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15 Oct 2012

Vegan MoFo 2012 – Big Vegan’s calzone with rocket salad

Folding pizza and firing up the BBQ

Today, I’m cooking from a new book, Big Vegan, and making my first calzone served with a sparkling Prosecco-dressed salad.

Vegan MoFo 2012

Big Vegan by Robin Asbell is a book I’ve had for less than a month now, written by an author I’m not too familiar with.

When I first saw Big Vegan in the bookshop, I flicked through it and was instantly impressed with the appealing recipes and photos. The cookbook is quite hefty, at 500+ pages and includes over 350 recipes. However, since I started MoFo, I haven’t picked it up.

On Sunday as I had a bit of time, I thought I’d peruse it again and pick two new dishes to start off with.

While there were many contenders, I’ve opted to go for a gourmet pizza (albeit folded), and salad. I’ve chosen a kale and sun-dried tomato calzone served with rocket fennel and smoked almond salad with Prosecco dressing.

Rocket (Arugula), Fennel and Smoked Almond Salad with Prosecco Dressing

After my successful sherry-experiments, I saw this salad with wine dressing and my interest was sparked. I was pretty sure I had an unused bottle of Prosecco, and I was also keen to try smoked almonds in something.

Ingredients: Rocket (Arugula), Fennel and Smoked Almond Salad with Prosecco Dressing

The salad dressing ingredients included Prosecco (a sparkling dry-white), garlic, smoked almonds, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. When I first read the ingredients, I thought I could easily reduce the half-cup of oil but upon closer look, it is emulsified with other liquids so I kept all quantities unchanged.

The wine is first simmered and reduced down by half. While it cooled, the garlic and some of the smoked almonds were minced in the food processor.

Other liquids are then added in and processed. I realised at this point that there was an omission in the recipe. There’s no further mention of what to do with the Prosecco after it’s reduced. I decided to blend it in with the other ingredients prior to gradually adding the oil.

Mixing the dressing

The dressing really thickened up once the oil had been poured in. It was almost mayonnaise consistency and tasted quite tart and tangy. I really liked it, although it was very rich.

The salad was assembled by layering the rocket (I also had a little spinach), sliced fennel and oranges (blood oranges in my case). I kept the dressing separately in the fridge until ready to serve.

Kale and sun-dried tomato calzones

Generally I use kale in our house for one of two things: juices or smoothies. I’ve made the odd kale salad, but cooking kale is pretty rare. That’s one of the reasons I picked this recipe.

I started the filling first so it would be completely cold by the time the dough was ready.

Calzone filling ingredients

The filling ingredients included onion, garlic, tofu (both firm and silken), kale, sun-dried tomatoes, breadcrumbs and basil. On the face of it, they seemed a fairly bland combination to me. I was half tempted to chuck in some pepper, lemon zest and nutritional yeast but resisted as it was my first go at the recipe.

Kale and tofu cooking

The filling was easy to make. Once the onion was browned with the tofu, all remaining ingredients were mixed in and left to cool.

Mixing the filling

I prepared the dough next and used the exact weights provided, hoping for a perfect result.

Once the ingredients were in the Kitchenaid being kneaded, I could see that I had an extremely wet mix. After a few minutes it didn’t improve, so I gradually started adding extra tablespoons of flour to get the dough to come together. I probably added another ¼ cup of flour before my dough started “dancing” on the hook.

Finally the dough is dancing

Like a ballerina!

The dough was still quite sticky and difficult to work with. I held hope though, as some of the best breads I’ve baked have been from wet, sticky dough.

I left it to proof in an oiled bowl for an hour.

Leaving the dough to proof

After the dough had risen considerably, it was kneaded a little and divided into 8 balls.

8 dough balls

Each ball was then rolled flat and filling placed in the centre and sealed.

Filling the calzones

This part of the process got quite messy and frustrating.

I had filling, dough and flour everywhere! After making about my third calzone, I wished I’d chosen another recipe. The calzones were looking crap and were sticking to everything they touched. Grrr!

The difficult calzones

Finally once all the filled calzones were resting, I pre-heated the pizza stone on the BBQ. I dusted the stone with semolina, added the calzones, put the lid down and hoped for the best.

After 25 minutes, the calzones had become golden and to my relief, were not welded to the plate.

Dinner is served

Served: Kale and sun-dried tomato calzones and rocket, fennel and smoked almond salad with Prosecco dressing

Served: Kale and sun-dried tomato calzones and rocket, fennel and smoked almond salad with Prosecco dressing

While the calzones were nothing flash to look at, they tasted really good.

The filling was not bland at all, with the sun-dried tomato providing a large flavour boost. When my husband tried these, he instantly commented on how light and fluffy the dough was, and then inhaled about three calzones in one sitting!

The salad looked bright on the table and much prettier than the baked calzones. I had to add a little extra water to the dressing as it was quite thick to pour. The flavours of blood orange, fennel and rocket are classic, but the smoked almonds and Prosecco dressing took this salad to a much more impressive level.

Rocket, fennel and smoked almond salad with Prosecco dressing

Rocket, fennel and smoked almond salad with Prosecco dressing

So although labour-intensive, my first two dishes from Big Vegan were delicious and together were a great match. We also had leftovers for our work lunch the next day (love that!)

While I really enjoyed the calzones, I probably wouldn’t make them often given how fiddly the were to prepare. It’s also been a while since I’ve eaten such a tofu-laden meal, and along with the bread it made quite a heavy, filling meal. My husband is still talking about these calzones though so I suspect he may attempt them again in the future.

The salad is definitely getting flagged. I think I’d also make the dressing by itself as it was thick enough to be used as an unusual mayo, spread or dip.

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