Monthly Archives: July 2011

Grilled Pizza

Grilling creates a perfect pizza crust.

I like to have a base recipe and a no fail method of cooking just about anything that comes out of my garden.  The answer almost always to the question “What should I do with this?” is: grilled pizza.  The perfect blank slate for any herb or vegetable, it can take on any flavor profile it needs to.

To make this super easy, I make balls of pizza dough in advance at my convenience.  They freeze and thaw nicely.  And it’s much easier to make a double or triple batch of dough when I’m already doing it anyway then it is to create new dough every time we want to eat pizza.

I have found the perfect dough for me, but I do recommend that others experiment because dough can vary based on several things such as which brand/type of flour or yeast is used, climate, how it is mixed, the method used for thawing.  Flavor and mouth feel matter too.  My perfect dough isn’t necessarily THE perfect dough, but it works best and tastes best for me.

I love this Kitchenaid pizza dough recipe.

I use the recipe that came with my Kitchenaid mixer, but I add an extra tablespoon of olive oil which results in a more golden crust.  You can find the recipe here:

Kitchenaid Pizza Dough

I have often added garden herbs to my pizza dough to make it a herbed crust.  This tastes great as a pizza or made into bread sticks.

The key to success is to have everything ready before you start.  I like to have all my ingredients and tools laid out on a tray.  Here is what I use when grilling a pizza:

pizza dough
cooking spray or oil to brush on the grill
olive oil in a cup with a brush OR pizza sauce in a cup with a brush
cheese (shredded or sliced)
veggies, meats and/or herbs completely chopped and ready to go on the pizza
cookie sheet
large metal spatula
grill tongs

In addition to having these items ready to go, I make sure to preheat the grill well ahead of time so that I’m sure it’s piping hot when the dough hits the grates.

Smaller pizzas are easier to work with on the grill, though it’s certainly possible to do a large one too.  I will usually divide the above pizza dough recipe in half and make two pizzas with thinner crusts, or even four personal sized pizzas.

The process is pretty straightforward.  With the grill on as high as possible, I oil the grates and then carefully lay on my prepared pizza dough directly on the grates.  If the heat is high enough, the dough will not fall through the grates.  While the grill is working its magic I quickly brush on some oil to the top of the dough.

It only takes a minute or two on high for the dough to bubble and become stiff enough to turn over.  I do this carefully using the spatula and tongs, sometimes employing the cookie sheet if it’s a large pizza.  Once it’s flipped over and I have the grilled side up, I turn the heat down to low.

Now I can put on the oil or sauce and the rest of my toppings.  This part is fun.  I enjoy tossing on fresh herbs while it’s on the grill and also when it comes off the grill.  Once I have the pizza topped I shut the lid to the grill and let it cook.

Topped and ready to finish off with the lid down.

It doesn’t take long from this point.  Five to ten minutes depending on the thickness of the dough or how many toppings are piled on.  It’s possible to eyeball from here.  When I like how it looks I slide my cookie sheet underneath the pizza and pull it off the grill.

Hot off the grill is a good time to drizzle with extra virgin olive oil or sprinkle with herbs.  Handfuls of arugula or baby spinach are nice to pile on at this point too.  Whatever is fresh and delicious in the garden will be great on a grilled pizza.

I do use a gas grill which allows me to turn the heat down.  If cooking on coals you’d need to set up a hot side and a cooler side.

Here are some of my favorite garden-inspired combinations:

  • Swiss Chard & Italian Sausage
  • Spinach & Pine Nut
  • Grilled Chicken & Herbs
  • Grilled Peppers & Onions
  • Tomato, Basil & Fresh Mozzarella
  • Roasted Beet & Blue Cheese
  • Green Tomato & Bacon
  • Pesto & Sausage
  • Pancetta, Basil & Cherry Tomatoes

There are so many delicious possibilities for grilled pizza.  I’m so happy to have this cooking technique in my arsenal, as it’s something I go back to many times during the growing season.


Photos from the second week of July.

The tiny flowers of the allysum are perfect in my pots.

Beans in the making.

This sunflower has two heads!

Fennel is ready to be harvested. Young fennel is more tender than the larger bulbs later in the season.

