It feels like just yesterday that I had my face smashed up against the cold glass of our front window, whimpering about the foot of snow in the driveway that I’d soon have to clear.
But that’s over. I woke up this morning and realized that it was July. We somehow skipped spring and went right to 95 degreees, 100% humidity and a crazy electric bill from pumping cold air throughout the house.
It literally almost kills me when I think I might have to crank up the oven to make dinner every night.
Perhaps one of the greatest parts about summertime, for me, is stepping out onto the back porch and delicately sliding the blouse off my mistress – obviously, I can only be talking about our grill.
It sounds sexy and almost romantic, until I pop the lid open and see the condition in which I left it for myself last September. Pieces of burnt fish, charred asparagus sticks that have fallen through the grate and an empty propane tank to boot. Right now the charcoal fanatics are cringing…
The point of all this is that there are ways to get creative with your meals without having to make your house an inferno in the dead of summer.
Welcome to my back porch, my home away from home.
One new experience that I experimented with last summer was making a pizza on the grill. I made the honest mistake of using fresh homemade dough WITHOUT partially cooking one side first, flipping it and then adding my toppings – which leaves you with a soggy, doughy mess as a foundation for your toppings.
When you get it right, it tastes great, however, the thing can be a lengthy process.
The other easier alternative if you happen to be short on time is to use a frozen pizza, which already has a solid crust to start with. The clear choice for me is Ristorante.
Fresh gourmet ingredients with a thin crust that only takes about ten minutes before it’s all melty and delicious.
My neighbor, Jim, had his doubts about working a pizza on the grill, so I had him, his wife and their kids over last weekend after a Friday night at the swimming pool to work my magic.
Ristorante has something for everyone and because we had four adults and seven kids frothing at the mouth – I went with the Vegetale, Funghi, Pepperoni Pesto and Spinachi, my wife’s absolute favorite – a little taste of everything.
Whether or not you’re working with gas or coals, one thing that I’ve noticed (contrary to what most recipes will say online) is that, if you slide a piece of foil underneath your pie about halfway through the grilling process, while giving it a half-turn, it helps to avoid completely charring the underside of your pizza – yet still gives you that great smoky flavor.
Again, a lot of online tips about grilling pizza will suggest a steady temperature of 400 degrees. I found that this strategy works best:
- Throw your frozen pizza directly on the grill at 400 for about 2-3 minutes
- Give it a half-turn and let it go for another 2-3 minutes
- Slide foil under the pie, drop heat to 350 degrees and let it ride for another 5-6 minutes
Coming up with sides to go with pizza has always been a challenge, as me and my brothers were accustomed to eating only potato chips with our pizza on Friday nights.
But since we were having company, I couldn’t take the easy way out on this one, so I whipped up this watermelon salad with feta and fresh mint. That salad, combined with the Ristorante Funghi (of which he ate almost the whole thing), literally blew Jim’s socks off.
I made some small adjustments to a recipe I found on the Food Network:
- 1 seedless watermelon
- 1 vidalia or sweet onion
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- S & P
- 1/2 cup of EVOO
- 4 tablespoons of fresh mint
- 4-5 ounces of crumbled feta cheese
- handful of whole mint sprigs
Directions: Cut your watermelon (or use a melon baller like I did) into bite size pieces, removing as many seeds as you can and set aside in a large bowl.
Slice onion into 1/4 rings.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, S & P and whisk until salt is dissolved. Slowly whisk in EVOO, a few drops at a time. Add in the chopped mint only, taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
In that large bowl that’s holding your watermelon, combine melon, onion and feta. Pour the dressing over the salad and lightly toss with a wooden spoon.
Pop into the fridge for a little while, which gives it a great crisp, cold, refreshing flavor – perfect for the hot weather!
Don’t be afraid to switch it up this summer, get outside and throw a Ristorante on the grill!
In fact, my friends over at Dr. Oetker want to help you out a bit. Enter the raffle below and score an 18-piece stainless steel barbeque set in an aluminum case, along with a wireless bluetooth speaker to pump your favorite mix-tape jams across the neighborhood.
To learn more, check out Ristorante on Facebook or on their website, and if you want to bring some of these incredible pies home to surprise your spouse, use the store locator so you’re not driving around the neighborhood aimlessly.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Dr. Oetker USA LLC. I received compensation for this post; however, all opinions stated are my own.