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Beautiful food

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(NOTE:  If you arrived here via my email about side dishes and the knit along, that post is here.  Sorry, I inserted the wrong link in the email.) This weekend was my grand-daughter's second birthday ... what a treat! My daughter did a wonderful job of putting on a special birthday party for her, filled with all kinds of magic and surprises. A few family friends joined us all for an afternoon of good food, pleasant chatter, and plenty of laughter.
By the way, I have made slow progress, but progress just the same, on the blanket I am knitting for myself from some of my now extinct Country Cotton Yarn. I am still on the bottom border in a seed stitch ... a little bit boring to look at just now. I am knitting on size U.S. 10 circular needles, the yarn is worsted weight and is my lovely Misty Morning color. I will be sharing this pattern for free whenever it is complete -- but don't hold your breath because it is going to be a bit of a slow knit. If you would like to do it as a blind knit-along, check this page where I have started the KAL going. If you are itching to knit something new, remember to check out my knitting pattern store here.
My son (Etsy seller "FlyingJunction) and I love to collaborate on meal planning and recipe choices; for Sweet Pea's birthday party we had the idea of keeping everything simple by having a pizza and sub sandwich party. That was the plan until Saturday morning when the idea surfaced that perhaps it would be nice to make some Stromboli sandwiches instead. Stromboli's would be easy for guests to serve themselves and eat while standing around chatting or sitting around in the living room where the festivities centered. Several years ago, when my kids and a I were still living together in California, they gave me a bread machine for Christmas, and we got into making Calzones using homemade pizza dough. We each had different likes and dislikes and special treats we would want in a cooked turnover sandwich and we enjoyed coming up with ideas of what to put inside. A couple of years after moving to the farm in New York, my sister-in-law made Stromboli sandwiches for a picnic they just seemed like such a great idea ... similar to a calzone, but presented differently. The next time my son came out to the farm, I made sure to introduce him to the Stromboli sandwich and he became an instant fan as well. If you are familiar with both, you don't need me to tell you the difference but if not, the Calzone sandwich is a true turnover style, baked sandwich while a Stromboli is a roll-up style baked sandwich. You would put similar sauces and fillings in either, they are just constructed and served differently. What we prefer about the Stromboli is that you make it as a long sub-sandwich looking roll-up and after it is baked a cooled a bit you slice it up. Guests then grab a slice and chow down. They bake up beautifully and are so tasty and easy to serve that people inevitably love them. The only problem is, they don't stay around for long. The Stromboli is also a great sandwich to refrigerate and serve cold, and it was a perfect picnic sandwich. Once we had the idea of Stromboli's for the birthday party, pizza and subs quickly disappeared into the archives and a shopping trip for Stromboli fillings was planned. We were planning on a mix of people with three different food preferences: 1) meat, cheese, and sauteed onions and garlic for some of the men, 2) one with goat cheese and veggies, and 3) veggies and Italian cheeses. So we put together three Stromboli's to accommodate the different tastes and dietary needs. I will share our list of filling items but keep in mind that you can choose pretty much anything you wish to put in your Stromboli so long as you can roll it up to bake it. Here is how we did Stromboli's for Sweet Pea's big bash: Down-Home Urban Gourmet Stromboli Sandwiches Shopping List
  • 1 or 2 store bought Pizza dough balls or ingredients to make it fresh at home (see recipe below)
  • pesto sauce)
  • marinara sauce
  • fresh spinach
  • fresh sliced mushrooms (a couple of packages)
  • onion
  • garlic
  • asparagus tips (canned, fresh, or frozen)
  • canned artichoke hearts
  • canned black olives
  • grated Italian mix cheeses (your favorite choices)
  • 4 oz. log of goat cheese
  • sesame seeds (optional)
  • grated or powdered Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Italian sausage (we used three sausages for one Stromboli)
Preparation The night before you are going to serve the Stromboli, do any of the sauteing that needs to be done. We sauteed the mushrooms, onions and garlic, and Italian sausage. What we did was saute each item separately (except the onion and garlic were done together) and then we stored them separately overnight in the refrigerator in glass bowls. If you are making the pizza dough yourself, get that started the day you are serving the Stromboli, sometime about mid-morning. Pizza Dough Crust The easiest thing is to purchase a couple of balls of pizza dough at the grocery store, the kind that comes as a dough ball ready to be shaped. If you can't find that or don't want to go that route, here are the ingredients I used in my bread machine to make the dough for our sandwiches:
  • 1 1/4 cups hot water plus 1 Tbsp. (between 105 and 115 degrees, but honestly I just get it good and hot and don't measure the temperature exactly)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp. raw sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. yeast
