The farmers markets are booming! And the reports from the vegetable gardens are good.
Michael Noreen of Burning River Farm in Frederic, Wis., who sells at Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis, said recently, “Despite the slow, cold start, everything is now a couple of weeks ahead. It’s caught us all off-guard. There have been a couple of times where we haven’t been in a certain part of the field for a week, then we come back, and … whoa! How did these turnips get so big so fast! I turn around for one minute and … whoa!”
This bounty, both blessing and burden, has farmers and cooks scrambling to keep up. These veggies — radishes, turnips, peas, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini — are so fresh and bright that they really don’t need to be cooked for a long time. Plus, who wants to light the stove or crank up the oven when it’s 90 degrees? Yet, in our house, there are only so many salads everyone wants to eat. It’s a great time for pizza on the grill.
Pizza crust loves high heat. Under a scorching flame, the dough will spring into crispy perfection. Grills generate more heat than most home ovens do, so they replicate the fiery conditions of an authentic kiln. You can place the dough directly on the grill, but a ceramic pizza stone works best. It becomes extraordinarily hot and distributes the heat as evenly as the brick floor of a pizza oven.
Lay the prepared dough on the ceramic stone, scatter the toppings over it and close up the grill. The combination of direct and ambient heat makes magic. It takes 10 to 20 minutes (depending on the grill) for the crust to become blissfully blistered while the cheese bubbles and the vegetables roast to become tender yet still slightly crisp.
When deciding on toppings, note that if you wouldn’t eat it raw, it should be cooked first — this goes for sausage or bacon, chicken, mushrooms and eggplant. The cheese? Mix mild and melty with aged and strong — mozzarella, fontina and ricotta are fabulous paired with salty, strong Parmesan, asiago or provolone.
But use some restraint and don’t pile everything on. There’s nothing sadder to eat than a soggy pizza.
End with a pinch of pizazz. Right before serving, scatter chopped fresh herbs on the pizza, then drizzle with peppery olive oil and a sprinkle of flaked sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.