Eggplant finds a home in calzone

September 30, 2001|By Rob Kasper

This project started off as a way to say "thanks for showing up" to the eggplant. In these, the waning days of garden productivity, I am grateful for any plant that continues to bear fruit.

As often happens with my cooking projects, this one soon took a turn in a different direction. I found a recipe that mixed eggplant, basil and four cheeses. The challenge came with handling the calzone, the trouser-leg-shaped dough that wrapped around the eggplant and cheeses.

The trick was transferring the dough, stuffed with eggplant and cheese, onto the pizza stone in a piping hot, 500-degree oven. I didn't have the correct tool, a wooden pizza paddle. I made do with a large metal spatula borrowed from my barbecue tools.

Calzone

Yield: 2 calzone, serves 4

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 / 4 -pound eggplant, cut in 1 / 4 -inch-thick slices

salt and black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 / 4 cup pine nuts

1 red bell pepper cut into thin strips

1 recipe calzone dough (below)

1 / 4 cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese

1 1 / 4 cups grated fontina cheese

1 1 / 4 cups grated mozzarella cheese

3 / 4 cup crumbled goat cheese

20 large fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 400. Combine garlic and olive oil; let sit for 30 minutes.

Brush eggplant slices with 2 tablespoons of the oil, coating both sides. Place slices on baking sheet and bake, turning occasionally, for 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then toss eggplant with 1/2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Set aside.

Heat a medium-size frying pan to medium, add pine nuts and cook until golden, 2-3 minutes. Remove nuts from pan. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to pan, heat to medium, add pepper strips, cooking until soft, about 10 minutes. Toss with remaining balsamic vinegar and set aside.

Place pizza stone in oven and increase heat to 500 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out dough to form a 12-inch circle about 1 / 4 inch thick. Place circle on a well-floured pizza paddle. Brush the dough lightly with remaining oil, stopping 1 inch short of edge. Combine the four cheeses in a bowl, and then spread half of mixture over half of the dough, leaving the 1-inch border. Place half of the eggplant, peppers, pine nuts and basil over the cheese.

With a pastry brush, moisten the bottom edges of the dough lightly with water and fold the dough over the filling so bottom edge is showing. Crimp the bottom edge over the top edge, creating a tight seal. Slide the calzone onto the stone and bake until golden-brown, about 12-15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough and filling to make a second calzone.

Calzone dough

Yield: 2 large calzone

2 1/2 teaspoons (1 package) dry yeast

1 / 4 cup lukewarm (110 degrees Fahrenheit) water

2 3 / 4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 cup water

Combine the yeast, 1 / 4 cup lukewarm water and 1 / 4 cup of the flour in large bowl. Let sit until it bubbles, at least 20 minutes.

Add the remaining flour, salt, olive oil and 1 cup water. Mix well with wooden spoon. When the dough forms a ball, knead it on floured surface, about 10 minutes, until dough is smooth, elastic and tacky to touch. Place dough in large, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for minimum of 1 hour, until nearly double in volume. Punch down the dough and use.

-- Adapted from Joanne Weir's More Cooking in the Wine Country (Simon and Schuster, 2001)

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