Grilled Pizza

August 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Summertime … and the grilling is easy. Cheese is melting, and the pizza is fine.

Okay, I’m no George Gershwin, but what I’m trying to say is this: Pizza on the grill is not only easy, it’s one of the quickest summertime grilled meals possible. What do I like about it most? The fact that I don’t have to deal with my smoke alarms going off. Yeah, that happens whenever we cook pizza inside. The super-heated oven ends up burning the corn meal that remains on our pizza stone. Pizza in January usually means both our front and back doors are open to prevent smoke buildup. No. Kidding.

So, when we can slap that pizza dough on a hot grill, we go there.

And you can go there, too.

I’m not going to tell you what kind of pizza to make. Your toppings are your toppings. You want pepperoni? Have pepperoni. You want smoked salmon? Go for it. Sauce? Yes, please—but don’t go overboard. A little dab will do ya (I’m showing my age with that quote).

My assorted pizza toppings, minus a bowl full of kale-ricotta mixture.

Plus, I’m not the pizza maker. Jennifer is the star when it comes to assemblage. I make the dough, I’ll make sauce. I’ll sous, but she chefs when it comes to pizza time. We’re practiced at this, but the following are our tips, not our must dos. Also, p.s., our grilling is done on a gas grill. Charcoal? A slightly different animal, so adjust as you see fit.

Grilled Pizza Tips

A hot hot grill is good. 500F is good. Clean it really well, not leftover burnt chicken skin, please.

Prep your toppings. I can’t emphasize that enough. Slice, dice, chop, stir. Get ’em ready. AND, pour a small bowl – maybe 1/3 to a 1/2 cup? – of olive oil to have on hand. Put ’em all on a big cutting board or tray to carry out to the grill.

Roll out a nice flat but not too thin dough. Round, square, oblong, whatever.

Here’s a great trick: Lightly oil a section of aluminum foil. Take that dough you just rolled out and put it down on the foil. Now, lightly swab the top of the dough with oil.

Okay, maybe I over-oiled this one. Swab off any extra oil!

Grill’s good and hot. Your toppings are ready to go. Your dough is ready to go. So, go out to the grill and … Quickly flip that dough, oiled top side down, on top searing-hot grill, and peel back the foil.  There’ll be some “yikes!” and “oh, sh*t” moments, I’m not gonna lie to you. Pull the dough one way or the other, make your tweaks QUICKLY, and then close that grill cover. And fast. The sooner heat completely surrounds the dough, the quicker that dough is going to turn into a pizza crust. Right? Right.

Two-three minutes. Peek once or twice to make sure the underside is not burning. Oh, it’ll burn. Believe you me.

Oh damn, I burned the first one. These things happen.

NOTE: The first dough got kinda … well … crispy. I started another. Much, much better.

Get your mise en place in place, ready to go. Open the grill, flip that crust over.

Not using a sauce? Then give a quick brush all over the top with evoo. Using a sauce? Spread it thinly and quickly. Layer everything else on as you see fit. And be quick about it!

Close the lid for another couple of minutes. Keep an eye on the bottom, making sure it’s not burning. When the cheese (if you’re using) and the sauce look melty and hot, it’s time to take it off the heat.

Let sit for three minutes to let the sauce and toppings set. And then cut yourself a slice.

Worth it all, huh?

Spicy Eggplant Relish ala Moosewod

July 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

One of the things we do when we spend time in Provincetown is head over to the Saturday farmers market. This time of year the stalls offer some great fresh produce we haven’t seen locally since last summer. This time we picked up two smallish eggplants. Versatile! Yummy! Pretty! Eggplants are all of the above … And also a bit short-lived on the countertop, especially in weather like this.

What to do with them? We could grill. We could stuff. We could make lasagna. We could bread. And we did none of those. Instead, when they began getting “long in the tooth,” we turned to an old standby – spicy eggplant relish.

I pulled this recipe from my Moosewood cookbook a few years ago for a get-together and used it as a dip. It got a great response. We used the leftovers in numerous ways, such as a spread for sandwiches, and also as an eat-by-the-forkful snack. Can’t remember exactly which Moosewood cookbook it came from, possibly the original. Luckily its a popular recipe and we were able to find it online – hey, we’re on vacation, we don’t travel with old cookbooks.

Recipe
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion
1 small red pepper, large dice
2 small-medium eggplant, small cubes, don’t bother peeling
Salt, pepper and cayenne to taste

-heat oil over medium-low. Add onions and sautée until softish, 4-5 min.
-add cubed eggplant and red pepper. The eggplant will soak up a lot of the oil. Stir really well to coat all of it. Let it cook low and slow. Add a generous pinch or two of kosher salt and several turns of fresh pepper.
-Let it cook down awhile – 5 min or so. Add in as much cayenne as is appropriate for you. Cook partially covered for another 4-5 min.
-is the eggplant soft? Take it off the heat. Season with salt/pepper if needed.

