Pizza Over Live Fire

Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook 

Pizza over Live Fire

You can’t deny that a grilled pizza, crusty and smoky from a live fire, is one of the most tantalizing dishes imaginable. The preparation can be complex, but doesn’t have to be. Practice or finding the grill pan that works for you as that makes dealing with the dough easier. After that…it’s a carefree experience.

Pizza cooked on the grill may be an entirely new venture for you, but it’s a delightful skill to master. When you’re done you will feel like you’ve taken a culinary standard and made something earthy and original out of it. Freeform and natural is the way to go—you don’t want that production-line look with symmetrical crusts and mathematically spaced toppings.

As in all grilled pizza recipes, you may need to transfer the pizza back and forth from direct to indirect heat until you have conquered the balance. Here, balance means golden-brown dough, nicely melted cheese, warm toppings, and nothing seared dry. You are actually learning the artisan technique . . . you need to feel the cooking process.

Now, to make the process less challenging, the dough can be formed on a heat safe grill or even flat pan as in 2 of the pizzas recipes shown here. Then the pizza is built on the dough in the pan and the entire dish can be transferred to the grill.

Pizza dough can be made ahead and reserved in the fridge or frozen for up to two months. Flatbread has become synonymous with pizza. It was borrowed—and certainly rearranged—from the simple Italian version containing only flour, oil, lard, cheese, and herbs.


Crab, Grilled Corn, Lemon Thyme and Tomato Pizza (or Flatbread)

Serves 12 as an hors d’ oeuvres

What a delectable dish that showcases our Chesapeake region bounty. You’ll be parbaking the pizza dough here to make it easier to manage. You can actually do this a day in advance and add the toppings and quickly bake it off just to melt the cheese.

  • 1   16 ounce ball of refrigerated pizza dough
  • olive oil
  • 1 -2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
  • 1 cup smoked tomatoes, drained (recipe follows)
  • 1 ear of fresh corn, lightly steamed and kernels removed
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon thyme leaf
  • 12 ounces backfin lump or backfin crabmeat
  • Sharp cheddar cheese curls, at room temperature

First dry roast the cumin seeds in a medium hot pan.  Shake the seeds in the pan until they release a fragrance. While still warm coarsely grind with a mortar and pestle. Knead about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the seeds in each 16 ounce ball of dough.

Grease a bowl with olive oil and then rub the dough with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest in refrigerator overnight or at least 1 hour at room temperature.

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Remove the bowl with the dough and let warm at room temperature for 10 minutes. Roll out to desired shape and thickness with a rolling pin. Let rest again to relax for 5 minutes. Place directly on the grill rack over the fire and cook-just until lightly browned.

Remove and place the grill marks facing up on a clean work surface. Now you are ready to build the pizza. Evenly spread the tomatoes, corn, lemon thyme, crabmeat and then cheese on the pizza. Return to the grill for another 5-7 minutes or just until the cheese melts.

Let rest for 2-3 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

Pizza Siena in a Heavy Skillet

Yield: 6-8 slices

Our version here is almost a deep-dish pizza which is formed beautifully by using a skillet that can be placed on the grill.

  • 1 pound freshly made pizza dough or frozen pizza-crust dough, thawed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups multi-colored cherries tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated
  • ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, coarsely chopped

Heat half the grill to medium-high.

Have the pizza toppings prepared, measured, and placed on a tray or workspace. Work the dough to stretch it gently and then mold it in the bottom and halfway up the sides of a 12-inch skillet. You want the dough about 1/2-inch thick. Brush the dough lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle all of the fillings (except the basil) evenly over the dough. Place the skillet holding the pizza over direct flame for about 5 minutes. With a spatula lift the bottom of the dough to check for browning.

Now transfer the pizza to the indirect-heat side of grill (that is, no direct flame under the pizza), close the lid and cook for about 8 minutes. Check for doneness-the cheese should be melting and toppings getting golden brown.

Remove from the grill, sprinkle with the fresh basil. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

Normandy Pizza 

Yield: 6-8 slices

You can add or exchange toppings here; for instance, bacon would also be delish. This pizza is placed on a grill-safe griddle which makes it to work with.

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh apple slices
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnut halves
  • 1/2 cup chevre (fresh goat cheese), crumbled
  • About 1 cup fresh arugula

Heat half the grill to medium-high.

Have the pizza toppings prepared, measured, and placed on a tray or workspace.

Bring the pizza dough to room temperature and spread out on the grill pan until about 1/4-inch thick. Drizzle generously with the olive oil. Spread the apple slices, walnuts and cheese over the dough.

Place the pan with the pizza on the hot grill and close the lid, but watch carefully. After about 10 minutes, slide a pizza peel or spatula underneath to loosen the dough and to check for doneness. If the dough is too brown remove to the unlit side of the grill, close the lid and continue cooking until the dough is crispy and the cheese has melted.

Remove from the grill and let cool about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the arugula and serve.