Italy was an inspiring country to draw as so many delicious dishes sprang to mind straight away, I could have easily spent a week cooking Italian meals without scratching the surface of it's regional foods. Even though there was an abundance to choose from one of the meals I ended up making is not a traditional Italian meal but an American-Italian creation called stromboli. My young man has really been enjoying doing the weekly random draws and over this time he wanted Italy to appear more than any other country so I could cook his favourite meal of calzones. His initial excitement after drawing Italy turned to dismay when I said calzones were not going to be on the menu as I wasn't going to cook anything I had already made before. To ease his pain, I mentioned stromboli as a compromise prior to realising that it isn't traditional Italian cuisine.
Stromboli claims to have been invented by Romano's pizzeria just outside Philadelphia in 1950. It's quite similar to a calzone but instead of the dough being turned over once and sealed before baking, stromboli is rolled up like a log and when cut open it looks a bit like a savoury pinweel.
I used my standard pizza dough for the stromboli which is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe. Stromboli dough is supposed to be rolled out in a square shape rather than rectangular, it's apparent that I've made way too many calzones in my lifetime and automatically rolled out calzone shapes without even thinking about it!
Our regular toppings we have for calzones were used for the strombolis - pizza sauce and home-made pesto mixed together on the base, onions, baby spinach, mushrooms, marinated red capsicums (bell peppers), sun-dried tomatoes, tofu bacon and some cheezly. The man and I usually like kalamata olives in this mix but had to go without this time as I had run out of them. Stromboli was stated to use layers of deli meat so I didn't bother chopping my tofu bacon into small pieces and left the slices whole this time.
When it came to rolling the stromboli, I realised that the internal bread swirl wasn't going to work out as perfectly with the rectangular dough and the crispy tofu bacon slices didn't assist with it's flexibility either. At least I know this for next time!
The strombolis were baked at 200C for 30 minutes which is a lower temperature and a longer cooking time than I use for calzones to ensure that the dough in the centre cooked through properly.
The guys thought that they were almost identical to the calzones I usually make which isn't a bad thing as we all adore them. I actually preferred the layer of bread in the centre, it made the strombolis more robust than calzones and prevented the fillings from oozing out everywhere. The beauty of their similarities means that I will be able to make calzones and strombolis on the same night depending on personal preferences. My choice is going to be stromboli for a while so I can continue practising the rolling technique.
I didn't feel like I had done justice to Italian cuisine yet so I pulled out my copy of World Vegan Feast and was thrilled to see that Bryanna had included heaps of Italian recipes. I headed straight to the sweets section and settled on a lemon and pistachio biscotti recipe straight away. I rarely eat or bake biscuits/cookies yet lemon and pistachio sounded perfect for my taste.
Biscotti are twice baked biscuits so the baking process is different to standard biscuits/cookies. The dough is rolled into a long thick log for the initial cooking. After a short cooling down period, slices are cut from the log, then these slices are briefly baked again. I really enjoyed the flavour of the lemon zest throughout the biscotti as well as the pistachios which are one of my favourite nuts. These biscotti are perfect with my daily strong soy latte and even though they are supposed to keep for 2 weeks in an airtight container, I can't see that happening!
Did you know?
Italians are very passionate about their food. In 1986 food purists gave away free spaghetti outside the opening of a McDonalds store in Rome to remind people of their culinary heritage.
Do you want to know where else I've been this month? Click here for the round up.