T his summer, why not use the grill for more than just chicken and steak? We asked Erin Eastland, executive chef at Santa Monica’s Milo & Olive, for her take on how to bring everyone’s favorite — pizza — to the backyard. Below she’s sharing how to make the perfect pizza crust, as well as how to get creative with this summer’s finest produce.
Why I love grilling …
Recently we repainted our patio and as a result we had moved our grill temporarily out onto our front stoop. We live in a small condo complex, so it was a little strange having it there, but our neighbors are cool and it was only for a day or two. It also happened to be the same day that I was grilling the pizzas for this article, and what started as a little bit of an awkward grilling situation turned quickly into a really fun gathering of our neighbors with food for all.
Grilling is just one of those things that brings people together and creates a sense of community. Who doesn’t love a BBQ?
Why I love summer …
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the produce of summer. I geek out the first time I see my favorite peach vendor at the market and when word from our amazing produce guru tells me Brentwood corn is only days away from my door, I get goosebumps. Nothing says summer like sweet crisp corn, perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes and juicy, high acid peaches. I want to be that specific because I feel so strongly that you don’t eat these items until they are ready to be eaten. Then, you should consume them in mass quantities and in all different preparations until you just can’t anymore, which is pretty much why autumn was created, right?
Why I love pizza …
Is there really anything that’s not good on a great pizza crust? And then, when you grill it, you get those charred bits that make it smokey and give great texture. Nothing is going to be bad on that and nothing is more impressive to your friends and neighbors than a great homemade pizza crust that you throw on the grill and top with anything seasonal, cut up in front of them, and hand out pieces. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences, as making a good dough is no small feat, and watching your onlookers take a taste of your handiwork and careful ingredient sourcing makes for a proud moment.
Here’s how you make the perfectly grilled, summer pizza:
(recipe by Zoe Nathan)
Recipe takes 3 days, Serves 6-8 people
365g cold water
435g bread flour
1.66 grams instant yeast
Mix together in a clean bowl until all flour is incorporated. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours.
320g cold water
800g sponge (1 recipe/see above)
550g bread flour
3.33g instant yeast
17g kosher salt
In a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with a hook attachment, add the cold water and sponge. Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the liquid and mix on low until just mixed. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix on low until the flour is no longer at risk of flying over the edges of the bowl. Start the mixer on Med/High and let it mix for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes turn the mixer to low and mix another 4 minutes. Dough should feel sticky and wet, but look glossy and elastic. Take out hook and loosely cover bowl with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray or brushed with olive oil so the dough does not stick to plastic. Place in fridge for 12 hours.
Is there really anything that’s not good on a great pizza crust?
Turn out dough onto a floured work surface. Divide the dough into 10-12 equal pieces, about 5 oz each. (Smaller sizes will be easier to grill.) Ball the dough by rolling it on the lightly-floured surface with the base of your hand. Pick up the ball and form further by pulling the top part of the ball to seal at the bottom and make a uniform ball that seals in one spot on the bottom of the ball. Pinch the ball together to leave as little seam as possible. Do all 6 balls and then arrange on a sprayed sheet tray, spaced about 3-4 inches apart from one another. Let dough rest in fridge for 1 hour and up to 8 hours.
Before you are ready to use the dough, take it out of the fridge for 20-30 minutes to get to room temperature. Do not place in a heated or particularly warm area.
To make the pizza:
Heat the grill to 375. Make sure the grill top is very clean and well oiled before you start.
Use a bench scraper to lift one of the balls of rested dough and place it on a well floured surface. Flatten the dough with your hands and then lift it to rest on the top of your hands as if you are going to toss it in the air. Start stretching the dough with the back of your hands so that the dough begins to widen evenly. You will want it to be a little thicker around the edges. You don’t want the dough to get too thin or too big because you need it to cook evenly and hold its form as a flat bread. When the dough is about 4 inches around, brush it with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
Lay the dough across the grates of the grill and let it cook until it puffs up and is easily moved. Flip to cook the other side. It may puff up, but you can pat it down. Do not cook it all the way through, unless you are doing a salad pizza, in which case you need to cook it through. If you are topping with ingredients that need to be cooked, take the dough off once it holds its shape and has grill marks.
Add your toppings. Here is where it gets even more delicious!
Grilled Heirloom Tomato and Peach Pizza
4 large heirloom tomatoes
4 large ripe sweet peaches
18 oz fresh burrata
1 bunch basil
1/2 cup good olive oil
2 TBS good, aged balsamic
Slice the tomatoes and peaches thinly. Season the tomatoes with sea salt on each slice. Layer them all around the warm grilled pizza crusts. Tuck leaves of basil in between the layers of tomatoes, as much as you like. Drizzle with olive oil and aged balsamic. Blob the burrata around the top, and season well with sea salt and pepper.
Nothing says summer like sweet crisp corn, perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes and juicy, high acid peaches.
Grilled Bacon and Nectarine Pizza with Mascarpone Cream
4-5 ripe, but still fairly firm nectarines
1 lb thick-sliced smoky bacon
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup mascarpone
10-12 oz shredded Fontina (Fontina Val d’Aosta is the best for this)
1/4 cup picked fresh thyme leaves
2 TBS saba or aged balsamic
In a medium sauce pan, simmer the heavy cream until it reduces by one third. Take it off the heat and add the mascarpone, whisking until it dissolves. Season with salt to taste. Let cool.
Grill the bacon to desired doneness. I like it crispy. Chop bacon into bite-sized pieces (after grilling). Thinly slice the nectarines into wedges.
Take the par-grilled pizza crusts and top with a thin layer of mascarpone sauce. Top evenly with bacon and slices of nectarine. Sprinkle on the cheese and thyme. Grill in a closed grill at around 350-375 until the crust feels crisp and the toppings are melted and hot. Remove the pizza. Drizzle with the saba and sprinkle with sea salt.
You can also top this pizza with a little arugula if you want more texture and color. Enjoy!
What tastes like summer to you?
Image provided by Erin Eastland