Here's a swell party trick. Mix up some dough, watch the dough rise, then plop it on the outdoor grill. Within two hours, you've got yourself some pizza.
If that sounds too hard, buy some Boboli pizza shells at the supermarket, put the shells on the grill and you've got yourself some pizza.Grilling is hot, probably a reflection of a turn toward alternative cooking methods as Americans move away from high-fat sauces and deep frying for flavor. Too, grilling is easy, often involving more than one cook in the family, a good chance for everyone to get in on the meal process.
Pizza, although it may not at first appear so, is a natural for the grill. Pizza is normally cooked in a high-heat oven, and the outdoor grill offers the same option. Plus, you can add wood chips (hickory or pecan are nice) if you'd like the crust to have a little California spin.
Don't limit yourself on pizza toppings. Look in your pantry and the refrigerator to see what items are on hand. Here are some suggestions:
- Jarred olives
- Pepperoni from the supermarket
- Crumbled sausage, cooked for three to four minutes in the microwave
- Peeled shrimp, precooked on the grill for two to three minutes
- Bacon, cooked three to four minutes in the microwave
- Leftover chicken, shredded and mixed with barbecue sauce
Here's how to do it, with recipes adapted from "The El Paso Chile Company's Burning Desires" by W. Park Kerr (Morrow, $15). If substituting a pre-made crust for the homemade version, simply top pizza with desired toppings and place on cool zone of grill and cover. Watch carefully; all brands and thicknesses cook differently.
1 1/2 cups warm (105- to 115-degree) water
1 package dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup olive oil, plus oil for the bowl
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Whisk together water and yeast and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk in salt, garlic powder and olive oil. Stir in about 31/2 to 33/4 cups of the flour or until soft dough forms.
Sprinkle work surface with remaining flour. Knead dough until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Lightly oil large bowl. Put in dough, turn to coat it with oil and cover with towel. Let dough rise until puffy and light, about 2 hours.
Punch dough down and divide into fourths.
Roll each fourth into a 12-inch pizza shell.
(Yields 4 12-inch pizzas)
ROASTED RED BELL PEPPER AND EGGPLANT PIZZAS
3 large red bell peppers
2 medium eggplants, about 13/4 pounds total, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
Olive oil for brushing
1 batch pizza dough (see preceding recipe)
1 1/3 cups commercial pizza sauce or plain tomato sauce or even prepared pesto sauce
1 pound grated jalapeno Jack cheese
On preheated gas or charcoal grill, roast the red peppers, turning often, until peels are evenly charred. In closed paper bag, steam peppers until cool. Rub off burned peel, remove stems, ribs and seeds and cut peppers into julienne strips.
Brush eggplant slices generously with olive oil.
Place eggplant slices on grill. Cover and cook, turning once, until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer slices to a plate.
To create a cool zone on your grill, rake charcoal to one side of grill; if using a gas grill, shut off one or two burners.
On work surface, roll or pat one piece of pizza dough into a rough round about 12 inches in diameter and no more than 1/4-inch thick. Using a wooden pizza peel, transfer the dough to the grill, placing it on the cool zone. (Pizza peels are the large paddlelike shovels used in pizza parlors; they are available at cookware stores.) Cover grill and cook dough until puffed on top and lightly marked by the grill but not at all crisp on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes.
Using the peel, transfer crust to work surface and flip it over. Spread 1/3 cup of tomato sauce over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Scatter one fourth of the cheese over the tomato sauce. Place one fourth of the eggplant slices over the cheese. Scatter one fourth of the julienned red pepper over the eggplant.
Return pizza to grill, cover and bake, rotating it once or twice to ensure even browning, until the cheese is melted and bubbling, the eggplant and peppers are heated, and crust is cooked through and lightly crisped or even charred a bit, 8 to 10 minutes.
Transfer pizza to cutting board and let stand for 5 minutes before cutting. Repeat with remaining ingredients. (Turn up burners and rake in additional coals if grill becomes too cool for the third and fourth pizzas.)
(Serves 8 or more)