It’s gotta be grilling season again.
All the foodie mags will have luscious, well lit photos of grilled food on the cover, all adorned with perfect charred grill marks. Steaks turned a quarter turn to make the little diamond cross hatches are the sign of a true grill pro. I know, I have learned to make them happen.
But here and there, away from all those classic photos, there will be the other articles. The ones about the health risks of grilled meat. I know, I have written those articles.
Here is the straight scoop.
When meats, especially red meats, are cooked at high heat, certain compounds in the meat turn into mutagens, specifically heterocyclic amines (HCA’S) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’S). These mutagens do just that-they cause your DNA to mutate a little bit, which increases the risk of cancer. Unfortunately, when your body reconizes these foreign mutagens, it gets to work trying to flush them out, which in some cases, actually makes them more virulent and active as they leave.
Now here is where I should say that it’s still ok to grill, just marinate the meat and reduce the chemicals that turn into mutagens. Then flip the meat alot, and don’t let it get any char spots. And cut off any charred pieces. Those are all true things to say.
But maybe, just maybe, I can talk you into grilling something else tonight. Like say, vegetables? Or pizza?
Grilling is great. You can heat up the outdoors instead of your house, so you don’t have to run the air conditioning. You can stand around with your family and friends and have a beer or an iced tea. You can basically use the grill like a free-standing oven, if you learn how to use it.
So here is my recipe for a great grilled pizza. I started the caramelized onions and whole garlic cloves in the morning, and slow sauteed them for a couple of hours. I like really caramelized onions. Not fakers, like the ones restaurants tell you are caramelized but are really just soft and wet. I want real sugars. I like to throw in some whole garlic, it will get nice and buttery-soft.
I also started the dough early. I attended a Master Class on pizza making at the Denver convention of the International Association of Culinary Professionals in April. There I watched Peter Reinhart and his selected pizza experts make their doughs-and they all prefer to make a simple dough and refrigerate it. The process of chilling a yeasted dough really develops both texture and flavor, giving the yeasts a little hibernation in between the start and finish. You can leave it in the refrigerator for a few days, as I learned from my friend and master baker Zoe Francois (her book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, is a great book) or you can just let it puff up a bit and then chill it for a few hours.
Once I had my onions and dough, I was free to enjoy my sunny summer day, right up to the half hour before dinner that I needed to start the grill and get it heated up.
This is such a fun way to make pizza. You can even make the crusts and eat them hot off the grill as flatbreads, with a tasty dip!
Caramelized Onion and Olive Pizza on the Grill
2 lbs yellow onions, sliced in vertical strips
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat)
1 cup unbleached flour (approximately, divided)
1 1/2 cups cool water
2 teaspoons bread machine yeast ( I used SAF brand)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or basil (I had parsley in the garden, use what’s good)
6 ounces assertive tasting cheese-I used an aged Italian style, asiago or dry jack or even chevre would be good.
canola oil for the grill
Put a large pot over medium high heat, add the olive oil and then the onions and garlic. Stir constantly to coat with oil, and start softening the onions. As they start to soften, they will start to stick, so lower the heat as low as it will go once that happens. Stir every 20 minutes, at least. Keep cooking for a couple of hours. You can turn it off and cover the pot if you need to leave for a few hours. When they are done, salt a little to taste.
Make the dough in a 2 quart storage tub or bowl. Mix the white wheat flour, half the unbleached, the water, yeast and salt in the tub. It will be sticky, don’t worry about kneading it, just get it mixed. Cover loosely and let stand at room temp until it puffs up-about 45 minutes to an hour. Collapse the dough with a poke in the middle, and seal the tub. Chill until needed.
An hour before grilling, get out the dough to warm up. Cut it into four portions. Flour a large cutting board, or two baking sheets. Use the remaining unbleached flour to for the dough into rounds, put on the flour to rest. Fire up the grill.
Put a dash of canola oil in a cup and tear half a paper towel- wad the towel in the oil and then you can use tongs to rub the oiled paper on the grill grate.
Just before grilling, stretch the rounds out to 10 inches across. Put back on the flour and carry out to the grill, bring your oil, onions, olives, parsley and cheese.
TO Grill: The grill should be super hot. Open up, quickly oil the grate, and carefully place two of the dough rounds on the grill. Turn the heat down to low, it should start browning very quickly. Close grill for about four-five minutes. Open up, use tongs to flip the doughs, and quickly top with onions, then parsley and olives, then cheese. Close the grill. Check in four minutes, depending on your grill heat. It’s ok to check sooner at all stages when you are just starting out.
The bottom will be crisp and marked and the cheese melted when they are done. Use a metal spatula or your tongs to slide onto the cutting board or pans and take to the table. Cut and serve immediately.