We ran into one small problem during this – there was no cayenne in the house. How is that possible? We made due with some chili powder and red pepper flakes. The chili powder gave it a smoky flavor, making it a bit more savory. It was a good addition, actually. I added a bit too much red pepper flakes. Adding a small sliver of cheese when serving on a cracker will take care of that. Looking forward to having this in a tofu wrap for lunch. Perfect beach food.

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Kitchen Cobb Salad

June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

When staying at our friend’s winter getaway in Vermont, the “fridge-tata” is the breakfast of choice. But it’s summer now, and our summer getaway is our friend’s bay-side home in Provincetown. No fridgetatas here. Lunches call for something lighter, something a little more summery. But just as easy.

Open the fridge. pull out the freshly harvested lettuce from the garden. Assess the leftovers. Make yourself a Kitchen Cobb Salad.

Now, a Kitchen Cobb is not an actual Cobb salad. It could be, I guess, if you just happen to have strips of turkey and bacon and egg and such. The Kitchen Cobb is much less structured, much less formal. Really, it’s anything you find in your fridge that you wouldn’t mind having atop some greens. Leftover roasted asparagus? Sure. Grilled salmon? Why not. A dollop of cottage cheese? Throw it on there. When it comes to a Kitchen Cobb, anything goes.

Today’s Kitchen Cobb benefitted from last night’s meal cooked for eight – steak, salmon, and lentil-bulgur salad, with the leftover pear and red onion green salad as a base. No steak on our salads, of course. We also threw in some roasted asparagus and goat cheese, and topped with lemon-oregano vinaigrette.

Jennifer gets credit for the name. She’s good like that.

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Biga-Based Pizza Dough

June 1, 2011 § 5 Comments

Pizza is one of our fallback meals in the Dainty domicile. And it’s not delivery; not even DiGiorno. It’s made with good ol’ homemade, hand-thrown dough. With a special addition. Let’s call it Dainty Dough.

There are two things that make the Dainty Dough a bit different. First, it’s made with biga, one of many types of dough starters. It’s a yeast-based starter, not a natural sourdough starter—meaning it contains commercial yeast and not yeast found naturally in the environment (have I lost you yet? Hang on for a minute.). The biga ferments—i.e. sits on your counter bubbling away—for 8 to 24 hours or so, all the while developing a richer, chewier flavor. Pizza crust with flavor, not just used as a platform for toppings, imagine that.

The second thing I do is add a dollop or two of my Sourdough Starter, aka Milo the Baby Dough, during the dough-making process. A few months back you may recall I was experimenting with natural yeast and tried creating a real sourdough. Well, after a month or so, Milo is alive and well. I feel like I created a golem, it’s so incredibly cool. It’s totally not necessary to add this sourdough starter, but I’ll explain in a minute why I do it.

Dainty Dough: Step 1

Biga Recipe (from my Basic Baking class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts)

  • 1/4 oz. yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (warm=dip in a finger and it should feel the same temp as your body)
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3 3/4 cups flour (I suggest all-purpose flour here. If you want wheat dough you can add wheat flour later)

-Add yeast and 1/4 cup warm water with sugar in a bowl and stir together. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Add remaining water and the flour and mix thoroughly. You’ll end up with a creamy mixture. Cover and either let sit on the counter 8 hours or place in the fridge for 24 hours. It will become creamy and bubbly. The biga will remain
-At this point you can proceed with the next step and make the pizza dough. Or, I suggest weighing out your biga into 4 oz. pieces, reserving one piece for your current pizza and placing the remaining into individual freezer baggies and popping them in the freezer. Label and date your baggies! Otherwise a year from now you’ll excavate your freezer and wonder what the heck that thing is. From this one batch of biga you will get up to 8 4 oz. pieces. And each 4 oz. biga gives you four pizza stone-sized pizzas. Do the math—that’s a lot of pizza!

Dainty Dough: Step 2
Pizza Dough Recipe

  • 4 oz. biga
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (kosher preferred)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • A dollop or two of Milo the Baby Dough sourdough starter (optional)
  • 4 1/2 cup flour (for wheat dough use 2 1/2 cups all-purpose and 2 cups whole wheat)
  • 1 1/2 cup water

-Add biga, salt, oil, sourdough starter and flour to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn on slow speed, let it mix together for up to a minute then add water slowly. Because I’ve added a bit of the sourdough starter, there is more moisture in the dough and depending on your weather conditions, you may not need all of that water. Yes, baking depends on weather conditions, believe it or not.

-If you’ve added all the water and the dough seems wet and watery, add a tablespoon of all-purpose flour and let it mix in. Keep adding flour one tablespoon at a time until the dough is no longer wet but not bone dry! You’ll likely need no more than four or five tablespoons of flour.

-Keep mixing on medium speed for about five minutes. The dough has a tendency to ride up the dough hook. Stop the mixer when the dough makes it above the hook’s collar and push the dough back down into the bowl. Keep mixing until the dough feels smooth and it’s started to relax a bit; i.e., it shouldn’t feel like a hard tight wad of flour.

