“Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?”
Author Unknown
Happy ‘hump day‘!! Am battling the flu and a flu ridden family but seem to have gotten the better of Wednesday. Wordless Wednesdays prove elusive as always, maybe because I have too much to say. For that matter I never seem to make it to a ‘Meatless Mondays post either; guess that’s fine because my food isn’t ruled by days of the week. That said, I make sure the grub is meatless at least 3 times a week, and these calzones proved to be just the thing. The combination of the filling, the depth the roasted bell peppers provided and the yumminess of the ricotta in here was a winner! This is one recipe I shall make often! {By the way, Tuesdays mean ‘Tuesdays With Dorie‘ for me, even though I haven’t had the courage to join the group!}
Saw them on FoodGawker the other day, and something about them stuck in my mind. The very thought of ricotta and bell peppers had me captivated, and I imagined how good they must have been! A trip down to Nummy Kitchen had me sold as she said “Calzones are such a fun dinner and are easy to personalize for the kids and picky husband. This recipe is from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food and starts with his basic pizza crust recipe”. So here I am, having made these delicious calzones as soon as I could.

The basic dough is Mark Bittman’s pizza dough. I loved that I could make it the night before and leave it to rise in the fridge overnight. Seems to make bread and pizza making so much more appealing. No need to worry about it being warm enough to double rise, done or not done etc? Let it slowly rise in the fridge, while you sleep over it, and wake up the next morning to magically well risen dough! I just love the option. Of course, you can do it the normal way of letting it rise n a warm place for a couple of hours too!
As Andrea writes, Mark suggests using ricotta and spinach, but leaves the options wide open, suggesting the use of pizza toppings mixed with the ricotta. She chose to use roasted bell peppers, and why ever not? These roasted beauties tasted absolutely rustic delicious in there. I went a step further and sautéed some sliced mushrooms in EVOO with garlic and red chili flakes, and added those too. They tasted just wonderful, and me thinks next time I might just double the mushrooms in there. The filling had the most beautiful flavours possible!
Do you make your own ricotta? I made the ricotta at home from a David Lebovitz recipe, and you can too. Do make sure you drain the ricotta well, else you just might end up with soggy calzones. Making ricotta at home might sound tedious, but I assure you it’s not. I made it 2 days prior to making the calzones, and let it drain, wrapped in cling-wrap in the fridge for 2 days. I roasted the bell peppers in advance too, and having done the dough the previous night, I was left with just basic mushroom filling to make, and assembly for the next day! Easy and breezy!
I think these will make handsome little bites for a kids birthday party too, and great snack box fillers! My kids had them for an after school snack, and then later for dinner too! I absolutely loved the option of a vegetarian calzone that would win over a non vegetarian option. Pizza toppings as filling? YES PLEASE!!

Roasted Bell Pepper, Mushroom and Ricotta Calzones

1 recipe Mark Bittman’s pizza dough {recipe follows}

Adapted from Nummy Kitchen
2 cups ricotta cheese {homemade from 1 ltr of whole milk, 1/2 cup yogurt and 200ml low fat cream; recipe here}
4-5 red & yellow bell peppers, roasted and chopped
1 cup shredded mature cheddar {I didn’t have mozzarella, but this worked great}
200gms button mushrooms, finely chopped / sliced
4-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
A handful fresh basil leaves
Extra Virgin Olive Oil { I used Borges from here}
Salt and Pepper
I got 6 medium sized calzones from the dough. You can even make 4 large ones.

Heat the olive oil gently with 1/2 -1 tsp of roasted chili flakes and chopped garlic. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and sauté on high flame till the liquid evaporates. Add the chopped bell peppers with their juices and sauté again until dryish. {Not bone dry, but not drippy either, else they will make the calzone soggy}
Reserve in a large bowl until just warm. Now add the basil, grated cheddar and ricotta to this, stir well to mix. Adjust seasoning if required.
Preheat oven to 180C.
Divide the dough into 6 equal balls, and roll out into circles about 8 inches each, by rolling or patting the dough down.
Divide the filling equally among the six rolled out bits of dough. Fold over and pinch the sides to seal.
Bake for about 30 minutes until nice and risen, and brown. {You could give them an egg wash for a rich colour. I just gave them a brush of olive oil}
Cool for 5-7 minutes, and serve. {Be careful when you serve them to kids, as it might have hot air trapped within as they tend to puff up.}

