Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pizza on the Grill

A pizza on the grill
It's time for us to share with you one of our favorite summer meals for a gathering of friends.  It's easy, versatile, and your guests do a lot of the meal preparation for you!  I hesitate to include a recipe for pizza, since we all have our own preferred methods for crust and toppings, so please consider these ones as just suggestions.  The method here that should most concern you is cooking pizza on an outdoor grill.  If you've never done it before, give it a try!  It's quicker than the oven and doesn't heat up your house on a summer evening.  Also, it's fun!

The following is the crust recipe that I use; I think whole wheat flour gives it added flavor, and I also appreciate how well this more substantial dough holds up on the grill.  Pizza crust has more yeast in it than most bread doughs, so its rising and resting times are pretty short, making it a reasonably practical weeknight project (it also freezes well, by the way).  Using a stand mixer to do the kneading for you makes things even easier, but even if you do it by hand, we're only talking about a difference of ten minutes or so.  However, for the shortest distance between cooking and eating, consider stopping in at your local pizza restaurant and asking if they'll sell you a crust or two; most places will, for just a few dollars.  Take it home, fire up the grill, and you're there.

adapted from the recipe collection of Jane Weaver

makes 2 12-inch crusts

1 cup lukewarm water
1 package yeast
blob of honey
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt

Put warm water, yeast, and honey into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, or any large bowl.  Stir briefly, then allow yeast to dissolve for a few minutes.  Add oil and stir briefly again.  Combine flours and salt in a separate, medium-sized bowl, then add to yeast mixture and stir to combine.

If you're using a stand mixer, knead on low speed (I use speed #2) for ten minutes, or until dough has climbed the hook.  If you're kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead for ten minutes.  Then, form the dough into a ball and place it in a large, lightly-oiled bowl, making sure to swish it around so that the ball of dough is coated in oil.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let rise 1 hour.

After an hour, punch down the dough with wet hands and pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Place dough on a board, sheet pan, or large plate, and cut into two equal pieces.  Form each piece into a ball, and place on a lightly oiled sheet pan or plate, once again making sure to coat the ball of dough with oil (this stops it from drying out while it rests).  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise another 20 minutes.
If you don't have a table, the tailgate
of a pickup works just fine for pizza preparation.

After 20 minutes, using floured hands, stretch or roll each ball into a circle about 12" in diameter, and place on a peel or cutting board liberally sprinkled with cornmeal.  Now it's ready to slide off onto the grill!

from the backyard of Jake & Emma

pizza crust dough of your choice
toppings of your choice
a medium-hot grill (we have a charcoal grill, but I don't see why a gas one wouldn't work)

Some ideas for toppings that one might find at a local farmstand:
Tomato Sauce
Eggplant and/or Summer Squash: sliced thinly lengthwise, sprinkled with olive oil and coarse salt, and grilled until soft
Sliced Tomatoes
Fresh Basil or Basil Pesto
Green or Colored Peppers: sliced thinly and briefly sauteed
Sliced Scallions
Sweet Corn: steamed and kernels cut off the cob -- our neighbors at Village Farm have great sweet corn!
Melty Cheeses and Browned Sausage -- check out the selection at Lawrenceville's own Cherry Grove Farm

Topping one pizza;
a second crust ready to be topped.
So, you've got your crust, you've got your toppings, your grill is hot, you're ready to go.  Remember, you've just stretched out your first ball of dough and it's sitting on a peel or cutting board (or the back of a sheet pan) which has been liberally sprinkled with cornmeal.  Carefully slide the crust off of the peel and directly onto the grill, taking care not to let it collapse or fold (a spatula is helpful here, to get the front edge started off the peel).  Cover the grill and cook for a few minutes, not more than five, until the underside is browned and has some grill marks -- use your spatula to lift up an edge and look at the bottom of the crust.  Then slide it back onto the peel and take it off the grill.
A local Latin teacher slides a finished
pizza onto the grill.

Now, to top your pizza!  Place the crust, cooked side up, on another cornmeal-sprinkled board, and layer your toppings onto the grilled side.  Remember that the topped pizza will only be on the grill for a few minutes, not long enough to cook any of your toppings, so make sure they're cooked ahead of time.  Slide the finished pizza back onto the grill, and cook, covered, until the second side is browned.  Remove to a cutting board, and repeat the process with the rest of your dough.

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