June 14, 2009 | Appetizers
I had the pleasure of being chosen as one of the participants in this month’s Foodie Fights - and the “secret ingredients” were Gorgonzola cheese and arugula (which I had proposed because I have so much of it in my garden right now). My creation: this savory and sweet grilled pizza. It’s really rich and I think makes for a better appetizer than a main meal. Serve it in small pieces a unique starter for your next dinner party! I started by making the arugula pesto to top it, picking a couple of cups of fresh arugula from the garden and washing it well in a salad spinner. The pesto is a simple emulsion of garlic, arugula, walnuts, olive oil, salt and pepper, whirled until smooth in a food processor.
The other pizza toppings included thinly sliced prosciutto…
…fresh black Mission figs, which are just coming into season…
…and some high quality Gorgonzola cheese, which I let get really soft (I even zapped it a couple seconds in the microwave) so that I could spread it on the pizza.
As I always make a point of saying, I’m not really a baker, so I purchase ready made pizza dough from Whole Foods. (Side note: I taught a kids pizza on the grill class last week and used the dough in the cans – not nearly as good as the dough you can get from either a pizza shop or Whole Foods – so if you’re not going to make your own, splurge for the good stuff!). Some recipes tell you to roll dough out on a floured surface – I find that the dough keeps springing back to a ball when you do that, so I prefer to first press the ball out slightly on an ungreased baking pan.
After it’s rested a couple of minutes I continue pressing it out and gently stretching it to fit the full sheet pan. Then I cover it with a towel and let it rest for a bit until I’m ready to grill it.
I’m a bit of a snob about olive oil. I only ever buy extra virgin (which is all anyone should buy), and I usually enjoy small producers from Italy or California. In fact I belong to an olive oil of the month club, so get a new one every month (and yes, I go through that much!).
I cut the figs into quarters and brushed them with olive oil before grilling. You can’t beat grilling fruit – it warms it and softens it all while bringing out the natural sugars and caramelizing them.
See those great grill marks?
When all of your ingredients are prepped, it’s time to start the pizza. I lightly brushed the dough with olive oil and grilled it oiled side down to start.
Next up toppings. I spread the Gorgonzola over the crust, then layered prosciutto all the way across, and topped it with the grilled figs.
I had reserved a few chunks of the Gorgonzola to sprinkle among the figs.
The key to a perfectly finished pizza on the grill is the right amount of time over direct heat without burning the crust. My technique is to close the grill at this point and continue to grill over the low flame until the bottom is browned to my liking. If the overall pizza doesn’t seemed cooked through when the bottom is browned, I move it to the side of the grill that’s turned off and let it continue to cook with indirect heat until it’s finished. After removing the pizza from the grill I drizzled it with the arugula pesto. Hope you like it – hope I win this month’s Foodie Fights!
- 1 small garlic clove
- 2 cups tightly packed fresh arugula leaves
- ¼ cup toasted walnuts
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, or more if needed
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound pizza dough (enough to make a half sheet pan sized pizza crust)
- 6 fresh black figs
- Olive oil for grilling
- 4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, softened
- ¼ pound thinly sliced prosciutto
- Mince the garlic clove in a food processor until fine. Add arugula leaves, walnuts, and a bit of the olive oil and process, continuing to drizzle in olive oil until a pesto texture is achieved. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
- Spread or roll pizza dough to the desired thickness and set aside to rest a few minutes. Slice off stems of figs and cut into quarters. Brush lightly with olive oil and grill over medium high heat until grill marks appear, about 3 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.
- Brush pizza dough lightly with olive oil and place oiled side down on the grill. Cook over medium low heat until first side is lightly browned, about5-8 minutes, checking every couple of minutes for bubbles that need to be popped in the crust. Flip crust over to the other side, and spread crust with most of the softened Gorgonzola cheese. Layer with prosciutto slices and place grilled figs on top. Drop remaining pieces of Gorgonzola over the top and continue to grill until the crust is fully cooked and the cheese has melted, about 5-10 minutes. If the crust is becoming too dark on the bottom but isn’t cooked through, move the pizza to a side of the grill that is turned off and allow it to cook from indirect heat from the remaining side that is turned on.
- Remove from grill and drizzle with arugula pesto, slice and serve.