Put all of these ingredients in your bread machine in the order they are listed and mix on the pizza dough setting. When the dough cycle has finished, punch the dough down and divide it into two or three equal pieces -- depending on how many different style sandwiches you want to make. If you purchased pizza dough at the store, divide it at this point into however many sandwiches you want to make (one ball will make two sandwich rolls). Roll the dough pieces out into rectangles (preferably on parchment paper or wax paper lightly dusted with flour) that are at least 12 inches long by 10 inches wide. Beat one egg thoroughly, and then brush a strip of beaten egg about 1" wide down one long edge of the dough. Assemble Your Ingredients While the dough is mixing and rising in your bread machine, assemble your ingredients in your work area. Chop any of the ingredients that need chopping. (I used this great little hand-operated chopper my son gave me for Christmas three years ago. He bought one for me and one for himself at William-Sonoma, and it is one of my most-used kitchen gadgets ever. I just love it because I can chop nuts, vegetables, spinach, etc. with such ease. It is also easy to clean up and doesn't seem to ever hold on to a stain, smell, or taste.) For our Stromboli I chopped the spinach in the little chopper, and drained and chopped the olives in it as well. I sliced the artichoke hearts by hand. Putting it All Together Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Generously oil two large cookies sheets and then sprinkle with flour or cornmeal to prevent sandwiches from sticking. Better yet, use parchment paper between the sandwiches and the cookie sheets when they bake -- the sandwiches won't stick and they will be completely easy to remove to a serving tray without damage. (I always keep a supply of parchment paper on hand in my kitchen for this type of thing.) Here is how I assembled my three different sandwiches: Italian Sausage and Mushroom with Pesto Stromboli
  • Spread a generous amount of pesto sauce on dough, avoiding edges by about 1/2"
  • Sprinkle a layer of chopped fresh spinach over pesto, enough to cover it completely
  • Arrange crumbled, sauteed Italian sausage evenly
  • Spoon marinara sauce lightly over the Italian sausage
  • Arrange sauteed mushroom slices over sausage
  • Arrange sauteed onions and garlic over the mushrooms
  • Sprinkle generously with grated Italian cheese mix
Spinach Goat Cheese and Mushroom Stromboli
  • Spread a generous layer of marinara sauce over the dough, avoiding the edges by about 1/2 inch.
  • Sprinkle a thick layer of chopped fresh spinach
  • Arrange a layer of sauteed mushrooms and sliced artichoke hearts
  • Sprinkle chopped black olives and canned or cooked asparagus tips over the mushrooms and artichoke hearts
  • Arrange slices of goat cheese over the top of everything else
Pesto Spinach and Cheese Stromboli
  • Spread a generous layer of pesto over the dough, avoiding the edges by about 1/2 inch
  • Sprinkle a thick layer of chopped fresh spinach over the pest
  • Spoon some marinara sauce lightly over the spinach
  • Arrange mushrooms and sliced artichoke hearts over spinach
  • Sprinkle chopped black olives and canned or cooked asparagus tips over the mushroom layer
  • Sprinkle a generous amount of grated Italian cheese mix over the black olive layer
Gently roll the sandwich, starting with the one long edge that does not have egg wash on it. Do this slowly and gently until you get to the other edge. Pull up the other edge that has the egg wash on it and stretch it up and pinch the dough edge into the rolled dough to make a seam. Pinch the ends and pull them to the bottom of the sandwich (seam side). Roll the sandwich over and place it on a cookie sheet (onto parchment paper if you are using it), leaving enough room for another sandwich if you need to. Make sure the seam side is down and that the ends are tucked in and secured underneath the sandwich. Take a sharp knife and make slices about a half an inch deep, diagonally about every two inches or so. Brush the dough (avoid the sliced parts) with more of the beaten egg. If desired, dust the top of the sandwich with sesame seeds and/or powdered or grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Use left over marinara sauce as dipping sauce for the Stromboli sandwiches, or for people to spoon over the top of their sandwiches if desired. It might all sound complicated and time consuming but making these sandwiches actually goes pretty quickly and smoothly if you do your prep work ahead of time as I outlined above. Get your kids and your husband, boy/girlfriend, etc. involved in picking out the items to layer in your sandwiches and they will probably also help you with prepping and assembling the sandwiches. I think it is so much more fun to cook with a friend or loved one, and hope you will give that a try along with this tasty for some beautiful food. Have a great day! ~firefly My son is a designer, graphic artist and photographer (Etsy seller: FlyingJunction at http://flyingjunction.etsy.com, specializing in vintage look subway signs and bus scrolls). He has worked as a professional artist and graphic designer for more than ten years. His t-shirt designs, sold both online and in exclusive boutiques, have been worn by celebrities around the globe and are frequently spotted at major sporting events, in celebrity photos, television productions, and music videos. He commutes between Los Angeles and the family farm in upstate New York, calling both places home. We collaborate on many things, including recipe development and the Knitter's Eye Charts art prints I am selling in my Etsy store.


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