Summer funtime: Grilled Pizza
Over Memorial Day weekend, Dan and I packed up with two of our good friends and our two favorite dogs and trundled our way up to New Hampshire, where we were renting a house that I became particularly fond of on a particular trip last Summer. Maybe the weather wasn’t quite as great this time, and maybe there were mosquitoes the size of my face, but still it was a pretty magical weekend. Something about being in the woods, where you can’t realy hear civilization (save the occasional Harley buzzing by on the main road about a half mile away), and where you can see all the stars while huddled around the campfire (not for the warmth, but for the mosquito protection provided by billowing smoke, this time) toasting marshmallows – something about all that escape is just what I need every once in a while.
And this time was no different! Instead of swimming (the water was still a *wee* bit cold), we hiked. Our friends Seth and Christine went on a big hike (they did a few peaks – the big ones) and we went on a little hike. Our hike was a lame piddly little one, by hiking standards, but we’re not Hikers, so it was enough for us. Along the way we saw beautiful wildflowers, including several kinds of orchids, chipmunks, old stone walls (who thought it was a good idea to farm up there? I couldn’t help but think about Ethan Frome.), and one particularly cute spotted brown frog. That’s a lot of nature for us city mice.
And in the evenings we cooked, as I’m wont to do. The triumph of this trip was grilled pizza. Now, I don’t have a grill. I could count the times I’ve grilled anything on one hand (excluding all the disposable grills I used up in Germany), but I do find the idea rather appealing. In fact, if we had a reasonable place for one (I’m guessing the roof is a bad idea), I would want to own one right away.
Anyway, I made grilled pizza. It was a perfect Summer evening meal! I made the dough in the morning, let it rest in the fridge all day, and while my
minions friends lit the grill and preheated it, I prepped the toppings. With the help of some delicious cheese from the Sandwich Creamery it was among the more delicious meals I’ve ever cooked. Here’s what happened.
Pizza Dough (adapted from Ratio – BUY THIS BOOK)
- 2 c flour
- 3/4 c water
- 1 t salt
- 1/2 t instant yeast
- 1 oz olive oil
- Mix all, let rise in fridge over night or all day.
- Let rise at room temp for about an hour before shaping.
Toppings – this isn’t a recipe as such, and you should feel free to improvise as you like!
- Caramelized onions, bacon, and mushrooms: Cook chopped bacon til crisp, then remove to paper towel to drain. Discard all but about 1 T bacon grease. Cook thinly sliced onions on medium-low heat until caramelized (i.e. dark brown and quite soft). Remove onions to and combine with bacon in a bowl. Then cook sliced mushrooms (with a sprinkle of salt) until soft. The juices released by the mushrooms will deglaze the pan. Combine with onions and bacon, season with salt and lots of black pepper and set aside.
- Shaved green vegetables: Chop two cloves of garlic and drown in 2 T olive oil. Set aside. Using a peeler, shave a pile of asparagus and a large zucchini. Throw in some chopped broccoli. (Peas would be great too!) Sear all of this in a hot pan just for a minute or two. Toss with garlic and oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Mozzarella – bog-standard shredded mozzarella will do.
- Crushed tomatoes – I used canned, but chopped fresh would also be delicious.
- Sandwich Creamery Garlic fresh cheese – if you don’t live in Sandwich, NH (and if you don’t, you should work toward remedying that, if only for the sake of the Creamery), a similar effect could be achieved by processing fresh garlic with ricotta or, if you want a stronger taste, goat cheese, in a food processor until smooth. Adjust salt level.
Assemble and Grill the beasts:
- Again, not really a recipe, but a how-to. First, preheat your grill. Or have someone else do it, who knows what they’re doing. You want it really pretty hot.
- Take your pizza dough out of the fridge. Let it hang out near the stove while you prep your ingredients.
- Prep your ingredients (see above or improvise).
- Shape your pizza dough. Feel free to toss it in the air. You know you want to. Just don’t. drop. it.
- I shaped mine into rough rectangles and pressed them into a cookie sheet. Two things: 1. you will want them to be good and covered in olive oil – both sides. 2. You can stack multiple pizza dough by layering oily plastic wrap between them. I recommend this. In fact, put some underneath your first pizza dough as well. I’ll tell you why in a minute.
- Tote all your pizza makings to the grill. Have a grill-ready spatula handy. You’ll need it.
- Place your first pizza dough on the grill. This is the scary part. But I made an Important Discovery. If you use the plastic wrap as a kind of peel-off backing to the dough, you can put it on the grill and it will retain its shape. To do this, peel your top dough off the bottom dough using the plastic wrap to pick it up. Place the dough PLASTIC SIDE UP on the grill and swiftly pull the plastic wrap off. The heat from the grill will keep the dough in place and you won’t burn yourself trying to prod the dough into a vaguely pizza-like shape.
- Important to remember: the grill only heats from the bottom, so don’t count on your cheese getting all bubbly and brown on top of the other toppings. You have to do the toppings in an un-orthodox order. So, first cook the dough until the first side is good and grilled (you should see rather dark grill marks on the back if you pick up the edge with your spatula). Flip it over – don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds. Give it a minute to grill the other side of the dough, but don’t wait too long before putting the CHEESE ON FIRST. That way it’ll have time to melt.
- When the cheese gets a little melty, throw on your other toppings. Then close the grill for a couple minutes to make sure they have a chance to heat up. Finally remove the pizza to a cutting board (you should bring one of those out to the grill with you), slice up and enjoy. Repeat with your second pizza.
- For our pizzas, I combined the garlic fresh cheese with the caramelized onion/bacon/mushroom topping for one of the most delicious creations I’ve ever come up with and combined the mozzarella and crushed tomatoes with the shaved green vegetables for a very light and summery pizza. Also delicious, but it really did pale in comparison to the other one.