September 17, 2010

Pizza and Squash

Last night was a grilling night.  I've been doing a lot of grilling lately, both because I love grilling and in order to make up for much of the summer having been too damn hot for me to enjoy standing about outside and tending to a grill.  Both of the things I cooked are my own recipes, though in one case I started with a recipe I picked up elsewhere and fine-tuned it to my liking.

As I've previously written, in order to try to get me off the curry kick that started out my current cooking adventures, Juli got me looking at some cooking magazines.  One of those was Cook's Country, a sister publication to Cook's Illustrated and the America's Test Kitchen line of cookbooks.  I like it quite a bit, and recently subscribed to it and Cook's Illustrated, as well as their associated websites (which are highly recommended, as they are full of excellent recipes, product reviews and so forth).  The first issue I picked up (September 2010) included an article and recipe for "Speedy Grilled Pizza."  I tried that out and liked it quite a bit, but I thought of several things I wanted to do differently the next time I made it - which ended up being last night.   So, this time around I jazzed it up with some additional spices, increased the amount of sauce and (drawing on inspiration from some of the naan recipes I've been making) incorporated some garlic into the dough in order to make the crust a bit more flavorful.  The results were quite pleasing, both last night and today, when I warmed up some of the leftovers for lunch.

Although I freely admit it's influenced by ideas I have picked up in books and magazines about grilling, the recipe for the spiced honey butter I use with the squash is my own creation.  Since joining a local areas produce co-op, we've been eating a lot more vegetables than used to be the case, and we've been getting a lot of squash (zucchini and summer squash earlier in the season, some butternut, and now some acorn squash.  So, I've had to come up with some different things to do with squash.  The recipe below is one of the better ideas I've had in regard to grilling winter squash, and I've made it a couple times now.

Grilling Note:
Both of the following recipes involve indirect-heat grilling.  Indirect grilling requires one to have coals (or gas fire, for those who prefer gas grills) lit only under part of the grilling surface, resulting in the grill having both hot and (relatively) cool areas.  With coal grilling (the only way I grill), the easiest way to do this is to prepare your coals, and once they are ready, use a spatula or other grilling tool to push them over onto one side of the grill.   The area directly over the coals (or fire) is used for direct grilling, meaning the item being grilled is placed directly over the heat source.   In contrast, indirect grilling involves placing the items being grilled on the cool part of the grill.  Instead of being cooked by direct heat, indirectly cooked items cook via the ambient heat of the grill and the air inside the grill (and possibly steam; see below).

Generally speaking, things that take 25 minutes or so can usually be cooked by direct grilling.  This would include burgers, brats, meat kabobs, hot dogs, chicken pieces, steaks and so forth.  Indirect grilling is often a better choice with things that take longer to grill (whole chickens, roasts, ribs) or fairly delicate things (mushrooms, tomatoes, small fish fillets, etc.).   Putting such things over direct heat would result in either stuff that is overdone (or just plain burnt to a crisp) on the outside and probably undercooked on the inside, or in food that is just plain overdone.

Sometimes indirect grilling is done by placing a disposable baking pan in the middle of the grill, adding a couple cups of water (or sometimes beer) and often some spices, onions or other ingredients to add flavor via steam.  The hot coals are then piled on both sides of the pan, and the indirect-grilled items are then placed over the pan.  This is a common technique for making ribs.

It is both possible and often quite convenient to cook some items via indirect heat while others are cooked with direct heat.   Thus, one can cook some meat kabobs over direct heat while placing skewers of veggies over the indirect heat and have everything done at about the same time with none of it (hopefully) over-cooked.

(NOTE:  Yeah, I know this is pretty basic stuff for people really grilling, but a lot of people are used to just firing up the coals and tossing stuff on the cooking surface right above the coals.   That's the only sort of grilling I grew up with.)

Grilled Pizza with Parmesan Garlic Crust

Yield:  4 pizzas

Note:  It works great to start the coals right before one starts preparing the sauce and pizza dough.  That way the sauce has time to sit and let the flavors of the ingredients blend together, and by the time the dough is made and rolled out, the coals should be ready.
3     (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes, drained
3     tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1     tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2     tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2     teaspoons chopped garlic
1/4  teaspoon salt
1/4  teaspoon red pepper flakes

1     cup very warm water
1     tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing dough
1     tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 3/4 cups flour, plus additional to dust kneading/rolling surface
1/4   cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2   teaspoon salt
1      teaspoon minced garlic
2      cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Drain the tomatoes in a fine-mesh strainer, pressing the tomato bits to squeeze out some of the juice.  Combine the drained tomatoes with the other sauce ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir to blend and set aside. 

Combine warm water, olive oil, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl or large measuring cup; stir or whisk together then let stand 5 minutes.

Combine flour, salt and Parmesan cheese in food processer and blend. together.  Keep the food processor on while adding garlic and the yeast mixture, blending the ingredients until they form a rough ball of dough.  Knead and turn the dough a few times on a floured surface, then divide the dough into four equal-sized pieces.  Roll each piece of dough into a ball, then flatten them into circles.   Using a rolling pin, roll each circle out to form circles approximately 9 inches across.  Brush the top surface of each dough circle with olive oil and place them on a plate or cookie sheet, layered with parchment paper or wax paper. 

When the coals are ready and the grilling surface is hot, place two of the dough circles on the cool side of the grill, oiled side down.  Grill for approx. two minutes, then rotate each circle 90 degrees and continue to grill for 1-3 minutes, or until they start to brown on the bottom and bubbles rise on the tops.  Pop any large bubbles with tongs or spatula, then turn the circles.  Brush the grilled sides lightly with olive oil, then top them with sauce and cheese.  Grill for 2-3 minutes, then move the pizzas to the hot side of the grill and cook them over direct heat for about 1 minute, until the cheese starts to melt, and place the remaining dough circles on the cool side of the grill.  Remove the finished pizzas to cookie sheets.  You may wish to place them in an oven heated to 175 degrees (fahrenheit) to keep them warm until you are ready to serve the pizzas.  Slice each pizza and serve.

Grilled Winter Squash with Spiced Honey Butter

yield = 4 servings

2-3  small squash such as acorn (or variants such as carnival or festival squash),
       amber cup or kuri, or
1     butternut squash
1/4  cup extra-virgin olive oil
3     tablespoons butter, softened
3     teaspoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie seasoning (or 3/4 tsp each ground cinnamon and
        freshly-grated nutmeg)
2     tablespoons chopped pecans

Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds.  Brush the squash halves lightly with olive oil.  Grill the halved squash, cut side down, for 20 minutes.  

Meanwhile, mix the softened butter, the honey and the spices in a small bowl.  Set aside.

After 20 minutes, turn the squash, over, brush the cut side with the butter mixture and sprinkle it with the crushed pecans, making sure most of the pecans go into the hollowed middle.  The butter will also mostly flow into the hollowed middle as the squash cooks. 

Cook until a fork easily sinks into the squash (20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the squash). 

Serve with the remaining butter mixture.

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