At EDF we pride ourselves on making fresh food fast. But how much time does it really take to get dinner on the table? One summer intern, Meg Lappe, feeds her family -- and takes notes along the way! Check out her cooking journey in today's Intern in the Kitchen.
Grilled Pizzas, July/August 2010
Every year my dad’s family gets together in upstate New York for a week long family vacation. There are lake swims, walks, and most importantly, delicious dinners every night. The cooking duties, which are divided among the families, often follow a distinct theme: Mexican, Italian, breakfast, etc. There aren’t too many pre-requisites for electing a meal, but we try not to repeat entrees, and with an age range spanning from 16 to 87, there are quite a few palates to please. Oh, and let’s not forget, there are 17 people coming to dinner.
With that in mind, (and the Italian and Mexican meals already claimed), I decided it would be interesting to try the grill. The recipes in Everyday Food for grilled pizza made it seem so simple and included many different optional toppings and ways to make both the dough and sauce. Initially, my ambitions exceeded my abilities and I wanted to make it all; the dough, sauce for eight pizzas and try all six topping options. However, after being reminded that I didn’t want to spend more than a few hours prepping for this, I conceded. My mother reined me in a little and I agreed to store-bought pizza dough and sauce, with the option for me to make one batch myself. The topping choices went down from six to four, and were made simpler and less artisanal. Tomato and Basil, three cheese (plus some extra cheeses), pepperoni, and plain were the options for the night. Wondering how they all turned out in less than an hour? Read on to see!
5:30 P.M. Drag myself up from the lake, leveling with myself that I will get more sun tomorrow. At the same time, my dad begins warming the charcoals and prepping the grill, as it takes a while to get it ready.
5:33 P.M. Start to prepare the herb oil, which will be spread on all eight pizzas by mixing olive oil, rosemary, and garlic into a small stockpot. We didn’t have fresh rosemary, so I simply mashed the dried rosemary in a plastic bag and hoped it would do the trick. Since we needed so much oil for all the pizzas, the recipe was easily doubled. I also turn the stove on to 500, as we decided we would make half on the grill and half in the oven to speed things up since there are eight pizzas. My dad will cook four on the grill and I’ll make four in the oven.
5:36 P.M. Take the herb oil off the stove and pour into a small bowl to let reach room temperature.
5:37 P.M. Begin to make the simple tomato sauce, using the same pot for the herb oil. I figure the remains of the garlic and rosemary will only add to the taste of the sauce.
5:38 P.M. After heating the minced garlic, I add red pepper flakes, which I have recently discovered, and love how much spice they add to the simple sauce. I also add the whole peeled tomatoes, salt and pepper. While this is cooking, I help my mother to cut up basil leaves and shred the cheese.
5:52 P.M. The sauce is finished cooking, but we have no oregano leaves, so I don’t add any to the sauce.
5:55 P.M. The grills are now ready to go so we begin to open up the dough. We have two whole-wheat and two white doughs. Beginning with the white, we spread the dough out on a large cutting board, which has been sprinkled with flour. After rolling it out, we cut it in half, to try and stick to the 10-inch-long ovals, that are in the directions. Unfortunately, we do not have a pizza cutter, so a sharp knife takes that job. We try to stretch the dough (we are feeding 17 people), but if we stretch it too much, it just flops back into its original shape. Using the herb oil, we brush on the oil on one side and carry it out to the grills.
6:00 P.M. The grill has been oiled with canola oil, and we place the pizza dough, oil side down on the grill and count to 60. I had feared that the dough would fall through the grate, but it didn’t at all because the grill was so hot. Since the transfer from plate to grill was a little botched, there are some edges of the dough that are a little thicker than others. We quickly realize that on this grill it will only take about 30 seconds before the dough is ready to flip.
6:01 P.M. The dough is flipped and looks a little funny, but after cooking for another minute we move the dough off the coals and add tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese to this one, as it is a plain pizza. In retrospect, we could’ve used more spatulas to help with the flipping process. We then cover the grill and let it do its work.
6:06 P.M. This pizza cooks for only a few more minutes until the cheese is melted. I quickly go inside and gather up the supplies to take with me back out; another pizza dough, some oil, store bought sauce, shredded mozzarella, and pepperoni.
6:08 P.M. I pass the supplies to my dad outside, and then return inside to begin cooking more in the oven. He claims that after getting the hang of it the first time, the next few are easy. He even starts to use two grills to speed up the cooking time.
6:09 P.M. Using the whole-wheat dough, I again roll out and divide the dough, spread the oil and put it on a baking sheet. Fortunately, with the baking sheet, I can cook two pizzas at a time.
6:10 P.M. I check on the pizza dough to see if it has done, and it is still a little floppy and not yet done. I wait another minute.
6:11 P.M. Checking the pizza again, I realize it is still not done….
6:12 P.M. Not quite done yet.
6:13 P.M. Finished! I flip the dough after oiling the other side and let it cook for another three minutes.
6:16 P.M. I add mozzarella, shaved Fontina, Parmesan, and Romano cheese to these pizzas with a pinch of red pepper flakes, and let them cook. At the rate that I’m going, my dad has already finished his pizza and is starting on another. My pizzas take less than 5 minutes to cook and then I start another two. As each pizza finishes, we cut them up and prepare them for the feeding frenzy that will soon begin.
6:27 P.M. My last two pizzas finish up cooking, these ones were tomato and basil, so I added the simple sauce, shredded mozzarella, and basil. Everyone gets called into the kitchen to eat and the pizzas are gone in less time that it took to make them!
This recipe taught me many lessons, including how to deal with cooking over a charcoal grill. I think we could’ve waited longer for the grill to calm down a little, as the rest of the pizzas didn’t have any burns or were misshaped like the first one. Although we didn’t oil the other side of the pizza dough all the times, it still tasted just as good as the ones that were oiled on both sides. The herbed garlic oil was so delicious that people used it as a dipping sauce for their crusts, and I used it the next day on my breakfast. Now that I’m home again, I am waiting for the day to try it on our grill and see how a shrimp and pesto pizza would come out.