Thursday, February 12, 2009

Whole-wheat calzone, with mushrooms and blue cheese

For a long time, I was scared of calzone — probably because of my tendency to make the fillings too liquidy (which resulted in a lot of leakage), my tendency to work too much flour into the dough, making it hard to seal (which resulted in even more leakage), and my terrible belief — no doubt due to being brought up in the midwest — that cottage cheese is an acceptable substitute for ricotta (again, resulting in lots of leakage).

Tonight, though, I managed to make decent ones. Since I had actual ricotta, I figured I could make gourmet calzones for the adults and ones just filled with scoops of ricotta for the kids, but this turned out to be overly optimistic — S didn't like the tanginess. Oh, well. As with many last-minute inventions, I didn't measure carefully, so use your judgement if you're going to use this recipe. I used about a quart of mushrooms and half of a largish onion, and it made enough filling for 5 of the 8 calzone (the rest I filled with a couple of scoops each of ricotta). As with any dough, the exact proportions will depend on the humidity, etc., so you might want to start with a little less flour and work it in as needed (though these exact proportions worked perfectly for me tonight). These would probably be more "authentic" with gorgonzola, but I made them with some Irish "ballyblue" I had on hand and they were still tasty.

Calzone dough
2 cups white whole wheat flours
3 cups white flour
1 1/2 TBSP (2 packages) yeast
1 TBSP salt
2 cups lukewarm water (I microwave 2 cups of cold water for 2 minutes)

Whisk together all the ingredients except the water, then pour the water in and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy dough. Turn out onto the counter and knead for 10-12 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding extra flour as necessary to keep from sticking. Grease a bowl lightly with olive oil and put dough in to rise for 1 hour or so.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

Mushrooms (I used crimini, but white button should be fine), cut into 1/4" dice
Onions, minced fairly fine
olive oil
thyme (dried or fresh)
salt & pepper

Heat some olive oil over medium-high heat, add the onions and thyme and sauté until softened but not quite browned. Add the mushrooms, salt & pepper and cook until nicely browned — they will release a bunch of liquid, but cook until it is nearly evaporated. Mushrooms will be a lot smaller than they were originally.

Punch down the dough, knead briefly, and cut into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into an 8-10 inch circle, and place a mound of filling on the lower half of the dough. Top the filling with some crumbled blue cheese. Dip your fingers into some water and wet the outer edge of the dough, then fold over to make a half-moon shape. Pinch the dough together well and cut a slit in the top. Place each on a baking sheet well-dusted with cornmeal.

Let the calzone rise for 30-45 minutes while preheating the oven to 425. Once they are risen, bake for about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Report from 2006 World Social Forum (re-post)

This was original published (in print only) in the February, 2006 issue of the UE News. I am posting it now because Armando Robles, one of the UE delegation from that WSF trip three years ago, was one of the leaders of the plant occupation at Republic Windows and Doors last December, and just recently visited Vermont as part of the Resistance and Recovery Tour.

In January, three rank and file UE members — myself, Angaza Laughinghouse (Local 150), and Armando Robles (Local 1110) — travelled to Caracas, Venezuela to attend the sixth World Social Forum (WSF). The WSF is an annual gathering of trade unionists, community organizations and other social movements who oppose corporate globalization. The goal of the WSF is to promote a globalization based on solidarity, justice and peace, one that creates jobs rather than destroys them and improves the lives of working people. The UE has been repesented at every WSF since the second one, in 2002. As in previous years, we were part of a broader delegation of U.S. grassroots organizations organized by Grassroots Global Justice.


This year, the WSF was hosted by the pro-worker government in Venezuela. While much of the media coverage of Venezuela has focused on President Hugo Chavez, there is in fact a much broader process of social change going on in Venezuela, known variously as "the Bolivarian Revolution," "the Revolution," or simply "the process." Virtually all of the working-class people we met were supporters of the revolution, though a few were critical of Chavez personally.

There is no doubt that this process is benefiting the working people of Venezuela. While many speak of the process as being a "revolution," it is peaceful and democratic. There is no political repression — indeed, the opposition flourishes in wealthier areas, owns all of the private press and media, and in fact organized a large (and extremely well-dressed) anti-WSF march at the beginning of our time there. The "process" seems to primarily consist of using government resources to assist communities and workplaces with self-organization, whether it is around jobs, health care, education, public safety or other concerns. As a result, the access to health care, quality of education, level of public safety and so forth seem to be improving throughout Venezuela, in marked contrast to the U.S. where we are constantly fighting defensive battles. Furthermore, what we in the UE would call "rank and file control" is a central principle of this process; a common slogan was "the revolution is giving power to the people." The new provision of services in neighborhoods is directed by neighborhood committees, and, most inspiringly, factories and other workplaces closed by their owners are being re-opened by the workers (see below).


