Grilled pizza

Pizza is a staple around our house.  Homemade (or semi-homemade) pizza, that is.  No takeout for us.  Unless it’s from Centro, but even that doesn’t happen often. 

The advent of premade crusts makes it a cinch to prepare pizza on a weeknight, and the incredible deliciousness of homemade crust can make it a truly special meal for when you have a little more prep time. 

Pizza is quick, customizable, and filling, meaning there’s little need for sides, other than maybe a salad.   The Husband likes meat, meat, and more meat on his pizza.  The kids like–surprise!–pepperoni and cheese.  (Though my birdgirl likes mushrooms, so she and I sometimes split a girly pizza with mushrooms, herbs, and, ideally, goat cheese.  I love that she’s an adventurous eater!)  And I want anything but the standard–give me unorthodox sauces, not-your-typical pizza cheese, and just about any vegetable. 

And right now, there are so many veggies at their peak.  When the veggies are young and tender, they need nothing more than a quick chop and to be thrown on top of a crust for a quick, fresh dinner. 

But on a day like yesterday, when the heat index was hovering in the triple digits, I was not about to turn on the oven.  

The grill, however, was calling me. 

I’d grilled pizza once before.  It was edible, even good, but our old grill presented some challenges and the result wasn’t as good as I knew it could be. 

Enter the new grill:  a big, beautiful, spacious fixture that’s so much easier to use.  Big bonus:  the heat from the burners is actually adjustable!   With the old grill, it was “high” or “off.” 

The gist is that the new baby is perfect for grilling pizza, and I’ll bet that, if your grill was made in this century, you can make this dinner, too! 

What you’ll need: 

The crust:  I started with premade crusts, though rolled out pizza dough works, too.  (Dear Trader Joe’s, Please hurry and get that store in West Des Moines up and running!  Would love, love, love to try your delicious pizza dough on my new grill.  Many thanks, JC) 

The toppings:  Cook any meat toppings, obviously.  Prepare your veggies as you like them.  Set out your sauce and cheese (or cheeses).  Julienne some basil, chop some parsley, strip some thyme — whatever suits your fancy.  The key here that you have to work fast once the pie is on the grill, so ready everything you need and assemble all of the toppings in bowls near the grill. 

The heat:  Preheat the grill on high for about 10 minutes.  Turn the heat down to medium-low once you’re ready to toss the crust on.  

  

The basic idea:  Grill your pizza crust on one side for about 3 minutes, or until it’s got a few grill marks and develops some color.  Flip the crust and–work quickly here–spread a thin layer of sauce (or drizzle with olive oil, S&P), add your toppings, and close the grill for another couple of minutes to brown the bottom of the crust and melt the cheese.  Check the crust often because it does cook quickly. 

Remove to a pan to rest a few minutes.  Then slice, serve, and savor! 

No two pizzas in my house are ever the same; I mix it up every time.  Last night’s pizzas were inspired by what’s fresh right now at the farmers markets and by this photo here.  I made a bruschetta pizza 

 

and a riff on Deb’s 

 

Both were amazingly delicious.  

And since my little birds have flown the coop this week (to the grandparents!), I was able to enjoy a couple glasses of this

 

(Ignore the surrounding mess…) 

Served with a twist of lime and on the rocks, this is some good stuff!  It totally made grilling in the heat bearable. 

  

Bruschetta Pizza 

 (inspired by various sightings on the Internet) 

2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped 

1/2 of a small red onion, finely chopped 

1 clove of garlic, minced 

Chopped basil to taste (I have spicy globe basil and the leaves are tiny enough that I just left them whole.  They were perfect.) 

Combine these ingredients, toss with a bit of salt and some pepper.  Go easy with the salt, because the pepperoni offers plenty.  Drizzle with olive oil and a few sprinkles of balsamic.  Toss again and then let it rest while you prep everything else.  That rest time will allow the tomatoes to release their juices and all those fantastic flavors to marry and make some magic. 

Mmm...

 

Grill the first side of your pizza crust.  Flip and drizzle with olive oil, (little) salt & pepper, then top with pepperoni and about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese (fresh would be fantastic; all I had was shredded).  Close the grill lid and cook until the crust browns a bit and the cheese is nearly melted.  Remove from the grill and spoon the bruschetta topping all over the pizza.  Let rest a few minutes so the balsamic/oil soak into the crust.  Slice and savor!

