A Little Pizza Heaven

tomatopizza1

We’re lucky – okay, spoiled – here in the Bay Area by the range and quality of food on offer. I remember with great fondness the first time I wandered over to the Cheese Board Collective from my college apartment, when the full weight of this fact settled onto me (a weight both metaphorical and literal). I won’t admit how many times I ended up getting a pizza on my way home from lab – I haven’t quite reached a state of no shame – but it’s safe to assume on your part that it was a lot. The Gourmet Ghetto is a little foodie enclave nestled within a town that embraces good food, which in turn belongs to a region characterized (and often caricatured) by a near-fetishization of food. You may be able to imagine – in some small way – my delight at finding myself here.

cheeseboard

Cheese Board pizzas are, in more than a few people’s opinion, divine. The chewy sourdough crust that finishes with a crunch; the ever-changing blend of cheeses and vegetarian toppings; the spicy green sauce that forces you to reach across someone else’s dinner just to get at that last bottle; the satisfaction of discovering that today’s pizza is your favorite pizza; the indulgent bliss of sneaking the two extra slivers on your walk home. I would happily go on for the rest of the post.

One day we moved to a new neighborhood and that was that for our weekly trips. We came away with a secret, however. If you go up to the cheese counter and ask nicely, a kind co-op member will hand over a tub of their starter. With this precious commodity and a copy of the Cheese Board cookbook, you can craft your own versions of nearly everything. They also sell their dough in the bakery/cheese shop (worth a trip just to ogle the selection), which saves some time and labor and produces the same tangy flavor and chewy crust when handled correctly. Being busy career women, we went with the latter. If you don’t live in Berkeley, you can make your own sourdough crust with a little patience – there are some good recipes available online, although we would recommend using The Cheese Board: Collective Works since it also contains recipes for their pecan sticky rolls and cherry-corn scones (don’t get me started).

cheese

The only question that remained was that of toppings: traditional Cheese Board tomato and mozzarella or something edgier, something meatier? From this question arose a true mark of the depth and dearness of our friendship: when caught between two delicious options, we agreed to make both. We were also determined to grill our pizza because it was a lovely Saturday afternoon. With grocery bags full of fresh mozzarella, Asiago from the cheese counter, tomatoes and chicken breast, we began to build two very different but equally enticing pizzas.

Rolling out the dough is always a challenge for me. Even having been taught the technique by a (self-professed) Whole Foods pizza master, I am utterly lost when handed a lump of dough. Through a combined effort – my contributions were primarily of an emotionally supportive nature – we produced the charming and rustic shapes you see. While the chili sauce-marinated chicken breast and onion were grilling, we began to assemble the first of our two pizza combinations: first brushing the dough with garlic olive oil and layering thick slices of mozzarella, tomatoes, and lemon zest, then sprinkling a frankly generous amount of Asiago over the top. Chicken finished, we began on the second work of art.  Again, the olive oil anointing the crust. Again, the slices of fresh mozzarella. And then, studding the surface, thick wedges of roasted red onion and chunks of grilled chicken. It went onto the barbecue and came off, cheese bubbling, for a drizzle of peanut sauce and garden-grown chopped cilantro.

As you can see, the results were outstanding. The crust was just as chewy as we could have hoped but with the added smoky crispness that a grill imparts. The tomatoes were sweet, the zest sharp and satisfying. The peanut sauce, too, was spot on. While by no means an exact replica of Cheese Board’s famous pies, we experimented on their inspired combinations and succeeded in crafting two delicious pizzas.

Grilled Tomato & Lemon Zest Pizza (FWE)
Makes two pizzas

  • 1 lb pizza dough (we got ours from Cheeseboard, a local pizzeria, bakery & cheese shop)
  • 5 heirloom tomatoes
  • 12oz Mozzarella, sliced
  • 2 cups Asiago cheese, shredded
  • Zest from one lemon
  • A few sprigs cilantro, chopped
  • Garlic olive oil (recipe below)

Heat a pizza stone on your grill and bring the temperature up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Divide your pizza dough into two on a floured surface (we used both flour and corn meal – corn meal really helps the bottom of your pizza not to stick). Roll out your dough, you can either use a rolling pin or your hands to push the dough out. It’s less important that your pizza is perfectly round, and more important that you have an even thickness throughout the dough. We like a slightly thinner pizza so we pushed it out to about 1/3 inch, slightly thicker at the edges.

