and add to the cheese. Saut'e the chopped onions with the garlic in some olive oil (or butter if you prefer) for about 10 minutes -- until the onions are translucent -- add to the mixture, and combine well. Now add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Don't be afraid to use a liberal amount of these (especially the salt) -- they will improve the taste considerably.

Preheat oven to 425@#F.

So, now you should have a bowl of filling all ready, the kitchen mostly cleaned up, and the dough at the end of the second rising. Take the dough out of the oven, punch down, and knead for about five minutes. Then split it into eight equal, round, nice looking balls. Now whip out your rolling pin, and on a well-floured surface, roll out one of the balls into an oval 3/8 inches thick (about 8x6 inches across). The dough is rather springy so this is often somewhat of a challenge.

Next, take an eighth of the filling and put it in a little spread-out pile on one half of the oval. Then place one of the slaps of cheese on top of the mix, and fold the other half of the dough over.

Now you have to seal the edges together all the way around VERY well. It may help to use a little water along the edges before you fold it. It is very important that you seal it as well as you can, because if you don't, everything will leak out during the cooking. Sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet and place the formed calzone on it. I don't suggest you try to put more than two on a sheet because they will probably leak all over each other if you do.

Right before you put the calzones in the oven, use a fork to poke a couple of holes in them to vent steam. If it looks like the holes are closing up, just use the fork to rip a gaping one-eighth inch hole on the top.

Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes until light brown, and remove from tray immediately after coming out of the oven. For some reason I have not yet figured out, the calzones taste better if you let them cool for several hours, and then reheat them at 350@#F until the cheese is melted (about 15 minutes). These can be served warm plain, or with tomato sauce and parmesan, or just cold from the fridge.

Good luck and good eating.

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Please write to kevinf@athena if you would like to see more recipes of a certain type in this column, or if you have any comments or suggestions. -- KF