Mushroom and Zucchini Bowtie Pasta

Pizza kai Pasta

Sometimes the easiest dinner to create is one that you throw together with the ingredients you have just laying around your kitchen; this was one of those delicious discoveries. 

If you learn a few basics, like sautéing, you can make a variety of soups and sauces. The French word actually means, “to jump” and is a very useful method to learn if you want to take your cooking from good to great! This technique is carried out by cooking food quickly in a hot pan and using a small amount of fat. It is important though not to use too much fat or you will go from sautéing to frying your foods. When properly executed, sautéing does not dry out the food but actually leaves some pieces called “fond” into the pan. These “leftovers” have a wonderful caramelized flavor that you can use to create a wonderful yet simple reduction sauce. 

First, lets discuss what foods are good to be sautéed. The best foods must be tender, thin, and portion or bite-sized. Many types of meat, poultry, fish and shellfish are appropriate for sautéing. To prepare thick or dense meats for sautéing, simply slice them thinly before cooking for bite-sized pieces or pound them thin (with a meat mallet or back side of a frying pan) for portion sized pieces. Vegetables, fruits, precooked grains, pasta, beans and other legumes are also candidates for sautéing. Thin, tender items like snow peas, apples and mushrooms may go right into the sauté pan. Thicker, denser items such as carrots and broccoli should be par-boiled before hand.

Now to begin the cooking. Have all of your ingredients prepared and ready to go, it is also important that everything be approximately the same size so it all cooks evenly. Always preheat your pan and then add the oil/butter, this way you avoid have hot spots. You’ll know it is ready when you can splash a few drops of water into the pan and watch them dance across and evaporate. Let the fat melt just until it has a shimmer but before it begins smoking, remove it from the heat for a few moments if it smokes. Add your ingredients to the pan and let them sit so they turn golden brown. For meats, this is usually about 3 minutes, for fish this about 2 minutes. After this time, flip them over in the pan and repeat the process, using a spatula or tongs. DO NOT use a fork, as it pierces the meat and releases all the juices. 

Next, you want to deglaze your pan for optimum flavor in making a sauce. Sounds extravagant, but it really isn’t. There’s an added benefit to doing this too, you’ll have a pan so clean that with one wipe of the sponge you’ll be done! Remove your meat or other protein (if using veggies, just leave in pan) and place somewhere to keep warm, like your oven. If there is a lot of fat in the pan remaining, remove all but a tablespoon or two.  Add 1 teaspoon of seasoning (of choice) and turn the heat to high adding about ¼ cup of white wine (red wine or stocks work too and sometimes I even use beer or fruit juices). Use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the stuff up from the bottom of the pan and let it dissolve in the liquid. The liquids will reduce fairly quickly, so go ahead and lower the heat. From here you can simply pour the sauce over your meat and serve, add more veggies and/or aromatics (like garlic or shallots), add more stock for a soup, or add some butter, dairy, or cheese for a richer sauce. 

For my pasta recipe, I simply sautéed some mushroom heads and zucchini slices. I added some white wine, a few drops of cream, and some parmesan cheese with a little salt, black pepper, red pepper, and dried basil.  It was really fantastic! 

Kali Orexi! 

Eggplant, Mushroom, and Tomato . . .

Pizza kai Pasta
. . . Calzone or Pizza or Spaghetti
So, it might be a little teasing that I am sharing these next few pictures because when I am not baking, I rarely follow a recipe. Sometimes this turns out to be a masterpiece that I try to quickly write down what exactly I did, and other times I am confident that I can recreate it whenever I want. But I have fiddled so many times with sauces and soups that I have the basic recipe down. . . and I can and will share that with you! 
The combination of mushrooms, eggplants, tomatoes, and onion is really REALLY wonderful in a calzone, on a pizza, or even over some pasta. It all begins by sauteing some onions in EVOO, slowly on medium – medium high heat. Clean, slice, and salt your eggplant to remove the bitter juices letting rest for 20 minutes, then rise in cold water and pat dry. Wipe and slice your mushrooms, add to the onions and stir for 2-3 minutes before adding some wine (white or red). Finally, add your eggplant slices, fresh and canned tomatoes, Italian herbs (basil, oregano, thyme)* and salt/pepper, cooking down until tender and wine has cooked off. Now, the choice is yours. . . do you want pizza, pasta, or calzone? Maybe even all three
My new favorite recipe for calzones and pizza is THIS DOUGH, it can be instant (no rise) or it can rise twice if you have the time. It has a multigrain taste and is light, chewy and oh so wonderful. I have used it several times and have been very happy with the result each and every time! 
I am sorry that I don’t have a better detailed recipe of the amounts, but honestly I just kind of toss and stir as I go… don’t be scared to use herbs, especially in a tomato sauce! I also think that shredded mozzarella and fresh mozzarella cheese with some finely grated parmesan cheese is the perfect compliment to this sauce! Fill your calzone, top your pizza, or mix in with your pasta and serve!!! 

Kali Orexi. 