Mark Bittman’s Pizza Dough
3 cups all-purpose plus more as needed
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 to 1¼ cups water
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
Combine the yeast, flour, and 2 teaspoons salt in the container of a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the 2 tablespoons of oil through the feed tube.{I did this in a large bowl, using the hand mixer with dough hooks}
Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. {In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour, a tablespoon at a time.}
Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Grease a bowl with the remaining olive oil, and place the dough, in it. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let rise in warm; draft-free area until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. You can, cut this rising time short if you are in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours. {I made the dough at night and let it rise in the fridge overnight… and how it rose!!}
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“Fresh fruits are so untainted. We don’t process them, cook them or package them. There are some fruits out there that are packed with natural energy that kids like, like kiwi fruit, … Kiwis are part of the super fruit category. One kiwi has all the vitamin C you need for the day.”
Robert Stanley
I’ve had a busy few days, and then to add to the mid summer madness, the folk from Perfect Relations were wonderful enough to invite me to a couple of foodie events this past month. There were 2 invites to EAT {European Art of Taste}, a program supported by the European Union and the Italian Government that aims to present the best of Food and Wine from Europe. I made it to one, and wasn’t able to attend the other. Did however manage to make it to the Zespri Kiwi Fruit Launch hosted by  HE Mr Rupert Holborow, the New Zealand High Commissioner to India, at his residence. The largest sole exporter of Kiwifruit in the world, ZESPRI International, entered the Indian market on that day, May26th, 2010, and the launch was held amidst much green kiwifruit glory in the presence of  Mr. Cliff Fuller, New Zealand Trade Commissioner & Mr. Daniel Matheison, Zespri Regional Market Manager, Southeast/South Asia.
Considered to be the best in the world, ZESPRI® Kiwifruit can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, anytime as it is naturally fresh, full of flavour, safe and good for your health. ZESPRI offers an innovative range of premium quality kiwifruit products: ZESPRI® GREEN, ZESPRI® GOLD and ZESPRI® ORGANIC Kiwifruit. The fruit pack a natural protection punch, with a combination of beneficial nutrients which is more concentrated than many other fruits. ZESPRI® GREEN and GOLD Kiwifruit are great sources of dietary fibre, vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, vitamin E, carotenoids and other antioxidants. They also have a low glycaemic index (GI) and are low in fat – so they’re perfect to eat every day to assist with natural protection.
At the High Commissioners residence, there was a mind boggling array of kiwi  fruit delectables  doing the rounds. Since it was an evening launch party, on offer were finger foods like ‘herb chicken and kiwi vol au vents‘,  ‘tomato and kiwi bruschetta‘, ‘cheese and jalapeño poppers with kiwi salsa to name a few. The bar also offered a wide variety of mocktails and cocktails kiwi fruit based and otherwise! It was an eye opener to see the kiwi creativity on display, and that’s how I came up with inspiration for these poppers today.
Left over mania! It was time to clear the fridge as we are off on a small vacation to Gangtok, a town nestled within higher peaks of the Himalayas at a height of 4715ft. These poppers are a tribute to the ever versatile and the nutrient packed kiwi, a fruit that contains so many vitamins and minerals, it’s truly bursting with goodness. Zespri is the brand of choice available at most outlets around where we live, so I bought a couple the other day. The last remaining one went into this salsa, and was kept good company by 2 apricots that were left over as well.
The poppers were darned delicious little bites. They got created in an attempt to use up some left over home made ricotta that I had made for roasted bell peppers and ricotta bruschetta 2 days ago. I eye balled the ingredients, and have to say these little poppers were wonderful. {For those who don’t like the eggy smell in food, the egg in here didn’t add any eggy flavours}. Be cautious while dealing with hot oil, and keep the poppers small / teaspoon sized batter drops, else they tend to spread and flatten. To check if the batter consistency is alright, I drop a little bit into a small bowl of water. If it rises immediately and floats, I am good to go. If it sinks or disintegrates, I add a little more flour, to bind it and test again!
The poppers made for fun snacks, and are pretty nice at room temperature too, only not as crisp as when hot. For more recipes, you can check out the Zespri site, which I just discovered. There’s plenty of fun kiwi based recipes there!

