Grilled Pizza at Home

August 17, 2010 9:39:17 AM PDT
Is there anyone on the planet that doesn't like pizza? Pizza is loved all over the world, and everyone has their favorite ingredients and favorite style pizza.

"We love pizza because it tastes good and we love the tomato sauce and oozing cheese as it is ladled onto our plates," says Connie Fairbanks, author of Scratch That: Seasonal Menus and Perfect Pairings. "Sure there's a pizza joint on every street corner, but you can make your own - very easily, and for a few pennies. You control the fat, the salt, and the ingredients."

To make your summer pizza, Connie says you need three things: a grill, some pizza dough (homemade or purchase a ball at your favorite pizza restaurant or grocery store), and some good quality ingredients. The sky is the limit with ingredients, Connie says. Some ideas are freshly grated Parmigianino Reggiano cheese (no cheating with the green cardboard), along with provolone, asiago, fresh mozzarella, or taleggio cheese. Other ingredients include: prosciutto (thinly sliced), toasted pine nuts, quartered artichokes hearts (drained and chunked), harissa paste, fresh basil leaves, baby spinach and arugula leaves, ripe tomatoes (sliced thin), roasted multi-colored peppers, caramelized red onions, mushrooms, and roasted garlic.

At this time of the year, check out your local farmers' market for ingredients for your pizza. You'll also find components for two other dishes Connie recommends to accompany your pizza: Roasted Olives, seasoned with fresh herbs, and Homemade Peach Cobbler. Connie shares those recipes along with tips on grilling pizza.

GRILLED PIZZA POINTERS FROM CONNIE FAIRBANKS www.conniefairbanks.com

  • use elbow grease to roll out the pizza dough, make sure the dough is at room temperature, place dough on Silpat or board with a little polenta (corn meal)
  • use medium heat with a gas grill
  • have all the toppings ready to go as the process goes fast
  • less cheese is better
  • do all the prep in advance- and then have your partner do the grilling
  • use good quality ingredients, fresh cheese, and fresh herbs
  • eat it right away on a wooden cutting board

GRILLED MARGHERITA PIZZA

Compliments of Connie Fairbanks, author of "Scratch That? Seasonal Menus and Perfect Pairings" cookbook

Fresh pizza dough, at room temperature, and divided in two to three smaller balls (white or multi-grain)

Cornmeal or instant polenta

Homemade Pizza Sauce (see recipe below)

Freshly grated Parmigianino Reggiano cheese

Fresh Mozzarella, cut into rounds

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea salt

Basil leaves

Ripe Tomatoes, sliced thin

Preheat gas grill to medium heat. Arrange all of the pizza ingredients, except for the dough, into small bowls.

Place some cornmeal on a Silpat or pastry board. Cover your hands with cornmeal so your hands won't stick to the dough. Roll out the dough into a 1/4 inch thick round, about 8 - 10 inches in diameter. Place the dough on the hot grill. Drizzle with olive oil. Shut the grill lid and grill for several minutes. The dough will be bubbling on top, and brown on the bottom. It will be easy to turn when it is ready. Flip the pizza and place the toppings on the pizza. Cover the lid of the grill, and grill for several more minutes. Remove pizza from the grill with a pancake flipper and place on a wooden cutting board. Drizzle lightly with olive oil or not, sprinkle with sea salt, and torn basil. Cut into 8 - 10 wedges and serve as an appetizer or main course.

Connie's Notes: Ask your favorite pizza place if you can buy some dough. Many grocery stores that sell fresh pizza will also sell dough balls. As a last resort, you could use good quality frozen pizza dough that has been thawed in the refrigerator. It's very important to have all of the ingredients ready because the process goes fast. Adjust temperatures according to your own grill type. Use less cheese rather than more. Americans tend to use more cheese than Europeans do. Fresh basil is a must! Use your wooden cutting board to serve the pizza. Get the family involved with the whole process.

