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Grilled Pizza with Arrowood Wine. (Or, How To Eat Your Vegetables with a Cabernet.)

Grilled Pizza with Arrowood | the year in food

When Arrowood invited me to host a Sunday dinner in the rolling hills of their Glen Ellen vineyard in Sonoma county, it was an easy yes. Bring a bunch of friends along to hang out on a Sunday afternoon, to cook together and to learn about their wines? Of course. This is what the dreamiest of Sundays are made for.

Grilled Pizza with Arrowood | the year in food

Grilled Pizza with Arrowood | the year in food

The plan was to pair a meal with their Sonoma County Chardonnay, Sonoma County Cab, and the Reserve Speciale Cab. (Plus the Riesling with dessert.) Pairing wine with food has never been my forte, mostly because I just drink rosé with everything. And while Arrowood has a really lovely rosé, their specialty is Cabs. Because I am a vegetable lover, I really wanted to emphasize a produce-centric meal, both in celebration of California’s summer bounty, and as a stand against the tendency to automatically match Cabs to beef. Fun little challenge, right?

Grilled Pizza with Arrowood | the year in food

I had no idea how tricky it would be to finesse summer produce to work with a Cabernet. It is a little bit like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. After a series of emails and phone calls with Arrowood’s winemaker, Kristina Werner, and educational director, Gilian Handelman, a vague menu was starting to take shape. Gilian was a delight to speak with. She sang on the phone to me, to illustrate the high notes and the low notes where vegetables register. I had never considered vegetables in this light, but it was starting to make sense. For a big, dark, bassy wine like a Cab, you wanted things with a lower vibration, like beets, or mushrooms. If you take a moment to think about vegetables in this way, it really makes sense. I totally understand, now, why fresh tomatoes register higher. Or why a yellow tomato’s lower acid makes it a better fit with a Chardonnay than a red tomato.

Grilled Pizza with Arrowood | the year in food

Pizza, it turns out, and especially grilled pizza, is a great canvas for experimenting with how different flavors pair with wines. The elements of smoke and char go really well with Cabernets especially, but also Chardonnays, so I drove home that point not only with a gorgeously smoky, charred crust but also with grilled corn, grilled broccolini, and grilled mushrooms. Plus, you can make multiple pizzas with different toppings and take bites and sips of each. It’s a really fun way to discover what works for you with wine.

Grilled Pizza with Arrowood | the year in food

Grilled Pizza with Arrowood | the year in food

The afternoon was lovely, if not a little chaotic with the many details around getting things going. My friends were awesome, and even dressed in their dapperest Sunday threads, graciously rose to the challenge of getting everything ready for us to sit down and eat.

Grilled Pizza with Arrowood | the year in food

GRILLED PIZZA TWO WAYS: WITH A CHARDONNAY AND A CAB

Here’s what you need to know about grilled pizza: it rules. It is the best pizza you can make at home without a pizza oven. Its charred crust mimics the behavior of a dough in a pizza oven. Make sure that any topping that needs to be cooked is cooked before the pizza dough touches the grill. Because pizza cooks faster on a grill, you can only guarantee that your cheese will melt and the ingredients will soften. So, for instance, ingredients like broccolini, onions, squash, and corn, those need to be grilled first. Ingredients like fresh herbs, tomatoes, and figs, those can be placed on the pizza raw. I also never use sauce on grilled pizza; I select ingredients with big, concentrated flavors and let those carry the pie. Sauces just don’t do too well with a thin crust on a grill.

Grilled Pizza with Arrowood | the year in food

Wait, aren’t you gluten-free? I am! Before going gluten-free, though, grilling pizza was one of my favorite summer evening activities with friends. And I really missed it! (The pizza and the parties both!) Nowadays, there are some amazing gluten-free crusts on the market. But the best one I’ve tried is the one made by my friend Alanna. Seriously. If you have the time, make hers. It is so easy to swap out a gluten-free crust and run with it.

GRILLED CORN, SQUASH, AND TOMATO PIZZA

Grilled Pizza with Arrowood | the year in food

Golden colors were emphasized to pair with chardonnay, which explains the mellower flavors of the yellow squash here, as well as the golden tomatoes. Pair this with Arrowood’s Sonoma County Chardonnay.

