It’s been way too long since my last post!  School has started, which means I’ve had to switch back into “teaching mode,” and that my life is 10 times busier than it was this summer.  Something about doing field work is just so relaxing. The days can be long and exhausting, but there aren’t deadlines around every corner or students depending on me.  It’s a nice break from the normal hectic grad student life.  At the same time, I’m pretty relieved to be back on a normal schedule and to feel like I’m getting important work done again.

Despite being busy, it is my goal to catch up with the backlog of recipes and photos that have accumulated over the last month or so.  I’ve made peach jam, Thai chicken salad, tofu stir fry, and about a million variations on caprese salad, and I haven’t written about any of them!

I’m going to start digging myself out of this hole by telling you about this amazing grilled pizza I made about a month ago.  Vicken recently bought the Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue and this was the first recipe I tried out of it.  You incorporate sautéed garlic and rosemary into the dough, which results in the most flavorful (yet not over-the-top) pizza dough I’ve ever made.  You can honestly grill the dough alone and eat it plain it is so good. It would make excellent bread sticks.

Once the dough has risen, you partition it into smaller rounds, which you then flatten into personal-sized pizzas.  The cooking process goes really fast, so you want to make sure you have all of your ingredients ready before you put the dough on the grill.  The recipe called for fresh sliced tomatoes, chopped basil, and grated parmesan cheese.  This worked fairly well, but the recipe drastically under-estimates how many tomatoes you will need.  They call for 3 medium tomatoes for 8 small pizzas, but I couldn’t even stretch 3 tomatoes to cover 4 pizzas so we used some sliced small romas to fill in the gaps.

Once the dough has cooked on one side you take it off the grill and put the toppings on the grilled side.  Then you put them back on the grill to cook the other side and heat the toppings through.  Depending on the heat of your fire, this can take as little as 2-3 minutes.  For this reason, you want to use only toppings that are pre-cooked or don’t take a long time to heat through. They suggest covering the pizzas with disposable pie plates to help cook the toppings, but I didn’t do this and it still turned out fine.

A short time after I made this, I decided to try it again and perfect some of the flaws I found the first time around.  This time I bought more tomatoes and baked them at a low temperature for 30 minutes before adding them to the pizzas.  This concentrated the tomato flavor and resulted in a less soggy pizza.  I also substituted sliced fresh mozzarella for some of the parmesan cheese, and these two changes made the pizza was soooo much better.  I’ve made those alterations to the recipe below.

My final verdict is that this recipe is a keeper.  This is some of the best pizza I’ve had in a long time (Gino’s East deep dish withstanding) and it’s both easy and fun to make, especially with friends!  You just want to make sure that you eat them straight off the grill while they are still hot. If you don’t make it through all of them at the first sitting, they also make excellent left-overs.

Garlic-Herb Pizza Dough

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium cloves, minced or pressed (about 4 tsp)
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, thyme, or oregano leaves (I used rosemary)
4 cups (22 ounces bread flour, plus extra for dusting hands and work surfaces
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 3/4 cups warm water (110 degrees)
vegetable oil or spray for coating bowl

1. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and rosemary and sauté until the garlic is golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the mixture to room temperature.

2. Process the flour, yeast, salt, and sautéed garlic mixture in a large food processor, pulsing to combine. Continue pulsing while pouring 1 1/2 cups of the water through the feed tube. If the does does not readily for into a ball, gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup water and continue to pulse until a ball forms. Process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer. (You can also knead this by hand. Just stir the water and garlic-herb mixture into half of the flour. Then add the rest of the flour and knead for 7-8 minutes).

3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball. Put the dough in an oiled straight-sided plastic container or deep, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Press the dough down with your first and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide and shape the dough into 8 smaller rounds. Cover them with a damp cloth and let the dough relax for 5 minutes but no more than 30 minutes. Then press dough out to 8 inch diameter pizzas of 1/4 inch thickness.

Grilled Pizza with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

1 recipe Garlic-Herb Pizza Dough
Olive oil for brushing dough
8 medium ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced crosswise into thin rounds
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
12 oz fresh mozzarella cheese (more if you like very cheesy pizza)
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
ground black pepper
1/4 cup pitted and quartered oil-cured black olives (optional)

1. Prepare dough as directed above.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 230 degrees F. Arrange tomato slices on lightly oiled baking sheets and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes or until tomatoes soft and slightly dehydrated. Set aside.

3. When the grill is medium-hot, brush some oil over each stretched dough round and sprinkle with salt to taste.

4. Slide your hand under several dough rounds and gently slip them onto the grill, oiled-side down. Grill until dark brown grill marks appear, 1 to 2 minutes. Prick any bubbles that develop on the top surface with a fork. Brush the tops with more oil and flip the dough rounds onto a clean baking sheet or peel, grilled side up.

5. Brush the grilled dough surfaces with more oil. Arrange a portion of the tomatoes over each dough round, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges uncovered. Sprinkle with the parmesan, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with oil and dot with the mozzarella and olives, if using.

6. Slide the pizzas back onto the grill and cover each with a disposable aluminum pie plate. Grill until the pizza bottoms are crisp and browned, the tomatoes are hot, and the cheese melts, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately and repeat the process with the remaining dough rounds.