Mediterranean pizza from the grill
There will be two of us for our pizza party tonight. Happily, we each love the clean and fragrant flavors of the Mediterranean. So, for us, what we’ll put on our grill-fired pizzas is easy. Tonight, Greeks and Italians join hands and toss a mess of really good things on our pies!
- grilled chicken, marinated Mediterranean-style (now this will not be the star of the show, because really, a wonderful pizza doesn’t need meat! – my prejudice coming out! That being said, it IS really tasty.)
- roasted red peppers
- roasted garlic
- drizzles of basil-thick pesto
- toasted pine nuts
- crumbled feta cheese
- fresh herbs (mostly Greek oregano)
Simple, no? Absolutely!! So here’s how:
(These preparations can all be done day-of, or day before. It’ll take you maybe forty-five minutes total prep time, depending on whether you’re working alone or with a buddy, and how many children or dogs you have chasing tails underfoot.)
Chicken – At least two hours before dinner, prepare the marinade for the chicken:
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 6 Tbl. olive oil
- 4 Tbl. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 3 whole garlic cloves, crushed with the back of a knife
- 1 tsp. dried Oregano, crushed
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
- 1/2 tsp. lavender flowers (COMPLETELY optional! but fun)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
Combine marinade ingredients in small bowl and put the chicken in to marinate for a couple of hours (if you have the time.) Turn occasionally.
The dough – You’ve already got your pizza dough from yesterday, right? About two hours before dinner, remove the dough from the refrigerator, deflate it, and cut it into four pieces. Form each piece into a ball, cover with plastic. Allow them to come up to room temperature. Deflate again (because they will have been slowly rising on the counter) and form into four discs, 3 to 4 inches across. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Just before piling with sauce and goodies (see below), roll it out (1/4 to 1/3 inch approximately.)
NOTE: When it comes time, you’ll be taking it out to the grill to bake on one side, then bringing it back to the preparation table to top with the good stuff – and returning to the grill to finish cooking.
Cheese -grate or thinly slice the mozzarella. Crumble the feta – reserve the feta for when the pizza comes off the grill. Refrigerate both.
Roasted garlic – you can see how to roast garlic in my recipe on white bean purée dated May 9, 2011. (You can do this the same time you roast the red peppers. Temperatures vary, but you can compromise.)
Roasted red pepper – Either buy them in a jar, or — Cut a red pepper in half from top to bottom, removing the seeds. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet (or in the toaster oven, along with your garlic). Roast until the skin blisters and bubbles and begins to blacken. (This would take about 35 minutes in a 450° oven.) Remove from the oven with tongs and drop into a brown paper bag. Close the bag up and allow the peppers to steam in there for maybe ten minutes or so. The skin will peel right off. Slice the roasted peppers into long thin strips.
Pine nuts – In the same oven or toaster oven, set temperature to 300° or so. Roast your pine nuts, tossing a time or two, and watching carefully because they will go from just right to burnt in a flash.
Pesto – Either use a store-bought version or make your own. In a later post I’ll share my absolute favorite recipe for pesto. For other dishes where pesto is the star, you don’t want to mess around. But on this pizza, you’re just looking for the addition of some basil-y/garlicky goodness. So here’s a fast version: In the blender or food processor, blend 1 cup fresh basil leaves, 1 peeled clove garlic, 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted. Stir in 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, and then 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or a little more). Season with salt. If you use store-bought you might want to add extra olive oil to thin it out so that it’s more easily drizzled atop your pizza.
Fresh herbs – Wash your herbs, cover and refrigerate. Simply tear them loosely on top of your finished pizza.
Pizza Sauce – Optional – We won’t be using a red sauce tonight, but you might prefer that. I’d recommend getting a good quality jarred sauce for this purpose.
Lots of other options – little tomatoes, halved, or sun-dried tomatoes, baby spinach leaves, Greek olives, and so much more.
(Now, if you paid close attention to all the above, you’ve noticed that you could actually buy a roasted chicken, pre-grated and pre-crumbled cheeses, jarred roasted red peppers and pesto, and already-toasted pine nuts. You could even buy pre-made pizza dough ready for rolling. (You might still have to roast your garlic, though.) I figure you might just be here because you kinda like to cook, but all these short-cuts are absolutely legitimate and you know when the time is right for short-cuts! We’ve all been there! We will be again.)
Shortly before pizzas are ready to be assembled, you’re ready to put the marinated chicken on the fired-up grill. (Drain most of the marinade from it first.) When it’s nicely done, cut it into bite size pieces and put in a serving dish. Lay out all the other pizza fixings, plus olive oil, salt and pepper.
Roll out the pizza dough as described (in the dough step above). Take it to a hot grill (450° to 500°), oil the grate (if you can do so safely) and then quickly place the pizza round on. Watch for light toasty doneness. Remove and take it to the preparation table. Turn the cooked side up. Then, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges, brush on olive oil and/or pesto sauce, sprinkle salt and pepper, then spread mozzarella, roasted red pepper, chicken and roasted garlic. Return to the grill and, keeping the temperature a bit cooler for the 2nd side, cook until cheese begins to bubble and crust is toasty. Bring to the cutting board, scatter on crumbled feta, toasted pine nuts and fresh herbs. Slice and serve! Buon Appetito!
(This will make four 8-inch round personal pizzas.)