In honor of the kick-off of grilling season, allow me to present…
I love it for so many reasons, but chief among them is that there is no need to fire up the oven to 475°F on a hot summer day. Grilled pizza is a great vegetarian option for a cookout, and, most important, this particular one is exhibit A for the world’s greatest culinary contrast: charred alongside creamy. (Think yogurt sauce with grilled salmon, or grilled romaine brushed with Caesar.) On this pie, the sweet, milky burrata cuts the smoky grilled kale, and it is a wonder.
Here’s the thing about grilling pizza, though. Until you get the hang of it, the technique can be a little tricky. The dough cooks super quickly and can sometimes behave erratically, which means if you want to make it for guests, you might want to do a dry run first. Here, a few crucial things to keep in mind:
- For starters: Oil everything. If the crust sticks to the grate, it’s tough to recover! I avoid this by brushing oil on the grates, on the baking sheet where the dough rests in between flips, and both sides of the dough. It’s a balance, though. You want the dough to be coated. If it’s dripping with oil, it will cause flare-ups.
- If you are using a charcoal grill, let the coals die way down before you put the crust on the grill. The coals should be gray all the way through and no flames should be coming up. If you are using a gas grill, prepare it for medium-high heat.
- Don’t stretch out your dough too thin or your pizza too large — even the one in the photo is a tiny bit too big, the diameter should be no more than about 12 inches. Otherwise, the dough will be unwieldy, cook too quickly, and be more likely to burn and rip as you move it around from the grates to the baking sheet.
- Use a baking sheet in between cooking each side of the dough. It only takes about two minutes for each side to cook, and you don’t want to have to rush to add your toppings.
- Lastly, if possible, it helps to have an extra set of hands around for flipping and guiding the dough. Until you get the hang of it, at least.
Grilled Pizza with Charred Kale and Burrata
Makes 1 pizza, serves 4
Step 1: Prepare the grill
Clean grates. If you are using a charcoal grill, spread hot coals evenly over the bottom of grill and let burn until heat is relatively low, about 30 minutes. There should be no flames coming up from the coals when you add the dough to the grates. This is very important. You do not want the grill to be raging hot. If you are using a gas grill, prepare it for medium-high heat.
Step 2: Make the Kale
6-8 ounces Tuscan kale (1 medium bunch)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
juice from 1/2 lemon, about 1 tablespoon
If you have a grilling basket: Remove kale from rough stems and chop into 3-inch pieces. In a large bowl, toss the kale with olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. (You want the kale to be coated in oil, not dripping.) Add to the grilling basket and toss over medium heat until the kale is wilted and smoky and slightly charred in spots. Return the grilled kale back to the bowl, and toss with lemon juice. Set aside.
If you do not have a grilling basket: In a large bowl, toss whole kale leaves in olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place leaves on grill (perpendicular to grates) and cook about 3 minutes, flipping with tongs regularly so they smoke and char but don’t completely burn. Remove from the grill when they are lightly charred and let cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, remove stems as much as possible, chop it up, add to a large bowl and toss with lemon juice. Set aside.
Step 3: Make the Pizza
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
1 16-ounce ball store-bought pizza dough, stretched to about 12 inches in diameter (not too thin! See note above.)
3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1 bunch grilled kale (see below)
1 4-ounce ball of burrata
flaky sea salt
optional toppings: chili oil, red pepper flakes, pickled onions (recipe at the bottom of this post)
Lightly grease the center of a baking sheet with a teaspoon or so of olive oil and lay the pizza dough on top. Brush the top side of the dough with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place the brushed side down on the grill very carefully, as flat as possible, using another set of hands if you need them. (You can lift up each corner with your spatula as the crust cooks to make sure it’s not sticking.) When the bottom looks golden but not burned, not more than 2 minutes, flip the dough back on to the oiled cookie sheet, grilled side up. Sprinkle mozzarella all over the surface of the dough, then the kale, and slide it back on the hot grates. Cover and grill until the cheese has melted and the bottom of crust looks golden but not burned, another 2 minutes. Remove from the grill carefully. When ready to serve, using your fingers, separate and distribute the burrata evenly on top. Add flaky sea salt, red pepper flakes, and pickled onions, if using.
If you aren’t eating it right away, wait until just before you serve to break the burrata over the kale. (To prevent the crust from getting soggy.)
P.S. A bright beautiful halloumi salad (that would be a nice vegetarian anchor for a cookout) and three no-cook summer sauces that will up your grilling game.