The Feast Day of San Crispino
Every year on October 25, in the Puglian town of Acquaviva delle Fonte, the Feast of San Crispino is celebrated with a Sagra del Calzone, a huge calzone festival. The star of the day is a particular calzone filled with ricotta, sauteed red onion, a local, sweet variety called Tropea, roasted tomatoes, and black olives, all cooked in wood burning ovens.
San Crispino was born in the 3rd century of noble Roman birth, but became a cobble so he could relate to the common people. He is often depicted holding or making shoes. He is the patron Saint of cobblers, tanners, and all leather workers and as a result has been adopted by groups as diverse as equestrians and people who just like to wear leather, such as the Hell’s Angels. What this all has to do with calzones is somewhat of a mystery, but the calzone has been a feast day symbol in Italy for decades. It’s a delicious and convenient street food, perfect to eat while strolling and shopping, since many faithful buy a new pair of shoes each year on San Crispino’s feast day.
Since it’s hard to find Tropea onions in the U.S., I made a version of this calzone using leeks, which are in season now at many greenmarkets.
Calzone with Spiced Leeks, Ricotta, and Roasted Tomatoes
(Makes two large calzones)
For the dough:
1 cup warm water (approximately 110 degrees)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 package active dry yeast
A generous pinch of salt
2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
For the filling:
2 pints of grape tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
5 medium leeks, using only the tender white and very light green parts
A pinch of sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper
A splash of dry Marsala
1/2 cups whole milk ricotta, drained if watery
1/2 cup grated grana padano cheese
A handful of flat leaf parsley, leaves lightly chopped
Plus, about ½ cup of corn meal
For the dough:
Pour the warm water and olive oil into a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and the salt over the water and give it a stir. Let stand for about 5 minutes to give the yeast a chance to develop. Add 1 cup of the flour and stir well. Mix in 1 more cup of the flour to form a sticky ball.
Transfer the dough to a well floured surface, leaving behind any crumbly bits that have not been incorporated. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding a bit more flour if needed to prevent sticking. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat the dough in oil, and cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel. Let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour or so.
Punch the dough down and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Form each into a ball. Transfer the dough balls onto a floured work surface and let them rise again for about 15 minutes.
While the dough is going through it’s first rising, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the tomatoes on a sheet pan. Drizzle them with olive oil and season with a little salt. Mix them around with your hands until they’re well coated. Roast until lightly browned and just starting to burst, about 12 minutes. Take them from the oven and let them cool a bit.
I a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, sugar, cloves, bay leaf, salt, and some black pepper. Sauté until the leeks are just starting to turn very lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Add the splash of Marsala and let it bubble away. Remove from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
In a medium bowl combine the ricotta, the grana padano, and the parsley, seasoning it with a little salt and black pepper.
Place a pizza stone in the oven and turn the heat up to 500 degrees.
On a floured work surface, roll one of the dough balls out to an approximately 11 inch round. Sprinkle a pizza peel or baking sheet with a little cornmeal and slide the dough onto it. Spoon half of the ricotta mixture on one half of the dough, heaving a 1 inch margin. Top with half of the leeks and half of the tomatoes. Fold the dough over to form a half moon shape and pinch the edges together, making little tucks to close it well. Poke a few holes in the top to let out stem. Brush the top lightly with olive oil.
Slide the calzone onto the pizza stone and bake for about 18 minutes, or until golden. Serve hot or warm. Make another calzone exactly the same way.
Dining with the Saints is a monthly column written by Erica De Mane. To see more of her recipes, please go to http://www.ericademane.com, her own food blog.