Garden fresh

There are so many things to love about summer:  the abundance of green–and, likewise, the distinct absence of that white crap that hung around for, like, ever; sunshine; baseball; garden-fresh produce; farmers markets featuring said produce, along with beautiful blooms, artisan cheeses, and other fabulous, funky eats and treats; baseball; lounging on the deck with a cold beer; and, have I mentioned yet, baseball? 

Perhaps my favorite thing about summer is the food.  And, no, not just the ballpark food. 😉 

I love that, in the summer, dinner possibilities are endless and practically effortless.  Our meals are fresh and tasty–and probably healthier because the fridge is practically bursting with fresh veggies, and what’s not in the fridge can be found just outside the back door! 

Tomatoes, peppers, onions, greens and herbs in pots on the deck

 

The bonus?  I find that my kids are much more likely to eat their meals when the meals feature veggies from our own backyard.  

Cucumbers:  The kids are pretty crazy about cucumbers anyway, but if there’s a bowl of fresh cukes from the garden on the table, I think they eat twice as much. 

Greens:  What kid won’t eat something dipped in ranch dressing? While mine will nibble on a single leaf of lettuce from the grocery store, they’ll eat an entire bowl if the tender greens were harvested from our own garden. 

Tomatoes:  My son pops tomatoes like they’re grapes, so long as they’re fresh off the vine. And they seem to taste even better if he picked them himself! 

Beans:  The kids will eats second, and even thirds, of beans picked from our very own plants. 

So, one evening last week, our dinner featured these garden green beans 

Batch 1

 

with sides of sweet corn and barbequed chicken. 

Green beans with bacon, sweet corn with a side of herbed butter, BBQ chicken

  

I prepped the green beans using my favorite method for cooking fresh veggies:  adding bacon. 

Okay, just kidding!  

Sort of. 

My favorite method for cooking veggies comes from Pam Anderson’s How to Cook Without a Book.  Her steam-sauté technique is fantastic and practically foolproof.  I have yet to meet a vegetable that doesn’t adapt well to the method. 

The basic idea is this:  Drizzle some oil in the bottom of the pan; add your veggies and about 2 tablespoons of water; salt the veggies (it’ll brighten the color and flavor!) and add onion or garlic, if desired; cover and crank the heat to high.  Set the timer for six to eight minutes, depending on the quantity (and tenderness) of the veggies.  The water will come to a boil and steam the veggies. After the steam session, remove the lid and sauté until the water evaporates and the veggies brown just a bit. 

 

Mmm, delish! 

Finish with a dash of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a little squeeze of lemon (to brighten any green veggie).  

Or forgo the additional salt, and throw in some bacon! 

The end! 

Two thumbs up! Must have been good if it's all gone!

Lunch at the best restaurant in town

Okay, so I didn’t prepare it, but if this space is about celebrating food, then any trip to Alba is worth documenting. 

The downside: my fingers still smell like my salmon burger.

But I can deal with that, ’cause lemme tell ya about the upsides:

1.  The chef seated us and served us our salad and meals.  He graciously accepted my kudos on the spot’s features in local papers in recent weeks.  I’m enamored with nearly anyone who makes amazing food from (mostly) ordinary ingredients, and he is certainly one of “those people.”  Which leads me to…

2.  I’m still tasting and loving the beet salad — beets with roasted fingerling potatoes and fine-diced red onion meets perfect baby spinach expertly dressed with oil, acid, salt and just the right amount of pepper, and two hard-boiled egg halves sidled up next to the spinach.  The presentation was beautiful and the taste was spot-on.

3.  Round 2 for the salmon burger; I’d had it before and loved it.  Much as I try to be adventurous and go for variety, especially at a place like this, it wows me way more than any chicken or pasta dish ever could.  It rocked.  The fries were not so fantastic this time around but that’s nothing to cry about.

4.  Josh had the duck.  He declared it a teensy bit overdone but still seemed pleased. 

5.  Signature chocolate dessert…ohmyheavens!  The chocolate molten lava cake with a side scoop of house-made buttermilk ice cream is singularly the. best. dessert. in. town.  Period. The end.  It gives me goosebumps, it’s THAT good.

I can’t wait to see the spring menu…