I have more memories than I can count involving saucy, cheesy, dripping-with-toppings pizza. There was the frozen pizza turned black thanks to an inaccurate oven thermometer, which Mark and I ate anyway because there was only an empty fridge in our new apartment and no greasy spoon in walking distance. There was also the first of many pizzas we ate in a little Italian trattoria steps from the Venice waterfront (I didn’t find out until I was almost finished devouring my slice that you’re supposed to eat it with a fork and knife!). And oh, the sweet and succulent, neverending pie that is the Chicago deep dish at Gino’s East. How could I forget you…
No memory of pizza, however, compares to the memories that you can make while making your own… even if you didn’t make the crust. A frozen supreme is always a good standby for nights when, for the love of god, you just can’t bear to pick up a wooden spoon, but if you have the time and the creativity, a pie made with a little passion will always prove to be the tastiest.
Here’s a simple and fun dinner idea for ya, which can be done either on a grill or in the oven…
Fresh Garden Pizza
Yield: Makes one 12-inch pizza
1 store-bought or homemade pizza crust
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
2 cups ripe vine tomatoes, quartered
1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 green pepper, sliced into thin strips
5-6 basil leaves, rinsed and patted dry
2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, or if you are using a gas grill, fire it up to high heat. (If your grill has a thermometer, turn between 500 and 600 degrees.)
In a medium saute pan, heat 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil on medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add green pepper slices and saute for 5 minutes, or until soft, tossing occasionally. Add tomatoes and saute until they develop a little color and are tender. Sprinkle vegetables with salt and pepper. Toss vegetables around gently, then remove from pan and place on a paper towel to absorb oil.
Place the pizza dough onto a wide sheet of nonstick aluminium foil. Spread tomato sauce across the pizza dough, followed by 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Arrange vegetables and basil leaves on top, followed by remaining spices and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella on top. Brush the edges of the crust lightly with olive oil.
If you are cooking in an oven... Place pizza on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
If you are cooking on a gas grill... Once you're ready to put the pizza on, turn off one burner. Carefully place the pizza, with a wide sheet of aluminium foil underneath, on the side of the grill with the TURNED OFF burner. Close the lid on the grill, checking frequently, and let bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and crust is crispy.