These days, most of us aren’t hosting dinner parties or meeting friends at our favorite restaurants. We’re greeting friends at the park or on the beach for socially distanced picnics.
Sandwiches, paradigms of the hand-held genre, are well and good for a picnic, but there are so many other highly portable, satisfying recipes. Buns and flatbreads travel well, require no utensils, are equally good warm or at room temperature and are even excellent the next day (or the day after that). You might even share them with your friends someday.
Enthusiasm for hand-held foods is nothing new. As long as people have been eating, they’ve found ways to make nourishing food portable. Consider, for example, the knish carts that once dotted Coney Island. Think about yakitori, hot dogs or kati rolls. Or better yet, calzones, piroshki and pide.
In this recipe for calzones, mozzarella, basil pesto and tomatoes are united again. The tomatoes are roasted, which concentrates their end-of-summer flavor. Too much moisture can make the interior of a calzone soggy, so there’s also a practical reason to roast, just as there’s a practical reason to opt for a firmer whole-milk mozzarella over a milky one you might use in a caprese salad. A hot oven ensures a crispy crust, and a pizza stone helps, too, if you have one.
Pide (pronounced pea-DAY), a flatbread popular in Turkey, is built on a base of sturdy yeasted dough. The topping is spiced ground lamb — you can substitute ground beef — as well as cubes of eggplant, which become silky and slumped when cooked. Before the topping is piled on, a swipe of egg-enriched yogurt is laid down between the dough and meat, becoming almost cheeselike when baked.
The plush egg-and-butter enriched piroshki dough is sweeter and softer than the calzone or pide dough. Versions of piroshki are prepared throughout Eastern Europe, but here, they are made with a cabbage, feta and dill filling, which is both sweet and savory. Slow-cooking the ribbons of cabbage in lots of butter coaxes out the vegetable’s natural sugars, the feta provides briny contrast and a load of fresh dill gives the combination a brilliant vibrancy.
Try all of these first with the suggested fillings and toppings. But don’t be surprised when your mind wanders and remembers the leftovers in your fridge.
Could you fill piroshki with shredded barbecued chicken? Spiced mashed potatoes? Could you cram a calzone with broccoli and Cheddar? Would pide dough make a nice vehicle for sautéed sausage, peppers, and onions? Anything is possible, but one thing’s for certain: In a world that feels out of hand, you may as well eat that way, too.