HOMEMADE PIZZA SAUCE

1 (14 ounce can) San Marzano tomatoes, chopped

2 small cloves garlic, finely minced

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Swirl the olive oil in the medium skillet that has been placed over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, salt, and oregano. Simmer for about one hour over low heat. Add the end add the sugar, and stir. Puree the tomatoes, cool, and place in a covered plastic container. Keep in the refrigerator until you need tomato sauce.

Connie's Notes: San Marzano tomatoes can be found in many grocery stores. These very flavorful tomatoes are grown at the foot of Pompeii in the volcanic ash.

Yield: Usually a large ball of pizza dough will make three medium pizzas. One pizza is plenty for two as an entrée, and 6- 8 as an appetizer. The leftover sauce can be stored in a covered plastic container for a few days in the refrigerator.

ROASTED OLIVES

Compliments of Connie Fairbanks, author of "Scratch That? Seasonal Menus and Perfect Pairings"

2 cups assorted green and black olives with pits, drained

3 sprigs thyme

3 sprigs rosemary

2 fresh bay leaves

8 cloves garlic

1 orange, cut into thick slices

1 lemon, cut into thick slices

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine the olives, herbs, garlic, and fruit in a casserole dish. Cover with olive oil, and bake, covered, at 200 degrees for 8 hours, or overnight. Remove the herb sprigs and fruit. Serve at room temperature on a pretty flat dish.

Connie's Notes: Use any leftover olives in a pasta sauce and the oil in a vinaigrette. If you don't have fresh herbs, dried herbs will work. To serve the olives, insert colored toothpicks into a lemon or orange half. Let your guests help themselves, one by one.

FRESH PEACH COBBLER

Compliments of Connie Fairbanks, author of "Scratch That? Seasonal Menus and Perfect Pairings"

Filling:

4 pounds medium-ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into ½-3/4 inch slices

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar or less

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Topping:

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon soda

1 1/8 teaspoons baking powder

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons whole milk

1/2 tablespoon orange juice

3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

3 tablespoons unsalted butter. melted

*Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

*To make the filling: Combine the peaches, vanilla, and sugar in an 8 x 8 inch glass baking dish. Let the filling sit for 15 minutes, or until the juices start running. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the top, stir, and bake until bubbly, or about 20 minutes.

*To make the topping: Sift together the dry ingredients in one large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, orange juice, and flavorings. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Fold in the melted butter.

*Pour the batter over the hot peach mixture. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the cobbler is golden brown and a test inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly and serve.

Serves 6 - 8.

Connie's Notes: This recipe can also be made with a 28 ounce jar of pie cherries with juice. Thicken the cherries in a small saucepan, add more sugar to taste, if needed, and substitute almond flavoring for the vanilla. Follow the rest of the directions for this variation.

ABOUT SCRATCH THAT COOKBOOK AND CONNIE FAIRBANKS:

Connie Fairbanks is a cookbook author, home chef, and actor living in downtown Chicago. She is the author of Scratch That? Seasonal Menus and Perfect Pairings. Scratch That is written by a home chef and for home chefs. The cookbook is organized into 18 seasonal menus with wine pairings, and over 110 color photos from around the world. All recipes are made from scratch with minimal cans, bottles, tubs, and tubes. Recipes are mostly one page.

Connie has had several careers in her lifetime: sales management in specialty retailing, sales and marketing for a pharmaceutical company, and helped start a medical device company and take it public in the US and European markets. In 1998, she left a successful business career that spanned over 20 years in to pursue her dream as an actor. Since then she has used her talents to be featured in commercials and collaborate on-stage in the thriving theatre scene in Chicago. And, now, as cookbook author and home chef, she's in another role that she loves. In her spare, she gardens, is a volunteer tutor, sings in a Gospel Choir, and hopes to return to the theater next year.

For more information, go to www.conniefairbanks.com, or visit her bi-monthly blog at www.conniefairbanks.com/blog.aspx. Follow Connie on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for Tips of the Day.


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