Lovely little chamomile flowers.

Within the last few days the dill has produced flower heads.

This purple clematis is tucked in between our fence and house, about 3 feet between the two. The flowers can be viewed from my daughter's nursery window and are putting on quite the show!

This has been the best year so far for my hydrangea, so many blooms!

Growing Garlic

I’m a garlic girl through and through.  Truly.  If I was stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the sea, you can bet I’d ask for garlic.  To season the seafood I caught of course!  Along with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemons, garlic is my go-to ingredient, always in my pantry and (nearly) always in my food.  I just can’t enough.

So it makes sense for a gardener with a garlic bent to grow the stuff.  I first tried growing garlic two years ago, with okay results.  I planted in spring and had smallish but flavorful bulbs that season.  But it wasn’t the robust garlic crop I had hoped for.  So this year I’m attempting to redeem myself.

I started off this time by ordering garlic bulbs in the fall and planting them in early November.  (Wish I snapped a photo!)  This is so super easy, and much like planting tulips it takes a few minutes and the reward the following spring is worth many times the small effort put in during the fall.

Planting garlic is a breeze.  I just broke each bulb into cloves, and planted each clove just as I would a tulip bulb… about 6 inches deep, 10-12 inches apart.  A little mulch on top and they were ready for winter.

At the first sign of spring here in Wisconsin, garlic began to poke through the ground.

Garlic breaks through the ground.

As the season wore on, the garlic kept growing.  It is hard to mess this up… it doesn’t need a lot of watering or attention.  The only thing I did–which isn’t even necessary as far as I know–is to trim off the garlic scapes as they grew and began to curl around.  Doing this allows the garlic to put more energy into growing the bulbs, resulting in bigger more flavorful bulbs.  The added benefit of this practice is that I get to eat the garlic scapes, which are a delicious seasonal treat.

Garlic scapes.

The garlic scape is the flower of the garlic plant.

When the scapes curl around like this I cut them off the plant.

Garlic scapes are great in pesto.

Once the garlic starts to get that dried out brown look, it’s ready to harvest.  But a few weeks before, I pulled out a sample of young garlic (also called “green garlic”) to use with some salmon.  Unlike garlic in its’ familiar cured form, the green garlic is juicier without the papery wrapping around it.  It’s very fresh and the flavor is bright and spicy.

"Green" garlic and rosemary flavor this piece of salmon.

As for the curing process, I pull the garlic out of the garden when the green has turned 50-60% brown.  For a day or two I let the whole garlic sit out on the deck to air dry.  Once dry, I knock off the soil to prepare them for curing.  I’m going for mostly clean, but just rubbing the soil off–no rinsing with water.

At this point the garlic is tied up in bunches of about six and hung in my garage.  I put them in the garage because it’s outdoors but free of drafts and out of the sun.  The garlic stays in the garage for three weeks or until it has that papery garlic look and feel.

Harvested garlic dries on the deck and then is bundled and tied for curing.

String or twine works great.

This garlic will cure in the garage for approximately three weeks.

Once cured, I cut off the stems, dust off any more soil, and put them in an open box or basket for storage.  I keep my garlic in the basement and bring them up to the kitchen as needed.  Homegrown garlic tastes great.  I know where it was grown and what kind of soil was used.  And like most things you grow yourself, there is a good return on the investment.  I will get a few dozen bulbs that will last about six months.

Using the garlic is the best part.  During the growing season garlic finds its way into salad dressings and pestos.  I like to throw a whole bulb in with beets to roast in a foil packet.  Garlic goes great with poultry, fish and meats too.  In fact it’s hard for me to think of something I don’t love to eat with garlic.  It’s the perfect flavor to go with all those greens I grow.  Just sliced and sautéed in some oil, then throw the greens in.  Soups and stew, and especially sauces, salsa and bruschetta toppings are not complete without the addition of garlic.

While I’m sure there are more detailed instructions on how to grow garlic than I’ve provided here, I do think growing garlic is truly this simple and shouldn’t be over thought.  I remember when I thought there was some trick to growing garlic, but now I can see that it’s just a matter of planting in the fall and patiently waiting for nature to take its course.  Couldn’t be easier!