Freshly grated zucchini spread over homemade pizza dough

On June 20, Seasonal Pantry on making pizza at home. You can read that column here. In that column, I promised to post a blog entry more on the topic, including my recipe for Avocado-Zucchini Pizza. I was writing that column from Seattle and time got away from me. Here it is now. Also, I’m including a column I wrote in the spring of 2004, before Seasonal Pantry was fully archived on this web site. At the time I wrote that column, grilled pizzas were just becoming popular. Nearly a decade later, they still are and it’s a great way to entertain outside.

Pizza Dough, with topping suggestions

Avocado-Zucchini Pizza

Topped with cheese and in the oven

 

 

From May, 2004:

Americans love pizza.  Americans love to grill.   Given these truisms, it was inevitable that someone would start slapping pizza doughs onto the grill.

At first, it seemed to be a restaurant thing and a few locations made names for themselves with grilled pizzas.  But it’s so easy to do at home that there’s no reason to start searching for a restaurant.

The most important thing you need to make grilled pizzas successfully is a clean smooth grill rack.  If the rack is rough, the dough likely will stick to it and tear when you try to move it.  With a clean grill, few things are easier grilling pizzas.

A word of caution is in order, I think:  Do not try to emulate the sort of pizzas you get in American pizza parlors, the type loaded with sauce, a pile of cheese, pepperoni and a veritable garden of vegetables.  The weight of these ingredients will collapse your grilled pizza.  Instead, you want to add ingredients sparingly  so that crust is as important as the toppings.

A slice of my favorite pizza--Avocado & Zucchini, with Cheese & Cilantro--ready to enjoy

The recipes today are my current favorites, the one’s I’ll be making all summer, as soon as I get my grill rack scrubbed clean.

 Grilled Pizzas Neat • Serves 4 to 6

  •  Four 8 to 10-inch rounds of pizza dough (see recipe, below)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil or other condiment of choice
  1. Prepare the pizza dough.
  2. Build a fire in an outdoor grill.
  3. Cut the dough in half and both pieces in half again.  Use your hands to slowly stretch both pieces into roundish disks; do not worry about being precise.
  4. Grill the stretched doughs over direct heat until the dough becomes firm and is lightly toasted, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Turn the dough over and cook until lightly the other side is lightly toasted and the crusts are cooked through and golden brown. Transfer to a work surface.
  5. Cut the pizzas into pieces and serve immediately, with olive oil or another condiment alongside.

 Grilled Pizzas with St. George Cheese, Zucchini & Avocado • Serves 2 to 4

 One of the secrets to making successful grilled pizzas is adherence to the concept that less is more. You do not want to load up the delicate dough with the weight of ingredients you find on standard American pizzas or the whole thing will collapse.  These are thin flatbreads.

  • 2 8 to 10-inch rounds of pizza dough  (see recipe, this page)
  • 2 to 3 small to medium zucchini, end trimmed, sliced into very thin lengthwise strips
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper in a mill
  • 6 ounces St. George cheese (from Joe Matos Cheese Factory), grated
  • 1 firm-ripe avocado, very thinly sliced
  • Red pepper flakes or olive oil infused with hot chiles
  1.  Prepare the pizza dough.
  2. Build a fire in an outdoor grill.
  3. Brush the zucchini strips with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and grill, turning once, until just tender, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer to a work surface.
  4. Cut the dough in half and set aside one piece for use at another time.  Cut the remaining piece of dough in half and use your hands to slowly stretch both pieces into roundish disks.  Grill the stretched doughs over direct heat until the dough becomes firm and is lightly toasted, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Transfer to a work surface, grilled side up.
  5. Drizzle each pizza with a little olive oil and top with strips of grilled zucchini.  Season with salt and pepper, spread cheese on top and return to the grill and cook until the cheese is melted and the crusts are cooked through and crispy.
  6. Transfer the cooked pizzas to a work surface and cut into wedges.  Top each with a sliced of avocado and serve immediately, with the red pepper flakes or chile oil alongside for guests to shake on their pizza.

