Sunday, July 08, 2007


Oblivious to the ozone warning on a recent hot, steamy day in our nation’s capital, my father and I headed out for sightseeing. We took the Metro and then the city bus to Mount Vernon, the property just outside of Washington, D.C., that George and Martha Washington called home. The house itself is surprisingly modest, yet it is in an incomparable setting. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Potomac, the site commands a wide, impressive view of the river and surrounding lands. We took full advantage of the Washingtons’ verandah and the cooling breezes that wafted up to us there from the river below. Sitting on simple wooden chairs, we wondered if Martha served George iced tea or mint juleps on hot summer days more than two hundred years ago.

Today, back at home, it’s similarly hot and muggy. Air temperatures are in the high nineties and the dew point is somewhere close to seventy. We have more pedestrian concerns before us than to wonder what George and Martha sipped on their back porch. We have dinner to make, and in oppressive heat. The solution? Pizza on the grill outside. It’s amazingly quick and easy!

Pizza Dough
To make things simple, buy prepackaged pizza dough. Otherwise, you can make your own dough as follows:

1 package quick-rising yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup hot water (between 105-115 degrees)
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, choppped

1. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into a cup of hot water. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until the yeast bubbles nicely.
2. Meanwhile, mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. When the yeast is ready, pour into the flour and stir. Add the olive oil and rosemary. Stir until well blended and slightly tacky to the touch.
3. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes.
4. Place the dough in a large bowl lightly oiled with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place for about an hour. The dough will easily double in size.
5. When the dough has risen, punch it down gently and divide into four pieces.
6. Shape each piece into an 8-inch round (or as close thereto as you can). You can either do this with your fingers and hands or with a rolling pin.
7. Place each piece of dough onto an individual, oiled pizza pan, cutting board, or large plate. Cover with towels or plastic wrap and allow to rise another 30-60 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare your toppings.

You can use your favorite prepackaged pizza toppings: grated cheese, sliced meats, olives, sliced vegetables (which you’ll then want to roast or sauté ahead of time), and whatever else appeals to you. I roasted my own garlic (one big bulb in the oven early in the morning), roasted my own vegetables (two eggplants and two red peppers; see the previous “Rear Window” blog entry for how-to information), bought two small containers of local goat cheese, and grated about 3 cups of domestic mozzarella.

To prepare the pizzas:

1. Preheat the grill.
2. When the grill is ready, turn to medium heat. Brush a little olive oil on one side of each pizza round. Place the pizza rounds directly onto the grill, oiled side down. My grill fits two rounds at a time, but if you have a larger grill, you can do all four at once. I found it easiest to pick up the rounds with my hands and place each one gently onto the grill.
3. Grill each piece quickly for about 1 or 2 minutes, with the lid down, just until the dough has set. It may begin to turn brown and take on lovely grill streaks.
4. Remove each pizza round from the grill, using tongs. Take them back into the kitchen and lightly brush the ungrilled side of the dough with a little more olive oil. Then arrange the toppings of your choice onto the grilled side of each round. I started with the roasted garlic, then a little grated mozzarella, then the roasted veggies, then the goat cheese and a bit more mozzarella. Drizzle each pizza with a little olive oil or vinaigrette (homemade or bottled both work).
5. Return the pizza rounds to the grill, topping side up and ungrilled side down. Close the lid of the grill and allow the cheese to melt. This takes about 5 minutes.
6. Remove the individual pizzas from grill using tongs. Serve the pizzas with a simple green salad. Enjoy!

*Makes four individual 8-inch pizzas, enough to feed 4-6 people.