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Meat- or veggie-filled pastries will raise your game

OK, I admit it: Anytime I’ve endured a session of making pie pastry, my kitchen counter and everything within a 5-foot radius resembles the aftermath of a Pillsbury Bake-Off.

But messy kitchen aside, if you’re willing to consider the concept this summer, an entire genre of portable fare will open up to you. I’m speaking of meat- or vegetable-filled pastries. Savory enclosed pies. Portly pockets.

They make great portable fare for picnics and hikes. Indeed, nothing gift-wraps a dish more elegantly than pastry. And every country has its crusty specialties, from the robust Italian calzone and flavorful Russian piroshki to the more mild-mannered Cornish pastries.

Timberline Lodge Kraut Kunchen

Makes 6 entree servings or 12 appetizer servings

1 cup milk, heated to lukewarm

½ cup warm water (90 to 100 degrees)

1½ teaspoons dry yeast

2 teaspoons sugar

4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1¼ cups ground beef

½ cup chopped onion

4 cups chopped green cabbage

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Maggi seasoning to taste

About 2 teaspoons chicken base

Sweet Hot Russian Mustard (see note below)

Combine the milk and hot water, then sprinkle on the yeast and sugar. Let the mixture sit until it bubbles and foams, 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in 3 cups of the flour, the salt and the butter, then turn out onto a floured board and knead in enough of the remaining flour to achieve a smooth and elastic dough. This should take about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, brown the beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Part way through the cooking, spoon off all but about 1 tablespoon of the drippings, add the onion, and continue to cook until the onion is tender and transparent. Add the cabbage, pepper, Maggi seasoning and chicken base, stirring to mix well; adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. (Note: The filling may be prepared up to 48 hours ahead and refrigerated; bring to room temperature to use.)

For entree-size portions, divide the dough into 6 parts. On a floured board with a floured rolling pin, roll out each part into a 10-inch round. Place a heaping ½ cup of filling on one half of each round. For appetizer-size portions, divide the dough into 12 parts and roll out each part into a 5-inch round. Place a heaping ¼ cup of filling on half of each round. To seal the rounds, dip your finger into a glass of water or milk and rub the edge. Fold the dough over the filling and seal firmly by pinching or pressing down with the tines of a fork.

Bake at 350 degrees until the pastries are a nice golden brown, about 30 minutes for the entree size, 20 minutes for the appetizer size. Serve hot or chilled with the Sweet Hot Russian Mustard.

Note on Sweet Hot Russian Mustard: If you can’t find a good one, stir in a tablespoon or so of brown sugar into about ½ cup of a fine-quality Dijon-style mustard.

— Recipe from former Timberline executive chef Leif Erik Benson.


Makes 18 servings (9 as an entree or 18 as a side dish to soup or salad)

Considered a Russian or Jewish specialty, these mushroom-laden morsels are worth the extra effort it will take to make them.

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup (1 cube) well chilled butter, cut into 12 pieces

4 ounces cream cheese

2 medium-size white or red new potatoes, unpeeled

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons finely minced yellow onion

2 shallots, finely minced

¾ pound mushrooms, finely minced

1/3 cup Madeira wine

½ teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

About 3 tablespoons heavy cream

Sweet Hot Russian Mustard for dipping

A good quality German whole-grain mustard for dipping

Place the flour in a food processor. Add the chilled butter pieces and cut into the flour by pulsing until the butter is coarsely chopped. Add the cream cheese and continue to pulse in short, quick spurts until the mixture forms a ball that holds its shape.

With lightly floured hands, on a lightly floured work surface, pat the dough into a round, wrap in plastic and refrigerate about 1 hour.

While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling. Boil the unpeeled potatoes until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and dice enough of the potatoes into ¼-inch cubes to measure about 1½ cups. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and shallots and cook briefly over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until all of the liquid that is released from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 15 to 20 minutes. Once the mushrooms are darkened and dry, add the Madeira, thyme, salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick again, about 10 more minutes. Stir in the potatoes, then adjust the seasonings. Let the mixture cool thoroughly before using.

Roll the dough on a floured work surface to about ¼-inch thickness. Cut into 6-inch circles. Continue rolling and cutting the scraps to create as many circles as you can. You should end up with about 18 circles.

To fill, place a spoonful of the cooled filling off-center on each circle, moisten the edges of the pastry circles with a bit of water, then fold the circle in half over the filling, pressing the edges together firmly to seal. To create a firm seal, crimp all around the edges with the tines of a fork.

Arrange the piroshki on ungreased baking sheets and brush the tops with the heavy cream. Bake at 400 degrees until golden, about 25 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature, with the two hearty mustards.

NOTE: The piroshki may be prepared ahead in two different phases. The filling and/or dough may be prepared up to 48 hours ahead, for example, before proceeding with the filling and baking. Or the piroshki may be prepared, baked, then refrigerated for up to 48 hours ahead of time (reheat in a 400-degree oven for about 10 minutes). Frozen piroshki should be thawed before reheating.

No-Excuses Calzone with Choice of Three Fillings

Makes about 6 calzones.

Recipes for calzone typically require that you make a pizza dough, which isn’t a big deal, but does mean time spent kneading the dough and waiting through a rising or two. In my version, your only major step is to obtain a glob of already-prepared pizza dough; either in the refrigerator section of your favorite market or at your pizza parlor. From there, it’s a breeze.

1 “large-sized" glob of pizza dough

1 batch of the filling of your choice (recommendations follow)

Divide the dough into six equal parts and knead each into a ball. Roll each ball into a circle or oval about ¼-inch thick. Place a slightly rounded ¼ cup of filling onto one side of each round (or arrange the appropriate filling ingredients on the dough as directed below), then carefully fold and stretch the other side of the dough over the filling. Crimp the edges firmly with the tines of a fork. Prick it with the fork in a few choice spots around the top, then place on a baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving to let the calzones settle down a bit (they’re very hot).

Note on fillings: Besides the two recommendations that follow, some popular choices for filling calzones are sauteed Italian sausage and a seasoned tomato sauce, sauteed mushrooms, chopped and sauteed onions and spinach or basil, chopped olives, cooked chicken, shredded cheeses, cooked bacon ... basically, if you’ve seen it on a pizza menu, it will taste good in a calzone.

For pesto filling:

½ to 1 cup prepared pesto (homemade or commercially prepared)

2 cups ricotta cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Combine the ingredients. This is enough filling for 6 calzone. Proceed as above for general directions on sealing and baking the calzone.

For provolone filling:

3 tablespoons olive oil

5 medium cloves garlic, minced

½ cup fine bread crumbs

¾ pound provolone cheese, grated

2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, sliced

Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the oil and garlic in a small dish. Brush each circle of dough with this mixture. Add a little extra oil if you run short. Sprinkle each round of dough with about 1 tablespoon of bread crumbs, then a handful of cheese. Arrange a tomato slice or two on top; sprinkle with more crumbs, and grind on some black pepper. Proceed as above for general directions on sealing and baking the calzone.

— Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist, and author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit,” and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at janrd@proaxis.com, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.