Thursday, July 28, 2005

Grilled pizza--who knew?

Wow do I ever regret waiting so darn long to try making pizza on the grill. I made it on Tuesday night and it was terrific and best of all, not too damn fussy.

I mentioned a long time ago that I have never made a successful calzone at home--the fillings always sogged out the crust no matter what changes I made, and the crust wasn't exactly delectable itself, being sort of shoe-leathery in texture. So I had pretty low cooking confidence going into this little recipe attempt. But it was stinking hot so I wasn't going to turn the oven on and I had some of that left-over fresh mozzarella that really needed to be used.

I looked up Grilled Pizza in the Cook's Illustrated on-line edition (which I pay an additional $19.95 for in addition to the $25 print subscription price and which still bugs me despite its proven use value) and followed their general instructions for making it on a gas grill. It's a long damn recipe and I'm happy to say that making it isn't as complicated as it first looked.

I made the dough recipe which turned out to be really good thanks to that miracle ingredient--Salt! It called for 1.25 t salt and I added a little more (1.5 t) which made a big difference in the flavor of the dough. There is also quite a lot of olive oil in the dough--2 T. They say that this oil content keeps the dough from sticking to the grill and it seemed to work.

Cook's didn't say to flip the crust, but I did because I hate the taste of raw dough so I briefly cooked the other side of the crust before adding toppings.

I didn't go for the toppings they suggested--fontina cheese, diced plum tomatoes, parmesan, spicy garlic oil and fresh basil--but instead used what I had in the house. My pizza was first brushed with regular garlic oil (one pressed clove warmed up in about 1/2 C olive oil), then layered with lots of fresh basil, then a layer of plum tomato slices that had been tossed with a little salt, then slices of Big 10s fabulous fresh mozzarella, then a little more of the garlic oil brushed on top and a sprinkling of kosher salt and some ground pepper.

This is what it looked like right before it went on the grill for the second time (the crust has already been cooked so it doesn't stay on very long--just enough to melt the cheese and warm up the whole concoction).
And here is what they looked like moments before we started shoveling them down.
The crust was a little smoky from the grill, crisp, salty and it held together well to deliver the toppings. And really, what can go wrong with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella? I drizzled a little of the Big 10 18-year balsamic vinegar on mine and it gave it a little extra zing.

Now that I have discovered how good and not too labor intensive these are I am kicking myself for not planting any Italian style tomatoes in my garden. I'll probably try these pizzas with some of my beefsteaks or green zebras once the bounty really starts to kick in, but I suspect they will be too wet to really work well.

Grilled Pizza
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

2 T olive oil
1 C water at room temperature
2 C bread flour (plus a little extra to flour surfaces)
1 T whole wheat flour
2 t sugar
1 1/2 t table salt
1 t instant yeast

garlic oil--1 clove of garlic warmed up in 1/2 C olive oil
fresh basil--about 1 C
5 or 6 plum tomatoes sliced into rounds and tossed with about 1 t salt
fresh mozzarella--if you budget 1/4 lb per pizza you should have enough
balsamic vinegar--optional and on the side

Combine oil and water in liquid measuring cup. In food processor fitted with metal blade, process bread flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, and yeast until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine running, slowly add liquid through feed tube; continue to process until dough forms tacky, elastic ball that clears sides of workbowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. If dough ball does not form, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time and process until dough ball forms. Spray medium bowl lightly with nonstick cooking spray or rub lightly with oil. Transfer dough to bowl and press down to flatten surface; cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in draft-free spot until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

When dough has doubled, press down gently to deflate; turn dough out onto work surface and divide into 4 equal-sized pieces. Set dough balls on well-floured work surface. Press dough rounds with hand to flatten; then use a floured rolling pin to get it approximately into a circle (remember it is supposed to look kind of rustic--ain't it great when you can pass off sloppiness for rustic authenticity?). Stack the dough rounds each on a sheet of parchment paper.

Light all burners and turn to high heat, cover grill, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes; scrape cooking grate clean with grill brush.

Lightly flour a pizza peel (or use a sideless baking sheet); invert 1 dough round onto peel, gently stretching it as needed to retain shape (do not stretch dough too thin; thin spots will burn quickly). Peel off and discard parchment; carefully slide round onto hot side of grill. Immediately repeat with another dough round. Cook (with grill lid down) until tops are covered with bubbles and bottoms are grill marked and charred in spots, 2 to 3 minutes; then flip and grill otherside 1-2 minutes till the whole thing doesn't look raw anymore. While rounds cook, check undersides and slide to a cool area of grill if browning too quickly (you can do this with one side of the gas grill lit and one side un-lit but that means you can only do one round of dough at a time). Transfer crusts to cutting board with the more cooked side up. Repeat with 2 remaining dough rounds.

