During grilling season, tossing fresh vegetables on a hot fire is a must. Grilled veggies are the easiest and most flavorful additions to any meal, including pizza.
Most sturdy vegetables are suitable for the grill. And with farmers markets in full swing, I never get tired of perennial favorites: zucchini or red peppers. But eggplant, yellow squash, potato (regular or sweet) and onion (red or white) are also ideal. The best way to grill the vegetables is to brush them with a bit of olive oil, then sprinkle with some seasoning like kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
The best practice for grilling vegetables -- and for pizza on the grill -- is having all the vegetables prepped and ready in advance. With the exception of eggplant, you can brush the vegetables with oil and season about an hour before grilling. Eggplant is like a sponge and will absorb the oil, so brush it with oil and season just before grilling.
In today's recipe, you can start grilling the red onion and eggplant, then the zucchini and red pepper halves, before putting the dough on the grill. Once the veggies have been cooking for about 5-7 minutes and you have good grill marks on one side, flip them over and grill just a few minutes more on the second side. The thickness of the veggies determines how long they will take to cook. You want them cooked so that they are slightly crispy on the outside, but tender and not mushy on the inside.
When making pizzas on the grill, roll out the dough or stretch it thin so it's about 1/4-inch thick. The thin dough will cook faster and is better for grilling. A thick dough will take longer to cook and, unless the grill is on low, the bottom of the crust will most likely burn.
Grilled dough is usually cooked on both sides. Once one side is grilled, use tongs to flip the dough. Sometimes bubbles will pop up on the dough, so use a fork or knife to pop them. Or you can use a round splatter screen with a handle to move and flip the dough on the grill. Make sure the grill is at medium heat and that the grates are well-oiled before you start grilling so the pizza dough and vegetables don't stick.
Once the dough is grilled on one side, flip it over and top with your grilled vegetables and cheese if desired.
GRILLED VEGGIE PIZZA
Makes: Two, 10-inch round pizzas / Preparation time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Note: Look for frozen pizza dough in your supermarket's freezer. I use Tiseo's, which is made in Sterling Heights, Mich., and sold at many grocery stores.
1 pound thawed, room-temperature pizza dough
2 teaspoons cornmeal
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds
1 large red onion, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds about ½-inch thick
8 mini red bell peppers, cut in half
Fresh mozzarella slices or cheese of choice
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves or oregano, optional
Preheat or prepare the grill for medium heat -- about 350 to 375 degrees.
Cut the pizza dough in half. On a lightly floured work surface, press dough out to about a 10-inch circle. Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal and transfer rolled-out dough to the sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
Brush the top of each with about ½ teaspoon olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Set aside.
Place the eggplant slices, onion slices, zucchini slices and red bell pepper pieces on a large sided baking sheet. Drizzle all with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn vegetables over (be careful with the onion slices, you want them left whole, not in rings) and repeat with oil, salt and pepper.
When ready to grill, brush the grill grates with a flavorless oil like canola. Close the lid and wait 5 minutes.
Arrange the vegetables on the grill and grill a few minutes on one side or until you get some nice grill marks. Turn them over and grill several minutes more or until they are crisp-tender. Remove from the grill, cover with foil and keep warm.
Place the rolled-out crusts on the grate and grill for about 3-4 minutes or until you get nice grill marks. Flip and brush with a little more olive oil and seasonings. Arrange grilled vegetables on top. Top with cheese of choice and close the lid and grill about 5 minutes or until crust is lightly brown and cheese melts.
After it's cooked, sprinkle the pizza with some freshly chopped basil, slice and serve.