Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Grilled Arugula-Berry Pizza

The kitchen is a barometer of my well being. If I'm rolling out dough, I'm in a happy place. All is well in my world if I'm stirring, chopping, zesting, crimping, or peeling. If the kitchen is too clean, if I don't have a minor burn or two, I'm probably circling the edge of the abyss. But outdoor cooking is another domain. Grilling is the realm of Men. Fire, alchemy, smoke, magic. 

When I began to crave a grilled pizza, I partnered with my sous chef, Bandwith. He's a biochemist and a self-taught cook. He also knows his way around charcoal. Still, we went though five balls of dough, all scorched, before we ended up with one perfect crust. Oddly enough, it came from a can of refrigerated pizza dough--my emergency stash. It was that or dash out to Publix. 
Daunted but not defeated, I sprayed a 9 x 14 cookie sheet with Pam and patted out the dough. Then I set the pan on the grill. We used charcoal, by the way, and it's damn hard to control the heat. The crust took maybe 40 seconds to brown. I flipped it over, and grilled it for 30 seconds. I used two spatulas, by the way, which supported the pizza. As I lifted the crust, Bandy whisked away the pan. I set the crust directly onto the grill and patted it. Actually, I pushed down, hoping to end up with lovely grill marks. After ten seconds, I flipped the crust and let it cook for another 10 seconds. Bandy was stunned by the speed and fury of the heat, and the way it seemed to lash out and blacken the crust in seconds. I talked to my older son, who is a professional chef, and he said the pan (or a pizza stone) will provide an indirect cooking method. And setting the crust directly onto the grill for a nanosecond will give you perfect grill marks.
A caveat: I wasn't sure if the crust had been cooked all the way through, so I quickly wrapped it in foil and baked it for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F. It worked. 

On the Exhausted Cook's scale of difficulty, a "1" is difficult and "5" is super easy (think Jiffy Cornbread Mix). For me, this pizza was a "3-1/2." I'd have to give a "2" for the crust; even though it was store-bought, grilling was a challenge. I'd give a "5" for the toppings.

I should mention the mess, too, because messy recipes affect all exhausted cooks. For this little recipe, the clean-up was definitely a "1." In the pantry, the counter was littered with flour and dirty pans. Incinerated crusts were stacked high. Bandy couldn't look at them. 
"It's all part of the adventure," I told him.
He hung his head.
We had done our homework, doing exhaustive research about grilling dough. We'd done it before, but on a gas grill. Now, we have a small charcoal grill, and indirect heating is well nigh impossible. There's just no room. Which means a happy ending can be dicey. 

Bandy's initial experiments had involved brushing olive oil on the dough, which blackened our pizza-to-be in less than a minute. By the third attempt, Bandy was so frustrated, he said he'd never help me again. My husband, the M.D.,  said it's just as well--grilling is a known carcinogen. But in this house, the motto is: live quietly but eat dangerously. Within reason, of course. I mean, really. Just the other day, I heard that butter won't kill you and may actually be a good thing. All things in moderation, I guess. 

Just as long as I'm in the kitchen, I'll be humming.

The flavors in this pizza remind me of music. A hint of smoke, the savory bite of nuts and pancetta, the smooth, milky cheese, the wild notes of arugula, and a burst of sweet and sour.

Grilled Arugula-Berry Pizza
with Pancetta and Onions
Serves 4

1 can refrigerated pizza dough
Pam Spray
1-8 oz. wedge of brie, rind removed
1/2 cup sliced white onions
1/4 stick unsalted butter
4 oz. package of chopped (uncooked) pancetta
fresh arugula
chopped pecans

Sauté the onion in 1/4 stick unsalted butter. Remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer onions into a bowl. leaving some buttery drippings in the pan. Set onions aside. Using the same pan, saute the pancetta until crisp. Set aside.
Slice brie into thin pieces and place on top of the warm pizza crust. Broil until cheese melts. Remove from oven and let cool a bit. Add onions, pancetta, berries, nuts, and arugula, arranging evenly over the crust. Serve with your favorite wine.

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  1. Somehow Blogger ate my post and all of the comments. Argh.

  2. Gorgeous, gorgeous photos! I feel like I could eat the whole pizza! Swinging by from Metamorphosis Monday! - Amy @ http://thegiftedgabber.com