En español | I've written before about our family's love of pizza. We crave it year-round, but summer always presents a challenge. No one wants the kitchen heated by an oven cranked to the blistering 500 degrees needed to get the pizza good and crisp.
I've solved our problem by taking the whole cooking process — including the sauce — out to the grill.
Most people think making dough is hard. It's not. Really. As long as you have a food processor, even a pokey cook can have dough in the bowl in about 10 minutes. I think homemade pizza dough is worth the short time investment, but if you don't, simply pick up a package of store-bought pizza dough.
Making dough is simple; stretching it can be frustrating. Cooks often mistakenly punch down and knead the risen dough before trying to stretch it, not realizing that the gluten, which was relaxed in its risen state, has now seized up and stubbornly refuses to stretch. Until it relaxes again, which can take 15 to 20 minutes, it's like trying to get a stretched rubber band to stay in place. For supple, easy-to-stretch dough, gently turn the risen ball onto a flour-coated work surface and cut and stretch it. It'll be like putty in your hands.
The stretched dough will end up in irregular shapes — but I like those rustic-looking free-form pizzas. When the grill is good and hot, you'll lay the dough directly on the grill until it's spotty brown. (Note: My dough recipe makes eight little pizzas; you can grill them all, then freeze four, or double the veggies and other ingredients to make all eight.)
You can grill the vegetables while the dough is rising, but I prefer to get the dough grilling done first. Then I simultaneously grill the vegetables and cook the tomatoes (the sauce) in the preheated skillet. Both should be done in just eight to 10 minutes, at which point you're ready to assemble and grill the pizzas. As for cheese, I use just enough — an ounce per person — to add a little flavor and glue the vegetables onto the grilled dough.
Grilled-Vegetable Grilled Pizza
Serves 4 as a main course
- 1/2 recipe Simple Pizza Dough (see below) or 1 pound store-bought dough
- Cornmeal for sprinkling
- 1 medium each: zucchini, eggplant and sweet onion, trimmed and sliced*
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 ounces (about 1 cup) grated mozzarella, smoked if you can find it
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
*To ensure zucchini slices don't fall through the grill grate, slice them on the diagonal.
First: Make Simple Pizza Dough (see below). When dough is ready, turn all burners of a gas grill on high until very hot, about 10 minutes. Without punching or kneading dough (which makes stretching more difficult), turn dough onto a heavily floured surface. Using a dough scraper or sharp knife, halve the dough, reserving half for another time (or, if you have a large group, double the rest of the ingredients to make 8 pizzas instead of 4). Quarter the remaining dough crosswise. Working one at a time, stretch each portion into a rustic 12-by-3-1/2-to-4-inch rectangle; transfer to a large cornmeal-coated baking sheet.
Carefully lift stretched pieces of dough onto hot grill rack. Cover and grill until bottoms are spotty brown, moving them around to ensure even cooking and piercing the puffing dough as necessary, every 2 to 3 minutes, depending on heat intensity. Turn pizzas over and continue to grill until spotty brown on remaining side, for 2 to 3 minutes longer. Remove from grill and set aside. Set a medium ovenproof (no plastic handles) skillet on the grill to heat.
Meanwhile, toss vegetables with 1 tablespoon of oil and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. Toss tomatoes with remaining tablespoon of oil and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. Turn tomatoes into hot skillet. Place onion, eggplant and zucchini slices on the grill. Cover and grill until vegetables are spotty brown on one side, for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn vegetables over and give tomatoes a stir. Cover and continue to grill until vegetables are spotty brown on remaining side. Remove vegetables and tomatoes from grill. Reduce all grill burners to low heat.
Top each pizza with a portion of the tomatoes, smashing them to release their juices, followed by a portion of vegetables and cheese. Return pizzas to grill; cover and continue to grill until pizzas are crisp and cheese has melted. Transfer to a cutting board; sprinkle with Parmesan, cut into pieces and serve.
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Simple Pizza Dough
Makes a scant 2 pounds or 8 small pizzas
- 1/2 cup warm water and 11/4 cup tap water
- 1 envelope active dry yeast (or 2 teaspoons)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cups bread flour
- 2 teaspoons table salt
- Cornmeal for baking sheets
Measure 1/2 cup warm water in a 2-cup measuring cup. Whisk yeast into water; let stand until it bubbles, for about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1-1/4 cups of water (for 1-3/4 cups total) and oil to yeast mixture. Meanwhile, pulse flour and salt in a large food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pour liquid ingredients over flour; pulse to form a rough soft ball. Continue to process until dough is smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds longer. Turn dough onto a floured work surface and knead a few seconds to form a smooth ball. Place in a vegetable cooking spray-coated bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise to double in size, for 2 to 3 hours. Continue dough preparation and grilling described in my Grilled-Vegetable Grilled Pizza recipe (above).
AARP food expert Pam Anderson is a best-selling cookbook author and blogger at threemanycooks.com.
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