Brush crusts with Garlic Oil; top each with one-quarter of the basil, one-quarter of the sliced tomatoes and enough cheese slices to cover (don't overlap cheese or it will take too long to melt). Brush mozzarella with a little more garlic oil then sprinkle with a little kosher salt and pepper. Return pizzas to grill and cover grill with lid; cook until bottoms are well browned and cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes, checking bottoms frequently to prevent burning. (again, if the bottoms brown too fast you can always do the indirect heat thing with one grill lit and the pizza over the unlit side until the toppings have melted). Transfer pizzas to cutting board (tongs worked great); repeat with remaining 2 crusts. Cut into wedges and serve immediately. Offer a little balsamic if folks want to sprinkle a little on.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Three obsessions in one day

I think today is going to be a good day--I plan to indulge three of my four obsessions with worthy materials.

I picked up these books at the library last night:

From the top down:
Sorbets and granitas: Icy Delights, Cookies, and Sauces from the Duane Park Cafe (really fabulous looking recipes)
London 1945 (gasp--yes I'm reading non-fiction that has nothing to do with food!)
Florida (the NBA finalist, not a travel guide)
In My Other Life (more Joan Silber after loving Ideas of Heaven)
Matilda (all the buzz about the latest Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie has led me to crave a re-read of some Roald Dahl)

While cracking the cover of London 1945 I can have another bowl of Chocolate Orange Sorbet:

I had some last night and, once again, found reason to praise Mark Bittman to the stars. The sorbet is idiotically simple to make; as Bittman himself says at the beginning of the recipe (in his tome, How to Cook Everything) "The biggest bang for your buck in the dessert world." I made a slight alteration, replacing the vanilla he called for with 1/4 t orange oil.

Here is the recipe in its entirety:

Chocolate Orange Sorbet
adapted from Mark Bittman

1/2 C sugar
3/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's European style Dutched cocoa which came in second in a Cook's Illustrated tasting and is half the price of the only cocoa to beat it--Callebaut)
2 C hot water
1/4 t orange oil (they sell this with essential oils at natural food stores and yes, it is edible in a diluted form like this. The original recipe for plain chocolate sorbet has 1/2 t vanilla extract. I bet it would also be terrific peppermint oil or extract.)

1. Mix together the sugar and cocoa then, stirring constantly, add enough hot water to make a thick paste. Add the remaining hot water and stir or whisk until smooth. Add the orange oil (or vanilla).
2. Refrigerate until cool and churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

That is it! Intensely chocolately, lovely finish of orange flavor, simple to make and fat free (if you care about fat). It was far more refreshing than an equivalent quantity of chocolate ice cream or gelato and a very nice addition to the desert repertoire at our house.

And tonight is knitting night at Sweetwaters cafe with the Ann Arbor Knit In.
There I can poll knitters as to whether it is worth continuing this:

This is the beginning of the Broadripple sock pattern from It isn't the pattern I'm questioning but whether it is worth continuing in this yarn--Knitpicks Sock Garden in colorway Pansy. Unfortunately the yellow in the yarn does not blend smoothly into the black and combines to form a color I can only call dinge. Whenever I get to a stretch of this color I am knitting with an expression on my face that approximates what I look like when facing and smelling a week old dead mouse (something I did find in our basement recently--damn mouse crawled into a trash can and couldn't get out). Can I make it through 2 socks worth of repetitive ick-color-knitting-face?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Eating Like a Single Girl

With Brian out of town at the Lebowski fest I got to indulge myself and eat like a single girl again. In my case that means a cold supper of assembled small delicacies, the kind of dinner that Brian would view as a good appetizer (meanwhile, he is eating as many meals as possible at our favorite L'ville restaurant, Lynn's Paradise Cafe).

I made it across town to Big 10 and bought some of their fresh-that-day mozzarella purchased from the man who pulled it himself, some sopressata peppata and some of their bottle-your-own 18-Year Aged Balsamic Vinegar from Modena, Italy (to go with the Spanish olive oil I already bought there). I also bought some applewood smoked bacon to make a fine BLT with in the next few days .

When I got home I combined my purchases with my homegrown tomato and basil, and some Zingerman's Paesano bread that I had.

The mozzarella was even creamier than I remembered it with none of the rubbery texture that older "fresh" mozzarella sometimes has. The balsamic puddle proved to be the best accompaniment to the sopressata--the sweetness of the vinegar brought out the flavors in the salami. And the tomato and basil provided the pure flavor of summer.

I didn't drink quite the right wine with it--I had a bottle of Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintners Blend 2003 open (a good basic Zin to have on hand; it usually retails locally for about $12/bottle but Meijer's--I know weird place to buy wine but sometimes they have terrific deals--had it recently for $7.50) so I drank that, but the food really demanded something punchier with a little more tannic kick to it--if I had any of the Woop Woop Shiraz I bought last autumn it would have been perfect. (And yes, at first I bought it because the goofy name appealed to me, but then I went back and got some more after I tasted it--a good Shiraz for the price).

For dessert, I chipped some Ghiradelli dark chocolate off a big bar and nibbled it with some walnuts. A glass of port would have been perfect with it, but since I had to put Fiona to bed by myself (a challenge even when totally sober) I didn't pour myself a glass. By the time she eventually passed out (note: not, once again, in her bed but on the couch) I was too tired to dig around in the cabinet and find the port.