"Healthier" Homemade Calzones

Pizza kai Pasta
I think the calzone is of Italian origin, but I am totally just assuming because it is after all, only a folded pizza, right? Well, even though this isn’t a Greek classic, it is well worth making for yourself. I finally got around to making this 2 hours before I had to leave for work, so I ended up letting the dough rise for only 25 minutes. Surprisingly enough, it was fantastic! The dough itself was soft and almost chewy, yet held the calzone together and complimented all the wonderful fillings. So, whether you have time to let the dough rise completely or not, this might just be your favorite new calzone recipe! 
Homemade Calzone Dough: Makes 2 xtr-lg or 4 medium calzones
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup yellow flour
1 cup bread flour, plus more for kneading
1 2 tsp. dry fast acting yeast
1 – 2 tsp. salt
1 T. honey
1/3 cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1 1/2 cups water, 180-185° F
Add your sifted flours and salt together in a large, deep bowl, I use a thin metal one. Make a well and add your yeast, oil, and a spoonful of honey. Slowly pour the warm water over the mixture and mix with a large wooden spoon until forming a large ball. Flour your hands and begin to slowing knead the dough inside the bowl, I find this helps, adding as little as flour needed to keep dough from sticking. Once dough is workable, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and continue kneading until dough is soft, pliable, and not sticky. Clean the metal bowl and drizzle or spray with oil, add dough to bowl, turning to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and place in slightly warm oven for at least 25 minutes but up to 1 hour. I switch on my oven to low for a few minutes and then leave the light on so the dough will have a warm, draft free place to rise. 
When the dough has doubled in size (or if you are in a hurry), begin to shape dough into 2 extra large or 4 medium calzones. Use olive oil drizzle, pesto, or tomato sauce as a sauce and then fill with desired toppings and cheeses. Bake in very hot oven (around 450° or higher) on a pizza stone if available, or at least a pizza pan with holes; bake until golden brown and bubbly!  
Zucchini and Salami Calzone:
1 large zucchini, chopped
1 large onion, diced
1 medium red pepper, chopped
Handful of turkey salami slices
1 T. basil pesto
Mozzarella and parmesan cheeses
Saute all the veggies in a non-stick pan with a little EVOO, cook until very tender. Spread pesto on 1/2 of the dough, spread some cheese, add a few spoonfuls of sauteed veggies and then line with turkey salami, finally, topping again with cheese. Fold over calzones, pinch the opening together, cut a few slits in the top, and drizzle with EVOO and a dash of course salt. Bake on high for about 10-12 minutes each or golden brown! Cool slightly and serve hot! 

Pizza, Pizza…

Pizza kai Pasta
I love pizza. I mean that I really enjoy every calorie and every bite that goes into my mouth. As a kid, I wanted my pizza deep dish and soaked dipped in Ranch, but now as my taste buds and calorie consciousness has matured, I prefer a thinner crust with a few splashes of hot sauce.

 My personal opinion is that the best everything pizza comes from Italy, but most Greeks would disagree with me. They, of course, prefer Greek pizza, Greek food, Greek music, etc. I guess that the main differences being  the crust and tomato sauce. Don’t get me completely wrong, it is possible to find good pizza here in Greece, even at one time in Lesvos. We used to order pizza as a quick “we are too hungry to cook” dinner, but unfortunately out of the two restaurants that make pizza, one closed and one switched from mozzarella cheese to gouda, no thanks! What other choice did we have but to start making our own.

Plus, when making pizza at home, you have complete control over every ingredient and are able to even transform a traditionally unhealthy food into one full of fiber and vitamins, somewhat 🙂 I have always preferred using whole wheat flour when possible, it not only benefits your waist, it also gives a slight, attractive nutty flavor to the crust.

Basic Semi-Wholewheat Pizza/Calzone Dough Recipe: (Makes 2 – 8″ medium crusts or 3 – 6″ thinner crusts)

7 g. (2 1/2 tsp.) instant yeast
1/2 tsp sugar or honey (optional)
1 1/2 cups water, temp around 180°-185°F
2 Tbsp. EVOO
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour (or all purpose)
1/2 -1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic, basil
Handful of yellow flour or cornmeal for bottom of crusts
Extra flour for kneading

In a large bowl, mix 1 cup of each flour with the yeast, sugar, oil, and water. Stir with a wooden spoon, let rise for 30 minutes in a warm area. Stir in remaining spices and flour using 1/2 cup at a time. Once a ball of dough has formed, turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently for 8-10 minutes; you should be able to feel the dough transform in your hands into a soft, pliable texture. <For a better crust, continue to rise again, but it is possible at this point to skip this step and move onto the dividing and shaping.> Place in clean, slightly oiled bowl, and let double in size in a warm area (if your house is chilly, use your oven with a 5 minute pre-heat and then leave on the oven light). 

Begin to preheat your oven to high, with a pizza stone if you have one. Turn out  the dough again onto slightly floured surface and shape into an even roll. Divide into either 2 or 3 proportional balls, and shape into desired size and thickness. If you have a pizza stone, shape your dough onto parchment paper with some cornmeal to make it easier to get into the oven; continue to decorate your pizza with desired toppings. If you are not using a pizza stone, shape your dough onto a pizza pan and poke in several holes with a fork. Place your pizza pan into your oven for 5 minutes to set your crust. Remove from oven and decorate your pizza with desired toppings. Bake on high heat for 8-10 minutes or until your pizza is golden brown with bubbly cheese! 


I made two medium crusts pizzas: on the top I used pesto instead of tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella, feta crumbs, sliced mini tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and cracked pepper. On the bottom, I made a salami/pepperoni, sautéed mushrooms and onions, with tomatoes and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. They were both delicious, if I do say so myself, and I do!  
Next time you are in the mood for pizza, why not trying to make it yourself. This dough also freezes very well too. You can freeze the dough, or the pizza base after you have set it in the oven. It is perfect for the night that you need a quick, delicious go to meal. 
Seriously, I think the only two things that would have made this pizza even more delicious: 
1. A pizza stone. (I am still trying to find one here)
2. Frank’s hot sauce. 


Frank is good on everything, but especially pizza! It is times like these that I so long for American supermarkets.