Food & Wine

End-of-summer fete celebrates lazy evenings


Photos Courtesy of Christine Moore

I am determined to enjoy every last bit of laziness our September schedule can afford. An especially good way to achieve this goal is to invite a group of friends over for an easy, breezy outdoor dinner. Pizza on the grill and a drink made by the pitcher are just the menu items to serve my crowd of late-summer-lovers.

If you’ve attempted – and failed – to create perfectly crispy crust pizza at home, it might be because you haven’t used your backyard grill. It is shockingly straightforward to turn out spectacular pizza on your grill. Once you’ve grilled your first pizza, it’s likely to become a favorite technique for uncomplicated entertaining.

Our grill is a gas version, but the technique works on charcoal grills as well. I use store-bought dough to make the evening even easier. It is critical that you use a clean and very hot (500-600 F) grill. Then, it’s just a matter of organization and a bit of confidence.

The key to the pizza is that you cook the dough before you add your toppings. For this reason, simple toppings work best, as they allow you to take advantage of speed – no long melts of cheese or piles of meats for these pizzas.

We tend to do three versions that please all guests: three-cheese, mushroom and ham, and smoked salmon.

Christine Moore is a Mountain View resident. To read her blog, visit sheepishsommelier.blogspot.com.

Grilled Pizza

• 6 store-bought, raw pizza doughs, cut in half to make 12 individual pizzas

• Olive oil

Variety of toppings, including:

• Cheese (we mix fontina, mozzarella and Parmesan)

• Pizza sauce

• Red pepper flakes

• Ham, thinly sliced

• Mushrooms, thinly sliced

• Crème fraîche

• Dill, chopped

• Smoked salmon

• Arugula

Assemble all toppings and place them near your grill so that you are able to move quickly.

Roll out or otherwise stretch your dough into some approximation of a pizza shape – we often make oblong pies. Brush olive oil all over one side of dough and lay it directly on grill (no pizza stone or other tools required).

Keep grill lid open as you cook first side of dough. Using tongs, periodically lift dough to ensure that it is browning but not burning. The dough cooks in 2-4 minutes per side. You’ll know it’s ready to flip by lifting a corner – the dough will effortlessly release when each side is done.

Just before flipping, apply oil to “top” side of dough. Flip and quickly add toppings. Close lid and allow pizza to cook 2-4 minutes more, checking periodically. Remove pizza from grill using tongs or pizza paddle and allow to cool 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

For smoked salmon pizza, mix crème fraîche with dill, salt and pepper. Do not add any toppings to pizza while cooking. Instead, as soon as pizza comes off grill (with both sides cooked), spoon on crème fraîche, lay on slices of smoked salmon and top with arugula.

Pimm’s Punch

Pimm’s No. 1 is a gin-based, spice and citrus-infused aperitif brought to us by the Brits.

The liqueur is the basis for a refreshing cocktail that includes sliced fruit, herbs and soda. I like versions with ginger beer over lemon-lime soda. I’ve amped up the ginger attributes in the recipe I’m sharing by including Domaine de Canton, a ginger and cognac liqueur.

• 1 cup Pimm’s No. 1

• 1 cup Domaine de Canton

• 3 cups ginger beer

• Strawberries, sliced

• Cucumbers, sliced

• Oranges, sliced

• Fresh mint leaves

Fill a large pitcher with ice. Pour over Pimm’s and Domaine de Canton. Stir in strawberries, cucumbers, oranges and mint. Stir gently, then add ginger beer and stir once more. Serve over more ice in tall glasses.

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