 Grilled Pizzas with Mozzarella & Tomatoes • Serves 2 to 4

 Here’s a variation on the classic Pizza Margarita, perhaps the most traditional Italian pizza, with its colors of the Italian flag.

  •  Two 8 to 10-inch rounds of pizza dough  (see recipe, this page)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces mozzarella fresca, thinly sliced
  • Several basil leaves
  • 2 or 3 Roma tomatoes, very thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper in a mill
  1. Prepare the pizza dough.
  2. Build a fire in an outdoor grill.
  3. Cut the dough in half and set aside one piece for use at another time.  Cut the remaining piece of dough in half and use your hands to slowly stretch both pieces into roundish disks.  Grill the stretched doughs over direct heat until the dough becomes firm and is lightly toasted, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Transfer to a work surface, grilled side up.
  4. Drizzle each pizza with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and scatter the garlic over it.  Arrange the cheese on top, set a basil leaf on each piece of cheese, top with the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and return to the grill. Cook until the cheese is melted and the crusts are crispy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a work surface, cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Grilled Pizzas with Bellwether Carmody & Tapenade • Serves 2 to 4

Carmody is a medium-firm cheese with excellent melting qualities. It is produced by Bellwether Farms of Two Rock Valley and is named for Carmody Lane, where the farm is located.  You can find it in independent markets throughout the North Bay.  If you can’t find it, you might replace it with Italian fontina, which also has excellent melting qualities.

  • Two 8 to 10-inch rounds of pizza dough  (see recipe, this page)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper in a mill
  • 6 ounces Bellwether Carmody, available at local markets and cheese shops, grated
  • 4 tablespoons tapenade of choice
  •  Prepare the pizza dough.
  • Build a fire in an outdoor grill.
  • Cut the dough in half and set aside one piece for use at another time.  Cut the remaining piece of dough in half and use your hands to slowly stretch both pieces into roundish disks.  Grill the stretched doughs over direct heat until the dough becomes firm and is lightly toasted, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Transfer to a work surface, grilled side up.
  • Drizzle each pizza with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread the cheese over pizza, return to the grill and cook until the cheese is melted and the crusts are cooked through and crispy.  Transfer to a work surface, cut into wedges and top each wedge with a dollop of tapenade.  Serve immediately.

Relatively-Fast Pizza Dough • Makes Four 8 to 10-inch shells

 Some recipes for pizza dough require six to eight hours for rising, a slow process that results in outstanding flavors and textures.   Yet those recipes require more advance planning than this one, which gives excellent results in less than half the time.  You can decide in the afternoon that you want homemade pizza for dinner.  This recipe can easily be doubled, though you should not increase the quantity of yeast.

  •  2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  1. Combine the yeast and water in a large mixing bowl, and set aside for 10 minutes.  Use a whisk to stir in 1 cup flour, the salt, and the olive oil.  Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until you have 1 cup remaining. As the dough thickens, switch from a whisk to a wooden spoon.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured surface and knead it until it is smooth and velvety, about 7 minutes, working in as much of the remaining flour as the dough will take.  Brush a large, clean bowl lightly with olive oil, set the dough in the bowl, and cover it with a damp towel.  Let the dough rise for 3 hours, until it has more than doubled in size.  Gently turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and let it rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Cut the dough into 3 or 4 equal pieces.  Use the heel of your hand to press the dough into a flat circle and then use both hands to pick it up.  Hold the dough perpendicular to your work surface and move your hands around its outer edges, shaking gently as you do.  If it doesn’t stretch easily, put one hand on either side of the disk and pull gently until the dough is about 1/4-inch thick, or slightly thinner.  The edges will be thicker.  using your hand or a floured rolling pin, flatten it into a 12-inch circle about 3/8 inch thick.  Top the dough and bake as directed in specific recipes.

Variation:  When you’re first working with dough, you might be nervous during the stretching part.  Instead of using your hands, sprinkle your work surface with flour, flatten the dough into a disk, and use a floured rolling pin to stretch it into a circle.  As you become more comfortable, try stretching by hand until you get the hang of it.