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Posted on 05-06-2017

Backyard Pizza Party

Grill Your Own Scrumptious Pizzas and Flatbreads

by Claire O’Neil

Summer is high season for grilling when just about anything sizzled over high heat tastes great. Grill masters Karen Adler and Judith Fertig recently put this theory to the test when they fired up their grills—gas and charcoal—to cook bruschetta, panini, flatbreads and pizzas. They tasted so good, they created a cookbook: Patio Pizzeria: Artisan Pizza and Flatbreads on the Grill.

Ready to fire up your barbie? Here are a few pointers using a typical backyard charcoal-style, with toxin-free hardwood lump charcoal, or a barbecue gas grill. Grill grates can be plain or fancy, from a pizza stone to a high-heat pizza oven—all can bring out that charcoal earthiness.

Great Grilled Breads

“No patio pizzeria repertoire is complete without a signature grilled bread. It’s one of the easiest and most flavorful appetizers ever,” says Adler. This dish starts with good whole grain bread, liberally brushed with extra-virgin olive oil on both sides, and then grilled and topped with any number of vegetable mixtures, from fresh sliced tomatoes to sautéed bell peppers or broccoli rabe and garlic. “The bread slices should be big enough to manage on the grill grates with long-handled grill tongs,” she says. “Simply cook on each side until the bread has good grill marks, then add toppings.”

For flatbread, Fertig suggests starting with a pound of fresh pizza dough—healthy grain, if preferred—cut into four pieces. Pat each piece into an oval on a floured surface. “The good thing about flatbread is that it can be just about any shape, so the pressure is off to make it perfectly round.” Brush each oval with olive oil before transferring it directly onto the hot grill grate. When the dough bubbles up like a pancake, turn it with grill tongs and cook the other side. Then top the grilled flatbread with mixtures like honey, pistachios and chive blossoms or freshly chopped herbs and grated pecorino cheese. “Grilled flatbread can go vegan, vegetarian or ‘omnivore-ean’,” she says.

Tiny Pizzas with Big Flavor

Another variation is to step up from flatbread to small, individual pizzas or pizzettes. For this, use the same fresh pizza dough, but roll it into four perfect rounds. One by one, the rounds go on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brushed with olive oil.

“Placing the dough on the oiled parchment paper first and then flipping it upside-down on the grill grates helps keep the dough’s shape better than placing it directly on the grates by hand. This quick flip-and-peel motion is easy once you do it a time or two. Keeping the pizzas small also makes them easier to maneuver on the grill,” advises Adler. After each pizzette bubbles up like a pancake, it needs to be turned and moved to the indirect, or no-heat, side of the grill. There, it gets pizza toppings and can sit for a while with the grill lid closed, so the toppings melt.

Served with a fresh salad or summer fruit, a flatbread or pizzette makes for a perfect summer meal on the grill.

Claire O’Neil is a freelance writer in Kansas City, MO.

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