Sunday, September 14, 2014

Adventures in grilled pizza

We've been experimenting with grilled pizza this year. This post is to record what we did last night so I can refer to it next time we grill pizza. We made two pizzas, the first for the kids without any of the really good extras and one for the grown-ups with all the good stuff.

Remember: It always takes longer than you think to prep everything.

If making a dough that needs time to rise or rest, such as this one, which I want to try next time, prepare the dough 2-3 hours before you want to eat.  

Otherwise, if you are using a simple dough recipe like we've mostly used, it should only rest for 5 minutes before being rolled out, so wait until the last to make it.

So, either after making your dough or sometime about 2 hours before you want to eat, begin by setting out about 4 Italian sausages to thaw. We like the Primo ones from Costco, and they are always in our freezer. Then slice a log of fresh mozzarella, rest it on paper toweling to absorb extra moisture, then refrigerate until it's time to layer the pizza.

Thinly slice a sweet onion and begin caramelizing it in a little olive oil and butter on low heat. This can take an hour or more, in spite of many recipes claiming it only takes 15 minutes. We like ours really dark. For steak we let them get crispy, but for pizza, just really dark and almost crispy is good.

At some point when the onions are about done and you are just keeping them warm, push them to one side of the pan and toss in some frozen red bell pepper strips.

We've been using this white pizza sauce recipe from Last night the lack of Parmesan cheese in our house led to the happy substitution of Asiago cheese.  It's a roux based sauce which might seem a bit strange, but it works. There is a recipe for one with cream that I will try sometime, but usually I don't have cream on hand, so the roux sauce is easiest. There are very few instructions with this recipe, so I'd like to add the following notes: 
- find someone to hold the pan still while you stir and add ingredients
- cook the flour and butter over medium low heat for one minute before adding the milk
- after adding the milk, cook the sauce until almost boiling before adding the remaining ingredients - this will result in a thicker sauce that doesn't encourage your toppings to slide off the crust when you cut your pizza
- it's not as good, but if you simply don't have a fresh basil bouquet in a jar or carafe on your kitchen counter, omit it rather than not making pizza at all

Recruit a happy helper to remove the sausage from the casings and make little blobs, about the size of the tip of an adult thumb.

Fire up the grill if you are using gas and try to get it up to somewhere between 500-525° F or so.  If you are using charcoal, it would be best if the grill were fired up somewhat more in advance of this stage of things.

If you are making a dough that only needs a few minutes resting time such as Betty Crocker's, now is the time to stir it up. Note: if measuring yeast from bulk, 2 teaspoons is plenty. Last night, we rolled the dough rather than trying to hand toss (or shape, in our case) the crust and it worked really well. Also, if this is made too long in advance, the yeast really goes to work and your dough will get too poofy.

Oil your pizza grill pan and transfer the crust. We have a Pampered Chef pizza grill pan that has slots in the bottom. What we've learned is that once the dough is placed on the pan, you need to get the toppings on as fast as you can and get it on the very hot grill immediately or the dough will begin to work its way through the slots and that makes a royal problem later.

Quickly spread on sauce, but leave a bit from the edge, lay down some sliced fresh mozzarella, but don't get too close to the edge and leave some space between the slices or you will end up with a super slidey (that's not a word?), liquidy (that either?) mess. Add sausage, onions, peppers, and whatever else your heart desires and sprinkle liberally with Asiago, or Parmesan, or Romano cheese. 

Grill until it looks done. I don't know exactly how long this takes because my other half is in charge of this step, and it varies with the grill temperature.

 Slide it off the grill pan, onto a cutting board.

Practice patience while it rests a minute or two on a cutting board.

Cut. Eat. Swoon.

I apologize for the lack of pictures, I didn't take any along the way last night. I will try to take some next time to add to this post. However, I did take one of my leftovers - they made a great lunch. :)


P.S. I am not an affiliate or have any association with any of the links or companies referenced in this post. They are there for your benefit and mine.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Last of the wildflowers to bloom

When the woodland sunflowers begin to fade and the asters blossom the end of summer is at hand.

I recently read a comment that the summer solstice should really mark "mid-summer" rather than the beginning of summer.

Red damsel fly on a plantain leaf
In thinking about the solstices and equinoxes marking the beginning of each season, I do agree with the commentator that it doesn't really fit in this northern climate.

Late season September strawberries
The spring equinox more often than not, marks for us the ending of winter and the reminder that spring WILL come eventually.  The autumn equinox seems to arrive about mid-autumn, not at the beginning. As far as the winter solstice, quite often, winter is in full swing that day.

A wet and rainy August means lush greens at the beginning of September as the asters blossom

So in a year like this, when spring seemed so late and June was cool, followed by a wet and rainy August, I'm not sure which part of summer was marked by this year's solstice. But like always, in the past year we experienced the two undeniable seasons: winter and road construction.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Cosmos, agate chips, bits, and wanna-bees

A heavy rainfall last week broke a stem of cosmos. The buds keep opening in it's vase and I just keep snipping off the fading blooms.

It's even setting roots.

I added some of the Lake Superior agate chips, bits, and wanna-bees collected from my walks.  The gravel here has a good supply of these small pieces, and occasionally, larger ones. These were selected for their translucency and ability to catch the light.