Ricotta and Cream Cheese Chili Poppers with Kiwi Salsa
250gms ricotta, well drained {home made recipe here}
3-4 tbsps cream cheese {I used Brittania cheese spread}
1 egg
4 tbsps plain flour
1-2 fresh green chillies, {or jalapeños}
1/2 tsp salt {cream cheese has salt of its own}
1/4 tsp baking soda

Whiz the ricotta, cream cheese and egg in a processor until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and process for a minute till uniformly mixed.
Heat about 4 inches of oil in a heavy bottom pan. Drop tea spoonfuls of batter into hot oil, and cook until both sides evenly browned. {Make sure the oil isn’t too hot, or they will over-brown and might remain uncooked within. Also don’t overcrowd the pan, else they might stick to each other}
Drain from oil onto paper napkins to absorb extra oil. Serve hot / warm with kiwi salsa! POP… they’re YUM!!
Kiwi Salsa
1 ripe, firm kiwi fruit, peeled
2 ripe apricots, halved and pitted
1/2-1 tsp sugar
A pinch of salt
Whir all ingredients in processor until blended. Taste and season. Chill for 30 minutes to allow flavours to blend. {You can add a dash of lime if it isn’t tangy. My kiwi fruit was very sweet yet tangy}
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“Lots of bright colors like lime, orange and red this year.”
 Barbara Henderson
The sight of the brilliant RED in the RVC takes my breath away each time I see a picture. Does that happen to you too? I have always wanted to make a red velvet cake (RVC) for as long as I can remember. So much talk about it, so many pictures calling my name, but I never quite had the courage to try making something so red which often involved a whole bottle of red food colouring.  It scared me! Almost every recipe I came across had about that amount of colour to lend the cake its characteristic RED!
Then while on The Monsorovs one day, browsing recipe after recipe in sheer amazement, I luckily found it – a RVC roulade. A quick look at the recipe and I knew I’d be making it soon. Just 1 tbsp of colour was more within my mental boundaries. I didn’t need much persuasion to jot it down.  A few days later the daughter insisted that I make something red on Valentines Day. I am not cheesy about V Day, and would have been fine to sit back and treat  it as any ordinary day, but the temptation to bake the RVC proved too strong.

A Red velvet cake is a rich, moist, sweet cake with a dark red, bright red or red-brown color. It is usually prepared as a layer cake somewhere between chocolate and vanilla in flavor, topped with a creamy white icing. Common ingredients are buttermilk, butter, flour, cocoa, and either beets or red food coloring. The amount of cocoa used varies in different recipes. A typical frosting is a butter roux (also known as a cooked flour frosting). Cream cheese or buttercream frostings are also used.

While foods were rationed during World War II, bakers used boiled beets to enhance the color of their cakes. Boiled grated beets or beet baby food are found in some red velvet cake recipes, where they also serve to retain moisture.

A red velvet cake was a signature dessert at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City during the 1920s. According to a common urban legend a woman once asked for the recipe for the cake, and was billed a large amount. Indignant, she spread the recipe in a chain letter.
Sure enough I was in the kitchen the next day making the cake. It’s a simple straight forward recipe, and I made just a few changes. Used buttermilk instead of milk. Also used a mixture of ricotta and cream instead of cream cheese and white chocolate. Was a hearty good cake to make, and visually very dramatic! I have a few ideas for the next time that I make it. I will probably make a fatless sponge for the roll using the recipe as a base, and the inside would be my favourite cream – mascarpone. Also getting ideas from the 4 Red Velveteers Twitterazi (Aparna, Allesio, Pamela, and Asha inspired by Davina), will try and find a natural red substitute, maybe beets, strawberry reduction etc … all this shall happen one day when my next bout of inspiration strikes!!!
I love the way food can generate so much interest and excitement on Twitter. Food with visual appeal and colour is a constant source of fascination for me. Sharing my RVC on Twitter had a flood of response. I caught a bit of it for you here…
Gorgeous! I want to gorge on it! RT @sugarbardiva: RT @vindee: Wrapped up the last of the Red Velvet Cake Roll – Great idea RT
@vindee: Wrapped up the last of the Red Velvet Cake Roll… with ricotta & strawberries
@vindee gorgeous, look at that color! WOW!
@vindee @sugarbardiva I’ve always LOVED Red Velvet! it’s a very (U.S.) southern thing. Bake mine in either rose-shaped or heart-shaped pans.
@RJFlamingo & bcos the only frosting i truly like is cream cheese frosting. The big V is spot on 😀 (@vindee)

