Pizza on the Grill

I can’t wait for Aug. 3. That’s when the third annual Best Pizza in Grand Forks contest will take place.

Last year, I was one of several judges for the contest, which was held at the Link, 300 Cherry St., one of four Neighborhood Networks centers in Grand Forks. I’ve just been invited back again this year.

As many as 250 people came out to decide which pizza place in town had the best pie last year. For the second year in a row, Rhombus Guys won for their T-Rex pizza. ‘l Bistro’s Decadent Chicken placed second, and Slapshot’s Four Meat took third.

Other restaurants competing in each of six categories (People’s Choice, Kids’ Choice, Best Crust, Best Gourmet, Best Value and Most Creative) were Boston’s, Green Mill, Mamma Maria’s and Sbarro. All had entries in each of the six categories — People’s Choice, Kids’ Choice, Best Crust, Best Gourmet, Best Value and Most Creative.

The best pizza contest started in 2007 as part of Neighborhood Networks week. There are four Neighborhood Networks centers in Grand Forks: LaGrave Learning Center, Kvasager’s, Homestead Place and the Link, according to Emily Wright, civic engagement coordinator with the Grand Forks Housing Authority. The centers help bring technology to children in low income areas.

Once again, the event is open to the public, and proceeds will go to support the four Neighborhood Networks centers.

For those who would like like to try their hand at making pizza, here are few recipes for the outdoor variety. If you do it right, you’ll end up with a delicious, crispy crust with a chewy inside and a slightly smoky pie that’s so good, you’ll even think of grilling pizza even in winter.

Pepperoni and Cheese Pizza
1 envelope active dry yeast
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
2/3 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing crust
Cornmeal
2 cups pizza sauce
½ pound pepperoni slices
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
In medium bowl, combine yeast, sugar and water. Stir briefly and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Add 2 cups flour, the salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir until dough holds together. Transfer to lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, 5 to 10 minutes. Shape into ball and place in lightly oiled bowl. Turn ball to coat surface with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in warm place until dough doubles in size, 1 to 1½ hours.
Punch down dough in bowl. Transfer to lightly floured work surface and cut into four equal pieces. Sprinkle a generous layer of cornmeal over the counter. Roll each piece of dough into an 8-inch round about 1/8-inch thick. Place each pizza round on the back of cookie sheet or on a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal. Lightly brush both sides of each round with olive oil.
Spread rounds with pizza sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella. Gently slide pizzas from baking sheets or pizza peel onto hot grilling stone and bake until crust bottoms are browned and cheese is melted, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from stone and serve.
Yield: Serves 4.

Pizza Margherita on the Grill
1 (9- to 10-inch) unbaked pizza crust
Cornmeal
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
¾ cup (about 3 ounces) shredded Italian fontina cheese
8 roma tomato slices
Torn or julienne-cut basil leaves
Place pizza crust on back of cookie sheet or on pizza peel that has been sprinkled with a generous layer of cornmeal. Lightly brush pizza dough with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic. Top with Parmesan. Sprinkle with fontina cheese. Arrange tomato slices over cheese.
Slide onto preheated grill and bake 5 to 10 minutes, or until crust is crisp and lightly browned. Check bottom of pizza once or twice while baking to be sure it is not too dark; rotate pizza for more even color, if desired. Sprinkle with basil just before removing pizza from grill.
Yield: Serves 4.

Greek Pizza
1 (9- to 10-inch) unbaked pizza crust
Cornmeal
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup (2 ounces) shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
3 tablespoons pitted, coarsely chopped kalamata olives
3 tablespoons sliced pepperoncini, well-drained
1/3 cup (1¼ ounces) crumbled feta cheese
Place pizza on back of cookie sheet or on pizza peel that has been sprinkled with a generous layer of cornmeal. Lightly brush pizza dough with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic. Top with mozzarella cheese, red onion, olives and pepperoncini. Sprinkle feta over pizza.
Slide onto preheated  grill and bake 5 to 10 minutes or until crust is crisp and lightly browned. Check bottom of pizza once or twice while baking to be sure it is not too dark; rotate pizza for more even color, if desired.
Yield: Serves 4.

Grilled Pizza
DOUGH:
1 envelope active dry yeast (2½ teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
1¼ cups warm water
3½ cups unbleached white flour, or more if necessary
1½ teaspoons coarse salt
About ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
TOPPING:
1 bunch arugula
1 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Coarse salt and black pepper, to taste
2 medium red ripe tomatoes, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
Coarse salt and black pepper, to taste
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
½ cup pitted black olives (preferably kalamata)
2 tablespoons capers, drained
Extra-virgin olive oil, for grilling the dough
Combine yeast, sugar and water in small bowl and stir to mix. After 5 to 10 minutes, mixture should look foamy. Place flour and salt in bowl of food processor fitted with a plastic dough blade or a metal blade and pulse to mix. Add yeast-water mixture and 2 tablespoons oil and run machine in short bursts to obtain a smooth, soft dough. It should be moist but not sticky. If necessary, add more flour a spoonful at a time, running machine between additions, until dough is proper texture.
Turn dough out onto a work surface and knead by hand for a few minutes. Lightly coat a large bowl with remaining oil. Place dough in bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1½ hours.
Punch down dough and let rise until doubled in bulk again, 1 hour. This second rising isn’t absolutely imperative, but your crust will be lighter if you have the time to do it.
To prepare topping, rinse arugula and pat dry with paper towels. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Fry garlic until golden brown, 2 minutes. Transfer garlic with a mesh skimmer to paper towels to drain. Add onion to pan. Cook over medium heat until caramelized to a dark golden brown, 6 to 10 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. You may need to lower heat as onion darkens. Transfer onion to a platter.
Heat pan over high heat, adding remaining 1 tablespoon oil, if needed. Blot tomato slices dry on paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Quickly fry tomato slices on both sides.
Set up grill for three-zone heat grilling (see side box for gas and charcoal grill directions) and preheat hot zone to high. When ready to cook, brush and oil grill grate.
Generously oil two rimmed baking sheets. Place half the dough on one of the baking sheets and stretch out to form a 9-by-13-inch rectangle that is 1/8- to ¼-inch thick. Repeat with remaining dough and cover with plastic wrap.
Starting from far narrow side and using both hands, gently lift first dough rectangle and drape it onto grate over hottest part of fire. Within a minute or so, underside of dough will crisp and darken and top will puff slightly. Using tongs and a spatula, slide dough to a cooler part of grill and cook until bottom of dough is browned and firm, 3 to 5 minutes. Brush uncooked top with oil.
Using tongs and spatula, invert crust over a hotter part of fire. Grill until this side, too, starts to crisp and darken, about 1 minute. Move crust back to a cooler part of grill and brush top with oil. Arrange half of cheese slices on pizza, followed by half of fried tomato slices, caramelized onion, cooked garlic, olives and capers. Cover grill to melt cheese. When bottom crust is cooked, browned and firm, 2 to 4 minutes more, slide pizza onto a platter for serving. Top with half of arugula and season with salt and pepper. Cut into pieces and serve. While people are enjoying the first pizza, prepare second one same way. Pizza should be eaten as soon as it comes off grill.
Yield: Serves 8 (2 9-by-13-inch pizzas).

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