1 pre-made pizza dough, thawed, halved and proofed (try Alanna’s or one of many available at the market.)
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ear corn, shucked
2 crookneck or similar yellow squash
1 golden heirloom tomato, thinly sliced
Torn basil leaves
1/2 cup burrata cheese
1/3 cup feta

Set a gas grill to medium high. If you are using a store-bought dough, make sure it has had enough time to rise; this will enhance the flavor of the dough. Using a rolling pin and flour, roll the dough into a circle (or, more realistically, the shape of your favorite state or country.) Brush each side of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Set aside.

Prep all the toppings so they are at hand when the dough is ready. Lightly brush the corn with olive oil. Slice the squash lengthwise and toss in olive oil. Have a separate dish each for the corn, squash, thinly sliced tomato, basil leaves, burrata, and feta, so that you can quickly build the pizza after the dough has pre-grilled. Arrange the dishes on a sheet pan for easy transport outside.

Bring everything for the pizza outside to the grill, including a bottle of olive oil, a pair of tongs, and a pizza paddle or a sheet-pan, preferably without a lip. You can layer the pizza dough on parchment paper, and use this to assist with transferring it to the grill.

Place the corn and the squash on the grill first. Grill each until just cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes. The corn will likely take a few minutes more than the squash. Set aside to cool, and carefully slice the kernels of corn into a bowl. Set aside.

Carefully place both pizza rounds onto the grill. Watch them closely; they only need 2 to 3 minutes per side to par-grill and add a little char. Remove from heat.

Place the crust on a pizza paddle. Build the pizza: arrange a loose layer of half each of the sliced squash, followed by the thin tomato slices, the grilled corn, burrata and feta crumbles. Top with basil. Repeat with second pizza.

Place on the grill and cover. Grill for about 3-5 minutes maximum, checking to make sure the crust isn’t burning. Once the cheese has melted, your pizza is ready!

FIG, PARMESAN, AND CARAMELIZED ONION PIZZA

While this combo was the favorite in our group, we actually made 3 different pizzas to pair with Arrowood’s Cabs. It was really fun to let people experiment and run with flavor combos they found interesting.

Try some of these vegetables to pair with a full-bodied California cab like Arrowood’s: sautéed chard, grilled broccolini, grilled or sautéed mushrooms, black olives, herbs such as sage, thyme, or rosemary. Have fun with it!

Grilled Pizza with Arrowood | the year in food

1 pre-made pizza dough, thawed, halved and proofed (try Alanna’s or one of many available at the market.)
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pre-made pizza dough, thawed, halved and proofed (there are many gluten-free options out there!)
3 or 4 black figs, sliced lengthwise
Fresh mozzarella
Aged Parmesan
Prosciutto, optional, for the meat eaters
Fresh thyme

First, caramelize the onions. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, toss the onions with a little olive oil. Cover, and cook over low heat, stirring every few minutes, until soft and jammy, about 35-40 minutes. Set aside.

Set a gas grill to medium high. If you are using a store-bought dough, make sure it has had enough time to rise; this will enhance the flavor of the dough. Using a rolling pin and flour, roll the dough into a circle (or, more realistically, the shape of your favorite state or country.) Brush each side of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Set aside.

Prep all the toppings so they are at hand when the dough is ready. Have a separate dish each for the figs, mozzarella, Parmesan, thyme, and prosciutto if using, so that you can quickly build the pizza after the dough has pre-grilled. Arrange the dishes on a sheet pan for easy transport outside.

Bring everything for the pizza outside to the grill, including a bottle of olive oil, a pair of tongs, and a pizza paddle or a sheet-pan, preferably without a lip. You can layer the pizza dough on parchment paper, and use this to assist with transferring it to the grill.

Carefully place both pizza rounds onto the grill. Watch them closely; they only need 2 to 3 minutes per side to par-grill and add a little char. Remove from heat.

Place the crust on a pizza paddle. Build the pizza: arrange a loose layer of figs, torn mozzarella, shaved Parmesan, and thyme. Repeat with second pizza.

Place on the grill and cover. Grill for about 3-5 minutes maximum, checking to make sure the crust isn’t burning. Once the cheese has melted, your pizza is ready!

BIG THANK YOU! To my friends Stephen Beaumier, Katy Oursler, Emma Kruch-Morris, Nicole Forsberg, Josh Andrews, Kate Koeppel, Saif Romani, and Nader Khouri for graciously pinch-hitting and MVPing your way through prep, and for your delightful company.

THANK YOU too to Galen McCorkle and Carolin Fuller for all of your behind-the-scenes help prior to and during our dinner!

