You need to open my brother’s fridge cautiously because it is so full. He and his wife Wendy love to cook. Their shelves are full of grilled vegetables, homemade rice pudding, Greek salad, caramelized garlic cloves and on this particular day, leftover grilled pizza.

Same goes for my sister-in-law’s refrigerator and pantry. She stocks everything from pine nuts to sun-dried cherries and avocado oil.

It dawns on me that some people cook to live; others live to cook. You either love to cook or you don’t.

Lots of people are afraid of cooking, and I understand this. That’s why I try to make recipes simple and achievable. The more complex preparations can come later when one feels comfortable in the kitchen.

Back at my brother Howie’s house, I pull the grilled pizza from the refrigerator and fight with his sons, Jason, 11, and Jeremy, 8, over who gets to eat it. Both of them helped create that pizza so they feel it’s theirs. I give my best lecture on elders and the respect we deserve as I eat the pizza and gaze into their hungry eyes.

Grilled pizza is an unusual dish that became popular a few years back at Al Forno in Providence, R.I. It is raw pizza dough that is exposed to intense heat from a grill, which gives the dough a smoky flavor and crisp texture, unlike traditional pizzas. It’s simple to make, and I would try this recipe using pre-made pizza dough balls, which you can get at Italian markets and many supermarkets.

If you follow a few basic steps, grilled pizza makes a fabulous dinner. Here are some grilled pizza basics you need to know before you light the fire:

Let your pizza dough sit at room temperature about 15 minutes before rolling. You can either roll the dough to a 12- to 16-inch circle or pull it with your hands to form an irregular free-form shape. Either way, the crust should be 1/2 inch thick.

Preheat your grill to high temperature. This allows the pizza to crisp and form a base for your toppings. You must lightly oil the grill before placing your dough on it. Or you can spray the pizza lightly with oil. Precooking the pizza dough takes about 4 to 7 minutes per side on the grill.

Have all your pizza toppings ready to garnish the cooked dough. Once your toppings are placed on your pizza, return it to the grill and reduce the grill heat to medium. This allows the cheese to melt and toppings to heat through without burning the crust. Monitor your pizza carefully. Howie tells me that he inadvertently created several "blackened" pizzas the first few times he tried grilling them.

Here’s one of Howie’s favorite pizzas along with some other topping suggestions.


To save time, use preshredded and mixed cheese combinations. They come in Italian, Mexican and several other varieties. Feel free to make your own pizza dough if you are adventurous and have the time.

Pizza Crust:

Pizza dough ball for 1 pizza crust, at room temperature

Olive or vegetable oil, for spraying

Pizza Toppings:

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

1/2 red onion, sliced thinly

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 cup quartered canned artichoke hearts

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup chopped fresh spinach leaves

2 cups marinara sauce

8 ounces (2 cups) shredded Italian cheese mixture or mozzarella cheese

6 whole fresh basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red chili flakes

To make crust: Roll or press dough into a 12- or 16-inch circle. Spray lightly with olive or vegetable oil and allow dough to sit 10 minutes while you preheat grill.

To make toppings: Heat oil in a large saute pan and add garlic, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and artichoke hearts. Saute over high heat 2 minutes. Add oregano and spinach leaves; toss to combine. Set aside.

After preheating grill to high heat, place pizza dough oiled side down on grill and cook, covered, 3 to 7 minutes until lightly browned. Keep watching to make sure the temperature is not too high as all grills are different. Spray top with oil and flip pizza over. Cover and grill other side 4 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from grill to a plate. Top with sauce, cheese and sauteed vegetables.

Lay basil leaves over vegetables and sprinkle with chili flakes. Return to grill, reduce heat to medium and cook 3 to 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving (using 12-inch pizza crust): 380 calories, 38 percent calories from fat, 16 grams total fat, 7 grams saturated fat, 30 milligrams cholesterol, 44 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams total fiber, 16 grams total sugars, 39 grams net carbs, 22 grams protein, 699 milligrams sodium.

Other Topping Suggestions:

- Grilled sweet corn cut from the cob and cooked black beans with cheddar and jack cheese.

- Vegetarian pepperoni (available in most supermarkets and natural food stores) and portobello mushrooms.

- Broccoli and caramelized garlic cloves with ricotta cheese.

- Grilled eggplant and provolone cheese.

- Sun-dried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

© 2005 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.