Monday, July 18, 2011
Grilled Pizza (A Summer Staple)
During the summer, our family’s favorite way to prepare pizza is to grill it on the barbecue. The first time Bob and I heard about this we immediately gave it a go and loved the results. I’ve contemplated building a brick oven in the backyard to bake bread and pizza in, but it’s not likely to appear on the “home project to-do list” very soon, if ever (built-in bookcases are our next project). So the barbecue is the next best thing! Charred, crispy crust pizza paired with a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio in the backyard equals extreme happiness for me.
While at Hood Canal this past week, grilled pizza was the dinner choice one evening. As I mentioned previously, we were there visiting close friends and their extended family. Making pizza is a marvelous family activity and everyone can get involved. Cheryl, Chris, Lucy and I headed into town for supplies, dropping Carly and Sam off to run along the Wetlands Trail while we shopped. Since we had a large group to make pizza for, we hoped to find fresh, pre-made dough.
After searching two grocery stores and coming up with only three bags of frozen dough, we ventured into the local pizza place and asked about buying dough. Not only did they have fresh dough for us to purchase, but they offered to stretch the dough for us, too. Chris and I gave an enthusiastic “yes!” since we were getting enough for seven pizzas. The owner also gave us a tutorial on the proper chilling and freezing of the dough, how long to let it sit and rise, and the best method to push out the dough.
Back at the cabin, we popped some bubbly and the prep team began chopping. Judy, Peg and Cheryl assembled platters of sliced tomatoes, baby spinach, sliced mushrooms, sautéed onions, fresh basil, sliced fresh mozzarella and grated Parmesan. This is a terrific way to use up bits of leftover veggies in the fridge!
Chris and Bob got the two barbecues heating and the pizza grilling began. Barbecues vary in their temperatures, so it took a couple of pizzas to get the time and heat mastered. We blackened the bottom of our first pie, but it was still tasty and devoured.
A delectable variety of pizzas came off the grill...classic cheese, mushroom and onion, spinach and tomato with basil and more. My absolute favorite topping, though? Eggs! We cracked eggs laid by Peg and Mike’s backyard hens and let them cook on top of the pizza until the whites just set. When sliced, the vibrant yolks spread around the crust and mixed with the Parmesan, tomatoes and basil beautifully. Big, satisfied sighs! A marvelous team effort resulted in a fun, delicious evening.
Makes 2-14 inch pizzas (or 4-6 smaller pizzas if you prefer individual ones)
2 pounds store bought fresh pizza dough or homemade dough (recipe follows)
10 ounces prepared pizza sauce or homemade sauce (recipe follows)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Olive oil for brushing grill
Topping suggestions (let your creativity flow!):
Sliced onions (raw or sautéed)
Fresh herbs such as basil or oregano
Homemade Pizza Dough
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
4 - 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or sub whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour), plus more for kneading
3 tablespoons olive oil
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the water, sugar and yeast and let sit until foamy and bubbles appear, about 5 minutes. Add salt, 4 cups of flour and olive oil. Stir until smooth. While stirring, gradually add remaining 1/2 cup flour until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl (you may not need all of the flour).
On a floured surface, knead the dough until elastic and smooth, about 5 minutes. This will give you a bit of a workout! Dust with additional flour if needed to keep from getting sticky. Place dough in a large bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm spot for about 1 1/2 hours. You can also cover the bowl with plastic wrap and pop it into the refrigerator overnight. Just be sure to remove it in time for the dough to return to room temperature.
Divide the dough in half and knead lightly. Stretch and roll each piece of dough until it forms a rough circle or rectangle, about 14 inches across (ours are always quite rustic and free form). Transfer to a lightly floured baking sheet to transport to the barbecue. If you prefer individual pizzas, divide the dough into smaller portions and press out.
Quick Tomato Pizza Sauce
From Cook’s Illustrated
Makes about 1 1/2 cups (you will have extra sauce leftover)
1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a food processor, whiz the crushed tomatoes until smooth.
Heat garlic and oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until garlic is sizzling, about 40 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, bring to simmer and cook, uncovered, until sauce thickens enough to coat wooden spoon, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat your barbecue on high. When ready to start the pizzas, lower the heat to medium. Brush the barbecue with olive oil (using a scrunched up paper towel held with tongs) and lay the pizza dough on the grill for about 4-5 minutes to lightly cook that side. Check frequently to make sure it isn’t burning. It should have grill marks and be lightly golden. If it’s browning too quickly, turn your heat down a bit.
When ready, use tongs to flip the dough. Brush on a thin layer of sauce and add the toppings of your choice. Be sure to thinly scatter the toppings to avoid your pizza being too soft and heavy. Close the cover and let cook until cheese is melted and the bottom is golden brown, another 5 minutes or so.
Slide onto a cutting board, slice and serve. You’ve got yourself a pizza party!