-Oil a medium bowl. Roll the dough around in the oil so it’s slightly oily all over. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for an hour. The dough won’t have risen all that much—it’s not rising like bread, we just want it to become elastic.

-Cut the dough into four equally sized pieces—they’ll likely have a triangular shape. Want an oddly shaped pizza? Then place these dough pieces as they are on a baking sheet or on the counter and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Want a perfectly round pizza? Then do this: Holding the dough piece in your hands, pull all the dough from around the piece into a central point. Go around the outside a couple times pulling it all into the center. Now, do your best to pinch that central point closed, then place the dough with that point facing downward. What you will have is a little ball with a perfectly round top, no seams showing anywhere except on the bottom. Cover these with oiled plastic wrap and let sit for about 20 minutes.

So, about adding that dollop or two of sourdough starter to the dough … here’s why I did it. I did, in fact, excavate my freezer recently and found two baggies of 13 month-old biga. Doing a little research I found that the recommended time for biga in the freezer is a max of four months. Oops. I added the sourdough starter as a way to give the dough a kick of fresh yeast. I think it worked. Plus, I noticed the crust did have telltale sourdough bread-like air bubbles. Tasty!

Hmm … turns out I have absolutely no photos of any of this. Bummer. Guess I’ll have to make some biga and dough later today.

By the way, biga can be used for more than just pizza dough. So instead of making 4 oz. balls of biga for the freezer, you can use what you have left for bread baking.

Wait, what? Am I leaving you without actually making a pizza? You bet. That’s for another day, when Jennifer can chime in on her favorite toppings. I make the dough, but she’s the pizza master.

 

Fridge-tata: Going recipe-less with breakfast

January 18, 2011 § 3 Comments

Long weekend away in a ski house with friends + cooking in + stuffed refrigerator = “fridge-tata”

If you’re not an egg lover or have not gone out to for brunch in 15 years and aren’t familiar with a frittata, it’s the Italian take on the classic French omelette: Beaten eggs in a hot skillet, but with the fixins in them and presented flat, not folded. And finished off in the oven. Served in slices. Come to think of it, it’s like a slice of egg cake. Filled with sausage or salmon, chicken or chopped tomatoes, their many formulations stuff recipe sites and cookbooks.

I’m telling you now, throw out the recipes and create your own on auto-pilot. It’s as easy as opening your refrigerator.

We’ve been members of a gay ski house up in Vermont for going on eight years now. On any given fall or winter weekend, the house is filled with boys from NYC and Boston, boyfriends flying in from elsewhere and occasionally a few girls. There can be up to 12 or 14 folks sitting around the dinner table. The New York boys have a reputation for preparing over-the-tops meals – usually creatively fueled with several apre-ski cocktails. Caviar shows up on the menu several times a ski season.

At least one breakfast each weekend is something I’ve dubbed a “fridge-tata.” While I can take credit for the name, I can’t take credit for the process. That would go to the likes of Hal and Steve. They stare into the open fridge, assess the leftovers, and pull out the fridge-tata’s fillings. Chicken and green beans? Tuna and asparagus? As long as they have six or more eggs and that huge skillet (it must be 16 inches), they can create a breakfast fortified enough to fuel a day of downhill.

 

Personal-Sized Fridge-tata

On Sunday, I created my own single-serving fridge-tata for a post-snowshoeing snack.

I used only a portion of these leftovers for my personal-sized fridge-tata

  • leftovers of salmon, rice (created from some seasoned packet and a half can of chopped tomatoes) and beans
  • two eggs, beaten with salt and pepper and a touch of milk
  • mango key-lime salsa to taste

-Using a small, 8-in. skillet set on medium, I heated up the rice and beans. Meanwhile, I whisked up my eggs with salt and pepper.

-After beans and rice formed a bit of a crust on the bottom, I broke it up a bit and added my little hunk of leftover salmon. I waited because I didn’t want the salmon to be cooked to much more than it already had been.

-With the salmon in there for about 30 seconds, I added the eggs and turned the heat down to medium low.

-I let the eggs set a bit – enough so that I could lift the sides with a spatula. This took only two to three minutes.

fridge-tata setting up

The eggs need to set up a bit

-The top of the fridge-tata needed to set, so I put a lid over the skillet for a minute or two.

-Serve with salsa.

The finished fridge-tata

I could have used another egg or two to make the fridge-tata thicker. But then it would have been too much for me to finish. Had I cooked a more massive fridge-tata in that larger 16-in. skillet, I would have used way more eggs – probably eight or more. And, I would have cooked it on the stovetop until the eggs set up, covered it and set it on medium low for maybe 14-15 minutes, and then put it under the broiler for a minute or two to make sure the top was crisp.

It’s not the gourmety-est dish. But it’s the perfect way to deal with leftovers when roughing it in a ski house.

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