About this time of year, we have some days when it’s too hot to plan dinner. All afternoon we’re listless and have no appetite, then the sun goes down, the air cools off, and we’re hungry. Nothing was planned ahead, but we still want a delicious and healthy meal. Pizza on the grill is custom-made for those times.
Made with beautiful ripe tomatoes and basil from the garden, this is a celebration of summer. This version is vegetarian.
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The necessary equipment is a good grill and a pizza stone. My husband the grill-wallah likes to use the cover from an old roaster, as shown above, to contain the heat and neatly cook the top. The following recipe is written with the assumption that two hungry people are working to pull this together. I’ll call them person A and person B.
1. Person A heats the grill with the pizza stone on it and the cover closed. Our grill gets very hot, so we used medium heat. Know your grill and adjust accordingly.
2. Person A goes out to buy ready-to-use raw pizza dough. Ours came from Il Vecino and was quite good. Get enough for one large pizza; this will make three small pizzas. Avoid pre-made pizza crusts. Person A then picks up a pound of fresh mozzarella. A stop for wine or beer may also be part of this errand.
3. Meanwhile, Person B slices two beautiful big ripe tomatoes, of two different colors if possible, into thin slices and salts the slices lightly. They are then laid out on clean kitchen towels to release their juices. B then pits and tears up a dozen oil-cured olives and harvests 10 small or 6-7 large sprigs of basil and three sprigs of thyme or (preferably) lemon thyme from the herb garden. Then the herbs are washed and the leaves pulled off the stem. Keep the basil and thyme separate. B then puts a quarter cup of good olive oil in a small bowl, and chops a clove of garlic or crushes 2 cloves of garlic confit.
4. About this time, Person A returns with the pizza dough, mozzarella, and drinks. If A is lucky, B has laid out the big dough-rolling cutting board and generously dusted it with fine cornmeal. A then begins to form the dough into three small pizzas, which can be very irregular and lopsided without harming the taste in the slightest. Meanwhile B is pressing the tomatoes with another clean towel on top to get out as much moisture as possible without harming the appearance or texture of the slices.
5. A brushes two of the pizzas with olive oil and sprinkles on some freshly ground pepper and a little coarse sea salt, while B tears the mozzarella into small chunks or slices it, according to temperment. A then mixes the garlic or garlic confit into the last third of the oil and brushes it on the third pizza and sprinkles that one with salt and pepper.
6. A distributes the mozzarella chunks across the three pizzas fairly evenly, while B lays the tomato slices on as artistically as possible. B may combine the tomato colors or keep them separate. It’s her decision. B then divides the olive pieces between two of the pizzas, and sprinkles the thyme leaves on one of those two. B then tears, not cuts, the basil leaves into medium-size pieces and sets them aside. They don’t go on until the pizza is done.
7. A takes over at the grill. The stone should be hot enough to make a drop of water disappear instantly with an evil hiss. The first pizza is slid onto the stone. This will only be possible if cornmeal was used generously in step 4. Keep the cover closed and/or the roasting-pan lid over the pizza to cook the top. When A decides that the first pizza is nearly done, he slides it off the stone onto the grill to give some artistic grill marks to the underside, and B stands ready to sprinkle on a generous handful of torn basil leaves as it comes off the grill, not before. If the basil is thrown on while the pizza is still cooking, it will darken and lose its beauty and flavor.
8. Set the first pizza on a warmed tray and repeat for the two remaining pizzas. There are now three complete pizzas, similar in their delicious freshness but subtly different in flavor, from the bright fresh simplicity of the pizza margarita with tomatoes, cheese, and basil only to the surprisingly meaty-tasting third pizza with garlic, olives, and thyme added to the other toppings. If all goes well, A and B will then sit down at the table and eat in harmony and affection, united in the glow of a job well done. A few helpful criticisms for next time are permitted, but keep them to a minimum.