For many decades, workers in Venezuela have been represented almost exclusively by a labor federation known as CTV (Venezuelan Confederation of Labor), which was and is corrupt, undemocratic and tightly connected to both employers and the old political parties (before Chavez was elected, politics in Venezuela were controlled by a two-party system very much like our own, with both parties representing bosses' interests). The CTV is extremely hostile to Chavez, and was involved in both the Bush-instigated coup against Chavez in April of 2002 and the "general strike" (really a general lockout called by employers) which attempted to force Chavez from power later that year. It is one of the few labor federations in the world enthusiastically supported by the Bush Administration.

In the last five years or so, rank and file workers have created a new labor federation, the UNT (National Union of Workers), which has become the dominant federation in the private sector and has also recently gained the affiliation of the key construction unions. In contract to the CTV, debate and discussion flourish inside the UNT; while the UNT membership is overwhelming in favor of "the process," there is a vigorous debate over whether the labor movement should be close to Chavez or strive for political independence.

Another issue of great discussion and debate in the UNT is "co-management," the process by which many closed factories and other workplaces in Venezuela are being re-opened under worker control. We met an electrical utility worker from the UNT who could barely contain his pride that he and his co-workers were now running the shop without bosses. "We run it now," he said.


At a workshop co-organized by UE and the Southwest Workers' Union (SWU), which represents school support staff workers in southern Texas, WSF delegates from Venezuela, Colombia, Europe and the U.S. heard Local 150 Executive Board member Angaza Laughinghouse describe the struggle of public sector workers in the U.S. South for collective bargaining rights through the International Worker Justice Campaign. At another workshop organized by SWU on the general issue of workers' rights in the U.S., Armando Robles (Local 1110) also described the struggle of workers at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago for a democratic union.

Participants from other countries, who often hear the U.S. government defend its military adventures or interventions against pro-worker governments like Venezuela's with rhetoric about "democracy" and "rights" were shocked and appalled to hear how the U.S. denies the basic democratic right of collective bargaining to millions of workers. All three of us were also interviewed by a radio journalist from Quebec, who broadcast a story about the U.S. denial of collective bargaining rights over the WSF's own radio station while we were there and also recorded a program to be played on Montreal radio when she returned.


We all returned inspired by how workers in Venezuela, and throughout Latin America, are organizing and making improvements in their living and working standards. We were also impressed at how clearly they saw that American workers were not their enemies, but their brothers and sisters in a struggle to improve the lives of all workers, even though our government has been working to undermine their achievements. We returned committed to telling the truth about how Chavez's democratic revolution is benefitting the workers of Venezuela, and to prevent Bush from intervening in Venezuela.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Roasted salsify soup with black bean-garlic oil

I had some salsify on hand from the winter farm share, and was trying to think of something interesting to do with them. Since its taste is vaguely reminiscent of oysters, I started thinking along the lines of great seafood dishes, and eventually hit on Chinese clams with black bean sauce.

This soup had a great mouthfeel — the creamy richness of pureed root-vegetable soup, broken up by the varied textures in the garnish: crispy salsify-ends, spongy black beans, and, well, mushroom-y shiitake mushrooms, all bathed in a rich garlicy olive oil.

I started basically with Oven Roasted Salsify Soup. If you've got salsify that are quite large at one end but taper at the other end, then roasting them whole presents a bit of a problem — after 30 minutes the tapered ends were charring but the large ends haven't cooked through. Not a big deal; just chop them up and finish cooking in the soup water (takes longer, of course). I found that the roasted salsify, combined with the garnish, was flavorful enough to be able to use water rather than stock in making the soup.

The amounts are pretty inexact. I used two hulking salsify (the biggest ones I've ever seen in fact), each the size of a large juice carrot, supplemented by one medium-sized potato, and it made two servings each of which was a light lunch.

A good amount of salsify roots, or mixture of salsify and potatoes
a few dried shiitake mushrooms (1 for every two servings)
about 1 clove of garlic per serving, minced
about 1 TBSP of fermented black beans per serving, chopped but not too finely
plenty of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel salsify (and potatoes, if using), toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in small baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cover the shiitake mushroom with hot water and let soak.

3. Mince the garlic and chop the black beans a bit, but not too much. Combine with plenty of extra-virgin olive oil (remember, you're making a flavored oil, not sautéing something) in a small saucepan. About 10 minutes before the salsify come out of the oven, place saucepan on lowest possible heat.

4. Remove salsify from the oven and chop. Tapered small ends will be crispy; chop these fairly small and reserve for garnish. Chop remainder of salsify into 1" pieces and put in pan with water to cover; bring to a boil.

5. Drain and mince shiitakes, reserving the soaking liquid. Add the minced shiitakes to the black bean-garlic oil; strain the soaking liquid through a coffee filter and add to soup.

6. If the salsify were cooked through in the oven, you can puree the soup as soon as it comes to a boil. Otherwise cover and simmer until salsify pieces are completely tender.

7. Puree the soup in a blender (or use an immersion blender, which is way easier). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into serving bowls.

8. Add reserved salsify bits to black bean-garlic oil, stir to combine, then scoop out some solids from the oil to make a mound in the center of each bowl. Drizzle remaining oil over soup.