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Grilled pizza rises to the occasion

Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2007

At our latest supper club, I decided to go an unconventional route: I made something I knew would turn out.

If you remember my first supper club report in April, I tried to make a fish dish that I had never made before. Long story short, I was a bit panicky, but the dish worked out. No harm, no foul.

For this gathering, the theme was grilled food. Everyone opted for appetizers instead of making huge slabs of meat. One that stood out was a nosh, a jalapeno pepper and chunk of chicken breast wrapped in bacon. Heat, savor and fat — what more does a pop-in-your-mouth grill treat need?

I decided to make pizza. People are always amazed with pizza on the grill because, well, it's pizza ... on the grill. No pizza stone or tray is involved. You plop the dough like it's a wet T-shirt right onto the hot grill grate.

Everyone expects the dough to ooze through the holes but it quickly browns and gets grill marks. I've made grilled pizza many times, so I expected no problems. That, friends, was my mistake.

Since Judy and I renovated our kitchen, I've discovered that I misplaced a lot of stuff over the years, including my pizza dough recipe. No problem, I tried another one. This one incorporated the dry yeast with the other dry ingredients. I faintly remembered doing this once before and found the dough didn't rise. After an hour this time, it was still a softball-size glob of goo.

I had all of my toppings prepped, but without dough, I was going to be in trouble. I needed my recipe. While tearing apart the home office, I came across another resource I thought I had lost forever — the manual for my KitchenAid mixer. It wasn't the recipe I was looking for, but it did have one that involved dissolving the yeast in 1 cup of 110-degree water — a method that has produced good results in the past.

I combined yeast water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons olive oil with 21/2 cups all-purpose flour. Using a breadhook, I mixed it on the No. 2 speed. I slowly added more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until all the dough clung to the hook and the sides of the bowl were clean.

I then kneaded the dough at the same speed for an additional 2 minutes.

I placed the dough in a greased bowl, covered it with a towel and placed it in the laundry room. I even turned on the clothes dryer, hoping to warm the room a bit, a trick that worked the last time I made pizza dough.

That is an important part of the story. In February, the house was much warmer than it was when the AC was cranking in June. When I peeked at the dough, it had hardly inflated. I was flustered. A second batch hadn't risen.

It was then that I realized it wasn't the recipe but the location.

When I placed the dough in the near-90-degree garage and came back 40 minutes later, the dough had puffed up to fill the bowl.

The pizzas were a hit. I made three: chicken, red onion, red and yellow bell peppers, oregano pesto and goat cheese; prosciutto, black olives, basil, roasted tomato sauce and goat cheese; and barbecued shrimp, roasted tomato sauce, oregano, red pepper flakes and mozzarella cheese.

Try the recipes for the tomato sauce and pesto yourself and keep cool inside by using the hot garage and the grill to make your pizza.

FIRE-ROASTED

TOMATO SAUCE

3 red-ripe plum tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil Splash or two of garlic-flavored oil (optional)

Kosher salt to taste

Set up grill with two heat zones — one high and the other medium low.

Grill the tomatoes over high heat until the skins are somewhat blackened, soft and split, about 6 to 8 minutes. Move them to the cool side for another 2 minutes. Remove from grill and let cool.

Halve and squeeze out the liquid and reserve. Puree the tomato skins with the remaining sauce ingredients. If sauce looks too thick, add a bit of the reserve tomato liquid.

Yield: Enough for two 11-inch pizzas.

Source: Adapted from The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining by Cheryl and Bill Jamison (Morrow, $24.95).

FRESH OREGANO PESTO

3/4 cup fresh oregano leaves

1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 plump garlic clove

1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil Kosher salt to taste

Mince oregano, parsley, garlic and nuts in a food processor. Stop machine and add cheese. With motor running, pour oil into the mixture in a steady stream. Add salt to taste.

Can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.

Yield: Enough for two 11-inch pizzas.

Source: Adapted from The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining by Cheryl and Bill Jamison (Morrow, $24.95).



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