Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pizza on the barbie

For me, summer is about being outside as much as possible--even here in the city. So why should I have to stay indoors to cook a meal? The ability to make dinner outside is one of the many reasons that grilling is the perfect, consummate way to cook during the summer (besides which you don't have to heat up your kitchen, and grilled foods are quick and delicious, and grilling is fun and social, etc.)

So last night I took full advantage of my parents' nice gas grill on their nice flowering deck, as I tend to do often throughout the summer months, and had some friends over for dinner. And what did I cook? Not the usual suspects of kebabs, steak or chicken, but pizza. Yes, pizza. Grilling is one of the best ways to make really good pizza, because grills get very very hot, and pizza needs very high temperatures to get that lovely crackly crust that we all love so much. And last night's meal was extra easy because I sort of cheated, by buying the pizza dough at my local pizzeria. Most any pizzeria will sell you some of their dough, usually for about $3 for one pizza's worth. It's highly convenient, and you're guaranteed to get dough with good flavor (if you like your local pizzeria's product, that is). And although I do like to make my own pizza dough, you have to plan ahead to allow time for the dough to rise--not so well-suited to last-minute pizza cravings. So that's where the store-bought stuff comes in. This is what it looks like when you get it:

Then you punch it out into a nice pizza crust, as thin as you can get it, really, because it will puff up a lot on the grill (or in the oven). My friends and I made two kinds last night: classic margherita (simply tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil--you can't go wrong) and one fancy one with pesto, caramelized onions and goat cheese. Both the tomato sauce and the pesto were store-bought, so making the pizza was a pretty simple affair.

The key to success when grilling pizza is to work very fast. Set up any toppings outside near the grill so they're ready when the pizza crust is. Then heat the grill up to high (I have a gas grill, but charcoal would provide even better flavor), brush the crusts with olive oil on both sides, and slap them down. They only need to cook about 2-3 minutes on the first side--remember, the grill is like 550°. Flip the crusts and lay on the toppings as quickly as possible, then close the grill and allow the pizzas to cook about 3-4 minutes more--no longer. What's great about this method is that it's pretty much instant gratification--you have hot, fresh pizza in about 10 minutes. The only hard part is waiting for it to cool off enough to eat. Here's what ours looked like.

Pizza margherita:

Pizza with pesto, caramelized onions and goat cheese:

Enjoyed out on the deck in the cool night air and washed down with icy-cold beer, these pizzas weren't half-bad.

1 comment:

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