When my husband and I were first dating, we went out for pizza fairly often.
Chatting over a large pepperoni, mushroom, and black olive pizza and a pitcher of beer was a good and relatively inexpensive way to get to know each other.
Campisi’s on Mockingbird Lane was our choice for authentic flavors, Pizza Inn for convenience, and Shotgun Sam’s just west of Bachman Lake when we were feeling a bit crazy. I don’t recall much about the pizza at Shotgun Sam’s, but I vividly remember baskets of peanuts and guests being encouraged to discard the shells on the floor.
These days, it’s almost impossible to drive between 4 and 7 p.m. without seeing pizza delivery vehicles zipping through the neighborhood. Pizza has become more of a convenience food than one we go out for.
Although I enjoy the occasional pizza delivery, I’ve always thought of homemade pizza as a celebration.
When our sons were growing up, the aroma of dough slowly rising under a soft towel, and the sight of individual bowls filled with chopped onion, peppers, mushrooms, olives, pepperoni, ham, and shredded mozzarella cheese, brought huge smiles of anticipation. I’d make several pizzas, and everyone got to ‘decorate’ their own with favorite toppings.
This summer I’ve taken the fun outdoors with grilled pizza. Ideal for charcoal or gas grills, the pizza dough is shaped, placed on a flat cookie sheet liberally sprinkled with cornmeal, and then slid directly onto the grill for two to three minutes until the bottom firms and the top puffs. It’s easy to transfer the pizza back onto the cookie sheet with a set of tongs, flip it over, and ‘decorate’ with toppings. Then it goes back on the grill for final baking. Within minutes, the flame-kissed pizza is fragrant and ready to enjoy as a late-summer celebration.
Summer Tomato, Onion, Artichoke and Goat Cheese Grilled Pizza
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water
pinch of sugar
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup cornmeal
½ cup olive oil, for brushing tops of pizza
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 large vine-ripened tomatoes, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
Fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried, for garnish
Place yeast in a medium bowl, add warm water (hot water will kill yeast) and sugar, stir, and place the bowl in a warm place until the yeast softens and begins to foam.
While the yeast softens, mix flours together and set aside. Pour the yeast mixture, 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil, and salt into the large bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add enough of the flour to make a soft dough and mix at lowest speed, scraping the bowl as needed. Adjust the speed to medium and knead 2 minutes. The dough will be very soft and sticky. Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl, turn it over once to grease the entire surface, cover with a towel, and set it aside in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the grill to 400 degrees. Sprinkle the counter liberally with flour, punch down the dough, turn it out onto the counter, and briefly knead by hand just until the dough comes together in a ball. Add flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking. Divide it in half, return half the dough to the bowl, cover, and set it aside. Sprinkle the remaining half with flour and roll it out into a 12-inch circle about ¼-inch thick. Don’t worry about perfection. Rustic-looking grilled pizzas are best.
Sprinkle a flat cookie sheet, or a cookie sheet turned upside down, liberally with cornmeal. Transfer the pizza dough to the cookie sheet, take it to the grill, and slide it off the tray onto the grill’s surface. Close the grill and cook 2-3 minutes, until the bottom is lightly browned and the top is puffy. Transfer the pizza back to the tray with tongs, turn it over, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Top the pizza with tomato, red onion, artichokes, and crumbled goat cheese.
If using a charcoal grill, move the coals to one side of the grill to provide indirect heat and slide the pizza onto the opposite side. If using a gas grill, turn the center burners to low, adjust the outer burners to medium-high, and slide the pizza onto the center of the grill. Close the cover and cook 4 to 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to prevent the bottom of the pizza from burning. Using tongs, slide the pizza onto a large cutting board, repeat with the remaining half of the pizza dough, and enjoy.
Yield: Two 12-inch pizzas