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GOOD COOKING

Take Your Pizza Outdoors

July 05, 1996|ABBY MANDEL

The thin, crisp, smoky crusts of grilled pizzas lend themselves to do-it-yourself combinations that can be great fun for an informal gathering. It's quick, too--a covered charcoal or gas grill cooks the pizza recipes that follow in 10 minutes or less.

I've simplified the pizza preparation by using pizza dough from the freezer case at the supermarket. In a side-by-side tasting, the prepared dough was OK; needless to say, it's much easier than homemade. One pound of frozen pizza dough suffices for four individual pizzas, or you can use your favorite pizza dough recipe according to these same weights.

The pizza salsa is a fresh uncooked tomato mixture, receptive to any additions that you may have on hand (just be sure they are precooked or can be eaten raw; toppings only warm through on the grill). I've included recipes for pizzas with arugula and Parmesan salad and Mediterranean pizzas; both use the salsa as a light, refreshing base.

It's easy to work the pizza dough. Here's how: Divide thawed but cool dough into 4 equal parts (1/4 pound each); dough is easier to work while it is still somewhat chilled.

Roll each part out on a floured work surface until it is uniformly 1/8-inch thick, either in rounds or free-form shapes.

Dough can be used right off or rolled several hours ahead, stacked between pieces of plastic wrap that have been sprayed with vegetable oil (to prevent sticking), sealed in a plastic food bag and refrigerated (it is not necessary to let it come to room temperature before grilling).

Now you're ready to grill pizzas. Start with these recipes, then vary them with your own topping combinations.

PIZZA SALSA

1/2 large red onion, diced small, about 3/4 cup

2 large tomatoes, seeded, diced small, about 2 cups

1 large red bell pepper, roasted and peeled, diced small

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

Red pepper flakes

This salsa is great on fish, chicken and pasta as well as on the pizzas. If you prefer a thicker salsa, lightly drain and add 1 tablespoon tomato paste. And remember, the better the tomatoes, the better the salsa.

Combine onion, tomatoes, pepper, vinegar, basil, oil, salt and red pepper flakes to taste in 1-quart mixing bowl. Let rest about 3 hours at room temperature before using. Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Before using, let come to room temperature, stir well and adjust seasoning.

Makes topping for 6 individual pizzas.

Each serving contains about:

44 calories; 105 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.58 gram fiber.

GRILLED PIZZAS WITH ARUGULA AND PARMESAN SALAD

4 (1/4-pound) pizza dough rounds, 1/8-inch thick

Olive oil or olive oil cooking spray

1 1/3 cups Pizza Salsa, room temperature, slightly drained

1 cup baby arugula leaves, stems removed

1/3 cup shaved imported Parmesan cheese (use swivel-bladed vegetable peeler to make shavings)

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

With grilled corn on the cob, these pizzas make a perfect Sunday night supper.

Place dough in single layer on board. Lightly brush or spray both sides of dough with oil.

Place dough on oiled grill over medium-high heat. Close grill. Crusts will puff and bottoms will be browned with grill marks, 2 to 5 minutes; check often to avoid burning. Using tongs, turn pizzas over.

Top each with 1/3 cup Pizza Salsa, spreading to within 1/8-inch of edge. Close grill and cook until bottom crusts are well browned (not burned) and topping is warmed through, 3 to 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, put arugula leaves and cheese shavings in small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon oil and gently toss to mix or spray to coat with cooking spray. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Use barbecue spatula to transfer pizzas onto serving plates. Top with arugula salad, evenly divided. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

355 calories; 891 mg sodium; 6 mg cholesterol; 62 grams fat; 57 grams carbohydrates; 14 grams protein; 0.10 gram fiber.

GRILLED MEDITERRANEAN PIZZAS

1 1/3 cups Pizza Salsa, room temperature, slightly drained

4 teaspoons capers, drained

6 Kalamata olives, pitted, diced small

4 (1/4-pound) pizza dough rounds, 1/8-inch thick

Olive oil or olive oil cooking spray

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Salt

Red pepper flakes

Freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese

Serve these pizzas with a white bean, red onion, carrot and mushroom salad. Nicoise olives can be substituted for the Kalamata olives.

Combine Pizza Salsa, capers and olives in small bowl. Adjust seasoning. Set aside.

Place dough rounds in single layer on board. Lightly brush or spray both sides of dough with oil.

Place dough on oiled grill over medium heat. Close grill. Crusts will puff and bottoms will be browned with grill marks, 2 to 5 minutes; check often to avoid burning. Using tongs, turn over.

Top each with about 1/3 cup topping mixture, spreading evenly to within 1/8-inch of edge. Top with cheese, dividing and spreading evenly. Lightly season to taste with salt and red pepper flakes. Close grill and cook until bottom crusts are well browned (not burned) and cheese has melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese to taste. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

451 calories; 1,113 mg sodium; 16 mg cholesterol; 72 grams fat; 58 grams carbohydrates; 14 grams protein; 0.38 gram fiber.

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