This post was sponsored by Arrowood Wines. As always, all writing, photography, and opinions are my own. It’s because of creative collaborations such as these that I can keep this site going as a freelancer. Thank you!

Grilled Pizza with Arrowood | the year in food

  • Stacy - What a beautiful day and a delicious-looking spread! I so wish I could have made it. Sounds like you met that pairing challenge quite successfully. It’s morning, but I could definitely eat a grilled pizza with figs right now.ReplyCancel

    • Kimberley - I wish you could have made it too! I would definitely eat grilled pizza for breakfast.ReplyCancel

  • Elaine @Flavour and Savour - I’m running to my grill! Your post is full of useful explicit instructions for what could be a tricky meal. Thanks so much!ReplyCancel

  • Anna - loove this!!! those pizzas look amazing :D

    https://aspoonfulofnature.wordpress.com/ReplyCancel

  • Alanna - Awwww, thanks for the gf crust shout-out Kimberley!! I thought I recognized Emma in there. This looks like such a spectacularly delicious day. That fig pizza is seriously calling to me.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah | Well and Full - Everything about this looks divine! Few things better than a chilled glass of wine on a hot summer’s day :)ReplyCancel

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food - What a feast!!! I’m a little jealous of your dinner guests. Ok… very jealous. Pizza and Cab… doesn’t get much better than that!ReplyCancel

  • Hailey~FurnishMyWay - Wine pairing is not my forte either, but the comparison of vegetable to song was easily translated when you spoke of it. Grilled pizza?! I have to give this a go, not sure how successful I’ll be, but it looks divine. Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Sara - Oh, God bless America! I need to make friends with you. Grilled pizza & wine in this beautiful scene sound like a little slice of heaven!ReplyCancel

  • Cristina - What a simple yet elegant meal…I often think that the best and most successful entertaining happens when the food is accessible and easy to prepare. Pizza is great that way…and your choice of ingredients is fabulous. There is really something for everyone. I am not familiar with the wine pairings that you suggest, but will definitely try them as soon as I have an opportunity (or an excuse, right?)Thank you for the photographs, they capture the easy and friendly atmosphere perfectly..ReplyCancel

  • Samantha - Hi Caroline,

    I stumbled across your photography and blog the other day, and fell in love with the way you capture San Francisco life! It seems like you truly enjoy showcasing the best of San Francisco culture, and so, I thought you might be interested in attending a complimentary beer tasting dinner at the upstairs at Central Kitchen on Wednesday, September 9.

    The guided dinner, created exclusively by executive chef and owner, Thomas McNaughton, highlights a variety of beers and ciders from the MillerCoors portfolio, including several limited edition brews. Beyond enjoying a delicious menu, a MillerCoors beer expert will be on hand to share little-known facts from the brewers’ storied history and portfolio of products throughout the night. All in all, it will be a fun, laid-back evening and I hope you can join! There will certainly be some wonderful photo opps!

    Please reserve your spot by RSVP-ing to me by Tuesday, September 1. Happy to answer any questions that you may have about the evening. Also, please let me know of any dietary restrictions we should inform the kitchen of.
    Thanks!
    Samantha, 312-377-4132ReplyCancel

  • Becky Chaffee - This so refreshing to find. I was looking for a new food blog to spend some time on, and the first one I found had a Gnocci recipe starting with purchased gnocci! Arg!! Can’t wait to make you pizza for the Labor Day weekend. Thanks.ReplyCancel

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    Thus my investment of Rs. 10 Lacs is now only worth Rs. 8 Lacs. The banks called the loan and I had to sell my investment and pay the balance from my personal accounts. I have suffered huge losses with Biteclub Review :

    On the evening of 13 Aug, I ordered two portions of garlic bread and veg. lasagna from Biteclub to celebrate my husband’s promotion, but they delivered us meat lasagna. Could you believe this? They have a website and all hankies-pankies but can’t make a straight order. I would never order from Biteclub again, it ruined my evening.ReplyCancel

  • thefolia - My invitation must have been lost in the mail. Ha, ha, seriously though, I’m grilling us some pizza tonight and a lovely bottle of Chardonnay to hit the spot. Happy Nesting!ReplyCancel

  • Jess - Those pizzas look amazing and you guys gathered quite a crowd here. Everything looks delicious!ReplyCancel

  • Dimple Kalra - That’s was a good combination I must say. Combining foods like this, is a talent.ReplyCancel

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