Grilled pizza topped with grilled summer veggies - zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, peppers and herbs - strewn over herbed goat cheese that's been slathered onto crisp pizza crust.
Makes 1 large pizza, serving 4 as a main course
4 ounces goat cheese at room temperature
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley, plus a couple more sprigs
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, plus a few more sprigs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided (plus more if needed)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium zucchini
1 medium eggplant
1 medium yellow onion
1 yellow, red or orange bell pepper (or combination of smaller sweet peppers)
1 medium tomato, sliced thin (about 1/8 inch thick is ideal)
Flour for stretching the dough
Cornmeal (optional) for ease of sliding the pizza onto the grill
1 store-bought or homemade pizza dough
Oil for the grill grate if needed
A handful of fresh basil leaves
1. Put the goat cheese in a medium bowl. Use a microplane to grate the garlic clove into the cheese. Add the minced parsley and thyme and 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil. Use a fork or a small silicone spatula to mix everything together. Keep the bowl at room temperature until you are ready to assemble the pizza.
2. Heat a gas grill to high heat with the lid closed. If your grill has an additional top rack, remove it to make flipping the pizza crust easier. (Unless you are highly experienced with grilling pizzas over charcoal, I don't recommend testing your luck with this recipe on a charcoal grill. It can get pretty tricky to control the heat well enough to cook pizza over charcoal.)
3. Slice the onion into rounds 1/2" thick and brush them with olive oil. Slice the eggplant and zucchini into rounds 1/4" thick, brush them with olive oil and sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper. When the grill is hot, bring the prepared vegetable rounds, along with the bell pepper, to the grill. Have a platter nearby to transfer the vegetables to as they finish cooking.
4. Lay the onion, eggplant and zucchini rounds on the hot grill, oil side down. Brush the tops of the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle the eggplant and zucchini generously with salt and pepper. Use tongs to turn the vegetables over as needed until they are evenly charred on both sides and cooked through, then remove them to the platter. Zucchini and eggplant are done when crisp-tender and appetizingly charred, about 10-15 minutes. Onions are done when they are browned and very soft, usually about 15-20 minutes.
5. Lay the pepper on the grill alongside the other vegetables. Turn it occasionally until the skin is evenly blistered and blackened, about 5-10 minutes total. Put the pepper in a paper bag to "sweat" for about 10 minutes (this helps loosen the skin so it's easier to remove.) Use your fingers to rub the skin off the pepper, then slice it into 1/4-inch rounds. Remove the seeds and add the peppers to the platter with the other vegetables. Add the tomato slices to the same platter.
6. Flour your hands and a work surface and stretch the dough into a rough 16" circle (or whatever other shape you happen to achieve; pizza dough has a mind of its own, and rustic, oddly-shaped pizzas can be very appealing). The real key is to avoid holes or extreme thin spots in the dough. For best results, aim for about 1/4-inch uniform thickness across the main body of the pizza (edges can be thicker).
7. When fully stretched, lay the pizza on a pizza peel or large cutting board that has been dusted with cornmeal (or flour), so that the dough will easily slide off onto the grill later.
8. Assemble all the toppings near the grill so you'll be ready to work quickly: goat cheese mixture with a spoon for spreading and platter of vegetables: grilled eggplant, zucchini, onions and peppers, and tomato slices. Brush and oil the grill grate if needed.
9. Just before grilling, gently shake the pizza peel or cutting board back and forth to confirm the dough can move freely and hasn't stuck to it. If it has, carefully dislodge it and use more cornmeal or flour underneath if needed to keep it unstuck.
10. Open the grill lid and carefully lay the pizza dough on the grate, starting at the back of the grill and sliding it off as you pull the pizza peel toward the front. Close the lid and let the pizza dough rise and cook for about 1-2 minutes, give or take, depending on the heat of your grill. If you have hotter and cooler spots on your grill (as I do), you may want to shift the position of the pizza dough partway through to cook it evenly all over. Use tongs as needed to partially lift the dough so you can see what's going on underneath.
11. When the dough is crisp and lightly browned evenly on the underside, it's time to flip it over. Slide your pizza peel or cutting board underneath it, and flip it over onto the other side like a giant pancake.
12. Turn the heat to low and work quickly to add the toppings as follows:
Use the back of a spoon to smear the goat cheese mixture evenly all over the pizza, leaving a border of about 1.5 inches all around.
Distribute the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions and peppers attractively over the goat cheese.
13. Close the lid and cook the pizza for a couple of minutes, letting the toppings bubble and the get a little melty. Check the underside of the pizza and shift its position on the grill if needed for even cooking.
14. Use your pizza peel or cutting board to remove the pizza from the grill. Use the pastry brush to drizzle more garlic-olive oil over the top of the finished pizza. Scatter the remaining parsley, thyme and basil sprigs and leaves over the top. Slice and serve hot.
You can make the herbed goat cheese and grill the vegetables up to 3 days ahead. (Store covered in the refrigerator.) Then, assembling and grilling the pizza makes for a fairly quick and easy dinner.