Using a pastry brush, evenly cover the dough with the garlic olive oil. Follow with the Mozzarella, Asiago, and tomatoes. I like to brush a little more garlic oil over the tomatoes before they go on the grill.

tomatopizza

Slide your pizza onto the hot pizza stone on the grill and cook for approximately 8 minutes or until the dough is crispy at the edges and the cheese on the pizza is bubbling and beginning to brown. Once the pizza is finished, transfer to a cutting board (we used a spatula to do this but tongs could work as well, and finish the crust with one more brush of garlic olive oil. Sprinkle the lemon zest and cilantro over the entire pizza and serve. Enjoy!

Garlic Olive Oil

  • 6 Cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil

In a small saucepan bring the garlic and olive oil to a simmer and cook until the garlic just begins to brown. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool slightly before use.

thaipizza

Grilled Chicken Satay Pizza (FWE)
Makes two pizzas

  • 1 lb pizza dough (we got ours from Cheeseboard, a local pizzeria, bakery & cheese shop)
  • 1 lb chicken breast strips
  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy or Trader Joes brand both work well)
  • 2 red onions, quartered
  • 12oz Mozzarella, sliced
  • Satay Sauce (see recipe from our “Thai-No-Mite Weeknight Dinner” )
  • 2 sprigs cilantro, chopped
  • key limes (for serving)

Before you even begin with your pizza dough, marinade your chicken strips in the sweet chili sauce for about 30 minutes. Grill on high heat for about 8 minutes, turning once so you get nice grill marks on both sides. With your red onion quarters, cover in olive oil, salt, and pepper and grill on high heat until the outside layer of the onion and edges become soft and caramelized. In the kitchen, dice the chicken and the onions for topping the pizza.

thaipizzaingredients

Heat a pizza stone on your grill and bring the temperature up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Divide your pizza dough into two on a floured surface (we used both flour and corn meal – corn meal really helps the bottom of your pizza not to stick). Roll out your dough, you can either use a rolling pin or your hands to push the dough out. It’s less important that your pizza is perfectly round, and more important that you have an even thickness throughout the dough. We like a slightly thinner pizza so we pushed it out to about 1/3 inch, slightly thicker at the edges.

Using a pastry brush, evenly cover the dough with the garlic olive oil. Add Mozzarella, grilled chicken and your grilled red onion. Slide your pizza onto the hot pizza stone on the grill and cook for approximately 8 minutes or until the dough is crispy at the edges and the cheese on the pizza is bubbling and beginning to brown. Once the pizza is finished, transfer to a cutting board (we used a spatula to do this but tongs could work as well, and finish the crust with one more brush of garlic olive oil. Drizzle your peanut satay sauce and cilantro over the entire pizza and serve with wedges of key lime.

platedpizza

3 comments

  1. Question: when I made pizzas at home the mozerella and tomatoes make a watery mess of my dough and I never get the correct fished product. What can I do?

    1. If your’e buying fresh Mozzarella in water, I would slice it and let rest on some paper towel to allow some of the moisture to absorb to the towel before using on your pizza. Watery tomatoes are usually due to the quality of the tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes that are grown well typically will retain their moisture, maybe try again when tomatoes are in season!

      Don’t let it stop you from making pizza at home and let me know if these tips help!

  2. To eliminate watery tomato problem, use plum tomatoes. Prepare them by cutting them length wise in half, tossing with olive oil and salt, and roasting cut side up in a 400°F oven for 35 to 45 minutes before you place them on pizza. Roasting the tomatoes before placing them on the pizza will concentrate their flavor by evaporating much of the water, plus it adds a nice caramelized flavor to them.

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