My friend Kathy and I used to eat sausage mushroom pizza at The Front Room on Clement Street in San Francisco. We were twelve, just old enough to eat unaccompanied at establishments other than Doggie Diner. Sure, there were other pizzas in my life—Giorgio’s, also on Clement. Shakey’s and Round Table, Toto’s and Uno’s. But The Front Room was my favorite.

When I went to college at sixteen, my RA handed me a beer on my second day of orientation. It was just before my first college football game. I decided I didn’t like beer, but I loved football games. And I still liked pizza. Late night pizza runs to Frankie, Johnnie, & Luigi Too! in Mountain View were legendary.

But it was at Ramona’s restaurant in downtown Palo Alto that I found true love.


Big, inside out pizzas filled with yummy, stretchy, cheesy goodness. It was enough food for two, maybe three people—and I’d eat the whole thing myself. One might think I so enjoyed that calzone because my dorm–Stern Dining—reputedly had the worst food on campus. But really, Ramona’s calzone was just that good. And secretly, I loved the dorm food (and usually went back for seconds).

It’s football season, so here is my attempt at homemade calzone.


This dough is adapted from James Peterson’s pizza dough recipe from his book Baking.


3 cups flour

¾ cup barely warm water

½ tsp active dry yeast proofed in 1 tablespoon barely warm water

¾ tsp salt

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Mix the flour, water, and yeast in a bowl. Add the salt and mix, then add the oil. Knead the dough with a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook for 7 minutes until very smooth and elastic. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume.

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Marinara sauce—I’m not ashamed to say I used a jar of spaghetti sauce for this. Oh wait. Yes I am. Ashamed.

Italian sausage links—cooked and sliced

Sweet multicolored baby peppers

2 large or 4 small onions, peeled and thinly sliced

2 pounds white button mushrooms, sliced thick

2 pounds Mozzarella cheese

fresh basil

1 Egg, beaten, for glaze

kosher salt and cracked pepper


Toss the whole baby peppers in 2 tbsp olive oil to coat. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet, making sure not to crowd the peppers. Sprinkle with salt. Roast at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until soft. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cooled, pull off the stem, slide your finger inside the pepper to open it, and remove the seeds. No need to peel the peppers.


In a large heavy pot, sauté the onions on high heat in a little oil till they start to brown. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for a half hour till very soft, caramelized, and brown with an almost creamy texture. Season with salt and pepper.


In a large heavy pot, sauté the mushrooms in a little oil on medium high heat, so that the mushrooms release all their water. Continue cooking until all the water released from the mushrooms evaporates, and the mushrooms are dry and start to brown. Continue cooking until all the mushrooms have nice brown edges.   Wet squishy mushrooms are unpleasant in texture and flavor, so make sure you get them nice and brown. Season with salt.



yes, that’s vegan sausage in the small dish.


Preheat oven to 475 degrees

If you have a pizza stone, place it on the bottom shelf of your oven and preheat it for at least 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 6 equal parts.

Roll one portion into a 8 inch circle

On one half of the dough, layer sausage, mushrooms, onions, peppers, fresh basil, sauce, and cheese. Fold the dough over into a half circle and seal. This seemingly simple task ended up being quite difficult. I think I had too much filling and had trouble getting it to seal well, and they certainly did not look pretty.

Continue until you have formed all 6 calzone.

Brush tops of calzone with egg glaze, then sprinkle with kosher salt and cracked pepper.

Place calzone on parchment lined baking sheet.


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Bake for 18 minutes, testing to see that the dough is cooked through. I like to put the baking sheet right on the baking stone; the heat is conducted right through the metal, and there’s no messy and slightly dangerous task of putting the food directly onto the stone.



All the components of the filling were perfect, but they did not come together to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Next time I recommend:

Crumble the sausage and fry, rather than simmer and slice. The pieces of sausage were too big and not seared.

In attempting to showcase all the filling ingredients, I layered the filling. This layering of cheese and sauce did not allow adequate melding with the other ingredients, so the flavor and texture was not well balanced. Next time I would dump everything in a bowl, mix it up, and place the all-mixed-together filling on the dough.

This dough was not what I expected—the olive oil resulted in a soft bread rather than the chewy, toothsome texture that I wanted for my calzone. Next time I’ll try a different recipe for the dough.

All in all, a good effort, but not a winner this time around.




Today is Big Game

And we are headed for a winning touchdown

in the Cal Zone


Beat Cal!



Vegetarian Kimchi Dumplings


homebody /home-bod-y/ (noun)

a person who likes to stay at home, especially one who is perceived as unadventurous.

All my life I’ve been a homebody. My childhood was spent sitting in the living room with my nose in a book, unless I was watching Gilligan’s Island or The Flying Nun.

Outdoor activities? Nope. Travel? Nope.

