August 21, 2013 8:25:20 AM
BLT sandwiches are synonymous with summer. And the only thing better than a BLT sandwich is a grilled BLT pizza!
Once you've had grilled pizza, you'll never want to eat pizza any other way. Grilling solves the age-old problem of a soggy pizza crust. This is because the toppings go on after the crust is already grilled, so every slice will always be crispy, crunchy and slightly smoky.
In summer, I love to create lighter pizzas that highlight my favorite produce, and tomatoes top the list. In my BLT pizza, I like to use an assortment of red and yellow cherry tomatoes for the "sauce." You cut the garden-ripe tomatoes and mix them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and basil for a classic "crudo," or uncooked tomato sauce. This keeps the brightness of the tomatoes intact and brings out the best of the season.
Because I quick grill the lettuce before cutting it into confetti like ribbons, the lettuce has a lot more flavor than the stuff than lands on an average BLT, and will be able to stand up to a combination of cheeses. I like to use both a stronger blue cheese or a ripe brie, as well as a mild grated mozzarella to complement the fresh tomatoes, smoky bacon and grilled lettuce.
There are a few tricks that will help you perfect pizza on the grill. It is not essential that you make your own dough; you can buy it from the grocer or from your favorite pizzeria. But it is essential that you take the dough out of the refrigerator an hour before you want to use it. This will warm the dough and allow it to relax, making it much easier to work with.
And don't worry about rolling the dough into a perfect circle. In fact, I prefer a more organic and odd shape. It goes with the rustic nature of grilled pizza. When rolling out the dough, dust your surface with grits or polenta (not cornmeal) to keep things from sticking. And keep the crust thin, about 1/4 inch. It will puff up plenty as it rises and puffs on the grill.
Finally, the key to grilled pizza is using a combination of direct and indirect heat. You start by grilling the crust on one side over medium direct heat. Then you flip the dough, add the toppings to the grilled side, then continue cooking everything over indirect heat. This prevents the bottom from burning while the cheese melts.
When grilling pizza, it is important to have all of your toppings prepped and nearby before grilling the crust. Once the crust is on the grill, the pizza comes together very quickly. You'll need a rimless baking sheet to help transfer the pizza during cooking. Don't have one? Use a rimmed sheet turned upside down.
GRILLED BLT PIZZA
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Makes 4 servings
1 heart of romaine lettuce
1/4 cup uncooked grits or polenta, for rolling the dough
1 ball prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
1 cup summer tomato-basil sauce (see recipe below)
8 strips center-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 ounces blue cheese or brie, sliced or cubed
4 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
Ground black pepper
Nutrition information per serving: 450 calories; 290 calories from fat (64 percent of total calories); 33 g fat (12 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 50 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 21 g protein; 1,120 mg sodium.
SUMMER TOMATO-BASIL SAUCE
Start to finish: 10 minutes active
Makes 1 3/4 cups
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered (or 1 pound vine-ripened or heirloom tomatoes, diced)
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher sal
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 large fresh basil leaves