Making pizza on the grill for the first time this season felt like an act of faith. A year passes and I am out of practice, I have been negligent and there are no notes to guide me. Last year they turned out marvelously but it was beginner’s luck, no doubt.
I spent a good hour roaming the aisles of the supermarket in Portland, brainstorming and then second-guessing various marriages of ingredients. In the end there was no wild partnership, just petite golden cherry tomatoes, bulk Italian sausage fashioned into little nuggets, fennel, mozzarella and chevre, as well as fresh corn, peaches and greens for a summer salad.
Perhaps it was the heat, standing in a kitchen inside a breezeless house whose windows had been sealed shut through decades of coats of paint, on an evening that hovered around 95 degrees and was easily over one hundred indoors, that lead me to decide that omitting the first step would be okay. (That critical first step being that you need to grill the crust for a couple of minutes without any toppings, remove it from the grill, and add everything to the slighty-cooked side.)
I had composed a meticulously arranged pie with a host of ingredients that made the paper-thin crust limp under the weight of them. It did not want to move gracefully from work surface to hot grill. First spatulas were employed, then plates, both unsuccessfully. I stepped away for a moment and Jonny went at it again, poking and prodding carelessly with spatulas and verging dangerously close to disaster. He was not as invested in the aesthetic outcome of it as I, and was about ready to topple the thing in on itself and let it become some unsightly, mis-shaped monster, which sent me into a mild panic. I probably raised my voice and I may have flapped my arms. The only resolution was to remove the ingredients from the crust, let the dough brown for a couple minutes on one side, and proceed again with the reassemblage of toppings.
This is what summer does to the brain. Lesson learned.
Dough: you can make it yourself or rely on any number of supermarkets who have ready-made (not baked!) pizza dough, which is what I do.
Cheese: In addition to a large hunk of mozzarella, the inclusion of stronger cheeses brings a pizza to life. Chevre, gorgonzola and parmesan are all great.
Sauce: I never make a sauce because it is too wet for the BBQ. However, in the absence of sauce I include generous amounts of fresh cherry tomatoes.
Prep all toppings. Some ingredients may need more time to cook, such as onions or uncooked meats. Grill or saute these in advance. Have each ingredient prepped and on hand at the grill, including the cheeses.
Roll the dough into a thin crust. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle a little sea salt on top. Place onto grill for 2-3 minutes. Remove. Arrange ingredients on the slightly cooked surface of the dough and return to grill. Cover and let cook until cheese has melted.