I am the master of finding a reason not to do something fun and adventurous. One might say my life is dull, fearful, and unimaginative. I prefer to call it stable, steady, and secure. (And don’t you go to predictable and monotonous. Just don’t go there.) I’m the antithesis of your Disney princess–I don’t want more than This Provincial Life, nor do I want to be Part of your World.

So it is with wonder (as in, I wonder where she came from?) and bemusement that I’ve watched our youngest daughter take every opportunity to travel, adventure outdoors, backpack, SCUBA dive, and did I say travel? The girl has more stamps in her passport than the rest of us combined.

This time my vegetarian happy wanderer returned from a trip to Cambodia. In a foolish and desperate attempt to keep her in our zip code for more than 20 minutes, I made Kimchi Dumplings.

I made up the recipe for this filling. The dough is Andrea Nguyen’s ‘Extra Chewy wrapper” recipe from her book, Asian Dumplings.

 Vegetarian Kimchi Dumplings

½ block firm tofu

a big handful of bean sprouts

2 green onions, trimmed and sliced

half a small bunch of garlic chives (Jiu Cai), rinsed and chopped

5 dried shitake mushrooms, rehydrated in boiling water

1 bundle of dried bean threads

¼ cup kimchi, drained and chopped

1 tsp oyster sauce (technically not vegetarian. sigh.)

2 tsp soy sauce

¼ tsp white pepper

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 tsp sesame oil

Rinse and drain tofu, pressing down to express excess water, then cut into cubes, put it on a dish towel, and press with another dish towel so that it is fairly dry.




Boil the bean sprouts for 5 minutes, then cut into half inch lengths.

Mix the green onions and garlic chives, sprinkle liberally with salt and mix. The chives will start to weep liquid. Dump it onto a clean dish towel, add the bean sprouts, wrap it and twist and squeeze the liquid out so that the vegetables are fairly dry. In this instance, I used golden chives because the market did not have the usually abundant green garlic chives. If you use the green chives, no need for the green onions.

Trim the tough stems from the shitake mushrooms and discard. Finely dice (I use the food processor for this task).

Place the dried bean threads in a bowl of hot water until softened, just a few minutes. Take 1/3 of the bean threads, reserve the remaining 2/3 for another use. Using a pair of scissors, snip the bean threads into half inch lengths.IMG_1360_2

All of your above ingredients should be relatively dry at this point. If your ingredients are wet then the filling will cause the dough to fall apart when you are wrapping. Mix the tofu, bean sprouts/chives, mushrooms, bean threads, and kimchi together. Add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, pepper, ginger, and sesame oil and mix well.



I believe it is now time for a commercial break. I have a confession to make: I bought a new toy.

IMG_1398_2  my new kitchen scale

This was inspired by a book I recently picked up: Ratio by Michael Ruhlman. In it he reveals the universal magic ratios for baking and cooking. A good kitchen scale is mandatory for using these ratios. And so I ask you–Did I Have a Choice?

I love this new toy. NO MORE MEASURING CUPS! Zero the scale. Add the empty bowl. Push “tare”. Add your flour. Push “tare”. Add your rice flour. This worked so beautifully, and the dough turned out to have the correct consistency without me fussing and adding more flour or liquid.

Back to the dumpling wrappers:

7.5 ounces (1 ½ cups) unbleached all purpose flour

2 7/8 ounces (1/2 cup) Mochiko Blue Star brand glutinous (sweet) rice flour

½ tsp salt

¾ cup just boiled water

Stir the flours and salt together. Stir in the hot water to form a pliable dough that is yet firm enough to hold its shape well. Add additional flour if the dough is too wet or soft.

Cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for at least 5 minutes and up to a couple of hours at room temperature. Divide dough in half, keeping unused portion covered to prevent drying. Roll half the dough into a log, and cut log into 16 pieces. With your wooden rolling pin, roll out the dough into a disc, and wrap into a crescent pot sticker shape.


Pan fry as usual (see Feb 17, 2014 “Auntie’s Special Dispensation” or Oct 7, 2014 “Korean Mandu” post for exhaustive if not wearisome description of this all important cooking method).IMG_0072

Make dipping sauce:  of course you have done this in advance.  keeps in the fridge for weeks.

1 part sugar

1 part rice vinegar

1 part soy sauce

Simmer together until sugar is dissolved, let cool to room temperature.  Pour a little into individual dipping bowls and sprinkle with Korean toasted sesame seeds (which are a nice toasty golden brown, and have a more robust appearance than the white sesame seeds found in your grocery store).


Intended vegetarian daughter target audience: “Mama, these are good. They are my favorite vegetarian dumplings so far.”

DH: at first bite: “Uh . . . Is there kimchee in here? They have no taste.”


Second bite: “Oh, much better dipped in the sauce”.

Carnivorous daughter: “Hey mom, good job! These taste as good as the [purchased, mass produced] frozen ones!”

Could I have asked for a more glowing review?

I guess I’ll stay HOME and make some more.