Red Velvet Cake roll … with strawberries and ricotta
 Adapted from this recipe at The Mansurovs
 Yield: 15-inch rolled cake, 12 to 14 servings
 For the cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cultured buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup vanilla sugar (or granulated sugar)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon liquid red food coloring
For the ricotta-cream filling
1 quantity ricotta made from here, drained well, or a 250gms tub
100ml cream
2-3 tbsps powdered sugar
200gms strawberries (reserve some for serving on the side)
Powdered sugar for sifting on top

Make the cake

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 190°C. Coat a small area in the center of a 15 1/2-by-10 1/2-by-1-inch pan (jelly-roll pan) with nonstick spray. Line the pan with aluminum foil, pressing the foil into the contours of the pan and leaving a 2-inch overhang at each short end (the spray anchors the foil in place to make buttering easier). Butter the foil, then flour it, tapping out the excess flour. Have all of the ingredients at room temperature.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-low speed until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and add the granulated sugar in a steady stream. Continue to beat until light in color and fluffy in texture, about 2 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the egg slowly, about 1 tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition until incorporated and stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. On the lowest speed, add the flour mixture in two or three additions alternately with the buttermilk in one or two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing after each addition only until incorporated smoothly. Stop the mixer after each addition and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Maintaining the same speed, add the food coloring and mix well to color the batter evenly. Without delay, spoon the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly with a rubber spatula.
Bake the cake until it is set on top and springs back when lightly pressed in the center, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. If necessary, run a thin knife blade around the perimeter of the pan to loosen the cake sides. Then pull up on the foil overhang and carefully transfer the cake to a wire rack. Without delay, place a sheet of foil over the cake and manipulate the foil to make a shallow tent (a tent holds in the moisture as the cake cools, but prevents the foil from sticking to the cake). Let cool for about 45 minutes, then proceed to assemble the dessert.
Whiz the ricotta, cream and sugar in blender till smooth. Adjust sugar if required and blend again till nice and creamy.
Clean, hull and chop strawberries for filling.

Assemble the cake

Remove the foil from the top of the cake. Transfer the cake on its bottom sheet of foil to a work surface, placing it so that one of its long sides is parallel to the edge of the surface closest to you. Place another long sheet of aluminum foil on the work surface nearby.
Using an offset spatula, spread the filling evenly over the cake, leaving a 1/2-inch border uncovered on the long side farthest from you. (The leftover filling, along with a few berries, makes a good kitchen snack for the baker.) Place the strawberries, if using, randomly on the filling along the length of the cake.
Begin rolling the cake by flipping the edge nearest you over onto itself. Then, with the aid of the foil that extends beyond the short sides, roll up the cake lengthwise until you reach the far long side. As you work, wrap the foil around the roll to assist in rounding the shape (otherwise the cake will stick to your hands). To insure the roll is uniform, place the roll in its foil across the bottom third of a 24-inch-long piece of parchment paper, bring the top edge of the paper toward you, and drape it over the cake roll, allowing a 2-inch overhang.
Place the edge of a rimless baking sheet at a 45-degree angle to the roll and your work surface. Apply pressure against the roll, trapping the 2-inch overhang, and push while simultaneously pulling the bottom portion of paper toward you. This push-pull motion creates a resistance that results in compressing the log into a uniform shape. If any cracks appeared as you rolled the cake, they are consolidated in this compression and disappear from view.
Carefully lift the roll in the aluminum foil and set it, seam side down, on the fresh sheet of foil. Wrap the cake securely in the foil. Transfer the foil-wrapped roll to the baking sheet or shallow tray and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to help set the filling.

To serve

Remove the cake from the refrigerator and peel off and discard the foil. Carefully lift the roll onto a serving plate with the aid of a long, wide spatula or a rimless baking sheet. (If not serving right away, cover loosely with plastic wrap to keep the cake’s surface from drying out and return to the refrigerator to serve the same day.) Dust the cake with powdered sugar. Using a serrated knife and a sawing motion, cut the roll into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Center each portion on a dessert plate. Accompany with the strawberries.

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This cake is headed for Nina at Confessions of a Bake-a-holic who is calling for Valentine day Cakes for her event Bake–a–Cake

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