Fire up the grill for great pizza

By LISA IRELAND,

Try grilled pizza. The weather is perfect

Several years ago when my kids were very young, we invited a couple of families for a casual weekend dinner. Children were invited and we ended up with a small pack of kids. The weather was perfect and I knew we would be outside so I decided to try a new recipe for grilled pizzas. I had never done this before and thought it would be an easy and relaxing family meal that we could enjoy on the deck.

Well, the pizzas were super easy and tasted wonderful, but I would never recommend cooking grilled pizzas with lots of young children running about. I realized very quickly that the key to really good grilled pizzas is a very hot grill. These pizzas also cook very quickly and you have to stay with the pizzas while they are cooking.

Small children do not understand the concept of waiting. The kids needed something to drink, I couldn’t get it. They needed plates, I forgot those. They wanted some fruit. Sorry, I was stuck at the grill. The kids were hungry and “needed” me but despite my organizational efforts, I was still stuck cooking at the grill.

At that moment, I decided that for all future dinner parties, the food should be cooked/grilled before the guests arrive. Store in the oven and enjoy your guests.

Grilling pizzas is great fun, but it may not be for a crowd of people that need a lot of attention. You want to enjoy the dinner and your friends, not be stuck cooking. Save this recipe for a delicious grown-up dinner where everyone can join you at the grill to make their own pizza.

Homemade Pizza Dough:

Combine 1 cup warm water, 1 tbs. sugar, and 1 package (or 2 ¼ tsp.) yeast. Allow to proof until foamy, about five minutes. In the stand of a mixer or food processor, combine 3 ¼ cups bread flour and 1 Tbs. kosher salt.

Add 2 Tbs. olive oil to yeast mixture once it has proofed and then add into flour mixture. Pulse or knead on low until dough comes together and forms a ball. You can add a little more flour if necessary. Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead by hand until you have a ball. Allow dough to rise covered in an oiled bowl for about two hours. The dough should double in size. After the dough has risen, punch down and divide into four small balls. Cover and allow to rise again.

During second rise, gather all toppings needed for the pizzas. Toppings such as: fresh mozzarella, chopped tomatoes, chopped fresh basil, pepperoni slices, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and anchovies, anything that you like. Be sure and have all the toppings chopped up and ready to go because when you start grilling things go pretty quickly and you can’t stray far from the grill.

After second rise, roll each dough ball into about a 10-12 inch circle and brush with olive oil. Put dough on a cookie sheet. Repeat process with remaining dough, brushing each with olive oil and keeping each separated with parchment paper or wax paper.

When you are ready to eat, preheat one side of the grill to medium or high and leave the other side off. Clean and oil the grates after the grill is hot to minimalize sticking. When grill is hot, carefully place one piece of dough over hot side and close lid to cook for about 2-3 minutes. Crust will bubble underneath. Use tongs to flip crust and move to cool side. Brush with olive oil and add toppings. Carefully slide pizza back to hot side and close lid to cook for another 4-5 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Remove pizza with a pizza peel or cookie sheet. Cook remaining pizzas.

Simple Roasted Tomato Sauce

I love to use the fire-roasted type of tomatoes found at the supermarket. The small bits of black on the tomato, give this sauce extra flavor.

1 20-oz can fire roasted tomatoes

1 stick butter

½ onion, chopped

1 tsp. dried oregano

Combine all ingredients in a sauce-pan and cook on medium or low heat for 45 minutes, stirring frequently. Puree if you want a smooth sauce. Add oregano and serve.

Cheap-o Pesto

In the summer, we always have several basil plants in our tiny herb garden. The leaves need to be snipped or pinched to keep the plant growing all summer. I love pesto and keep several small containers in my freezer at all times. When the price of pine nuts skyrocketed, I decided to omit the pine nuts or substitute a few walnuts instead of the traditional pine nut. Saves some money but the wonderful basil flavor remains

1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and dried

3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled

½ freshly grated parmesan cheese

¼ cup pine nuts or walnut halves (optional)

1 tsp. kosher salt

¾ cup olive oil

Put all ingredients except oil in bowl of food processor. Pulse until everything is chopped. With machine running, slowly pour olive oil in a steady stream. Process for about another minute. You can freeze pesto.

Grilled Romaine Lettuce

If you have never tried grilled lettuce, you are missing a treat. It is quick and easy to make; and very delicious. Be sure your grill is very hot to ensure the delicious slightly charred edges.

Two whole heads of romaine lettuce, rinsed and cut in half lengthwise, keeping as many of the leaves attached to the core as possible.

Dressing:

2 tbs. good olive oil

2 tbs. Dijon mustard

2 tbs. Red wine vinegar

1 tsp. kosher salt and 1 tsp. fresh black pepper

1 tsp. caper

Mix all ingredients for dressing in a small bowl or jar. Can be made ahead.

To grill lettuce: Drizzle or brush lettuce with some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Put lettuce face down on very hot grill. Allow to cook for about 2 minutes, watching to make sure if does not flame too much. Turn over lettuce and cook an additional minute or two. You want a few grill marks and some charred edges, but the lettuce will still be crunchy. Remove to a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with dressing. Serve lettuce sections for each individual or chop up.

Strawberry Shortcakes

Nothing says summer more than good strawberries. When picking out fresh strawberries smell the package and make sure they smell “like strawberries,’ that way you know they have good flavor.

2 cups flour

4 tsp. (rounded) baking powder

1 tsp. salt

4 Tbs. sugar

1 stick or 8 Tbs. butter

2 Tbs. shortening

About 3/4 cup milk

Sift together dry ingredients, cut in butter and shorting until mixture looks like course meal. Mix in milk to form very soft dough. Turn out on a well-floured surface and roll to ½-inch thickness. Cut with both a large and small round cookie cutter to make your “bottom” and “top” of shortcake.

Bake on a well-greased cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees or until lightly browned. Serve with fresh sliced strawberries and vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Slice or chop strawberries and sprinkle with a little sugar and allow them to macerate for a few minutes before serving. This will also create fresh syrup that will go well with the topping.

The shortcakes are also great with fresh peaches or any summer fresh fruit.

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