Thursday, February 23, 2012

Grilled Pesto Pizza with Balsamic Chicken and Tomatoes

Monday night's dinner was a total WIN:  we made pizza on the grill using fresh homemade basil pesto and it was SO good!

It was our first time grilling pizza and we were pretty excited with the results.  Now, I know a lot of you guys live where it's a little too chilly to be outside at the grill right now but here in Tampa the weather has been lovely.  Just bookmark this recipe (or you could Pin it!) for the warmer days ahead!

I've been wanting to grill pizza directly on the grill grates for at least the last two summers (we've grilled it on a pizza stone before with good results) and I thought this was a good time to do a trial run before summer hits and it gets too hot to turn the oven up to 500 degrees.  You know, it was all in the interest of practice.

Brian used The Kitchn's method and it worked well.  We  loved the slightly charred flavor from the grill.  Grilled pizza is a WIN!

The pizza dough was from Trader Joe's - we used the whole wheat pizza dough that they sell in the refrigerated section.  We love to make our own pizza dough but TJ's is so convenient it's ridiculous.

The "sauce" was homemade pesto that I made from my basil plant in the backyard (yep, it's still a-blooming here in Florida).  I have used The Barefoot Contessa's recipe for basil pesto before with good results, but it turned out awesome this time.  I've provided the recipe with my changes below.

I halved The BC's recipe volume so it was perfect in my Mini-Prep Food Processor.  I don't think this lil guy could have handled the full recipe.  

On top of that we added fresh mozzarella (another TJ's buy), a sliced tomato and cooked balsamic-marinated chicken.  I would have sprinkled fresh basil on top before serving but I was fresh out after using it all in the pesto!

I ate the leftover pizza with a salad for lunch the next afternoon.  So delicious!

Grilled Pesto Pizza with Balsamic Chicken and Tomatoes
serves 4
pizza grilling method from The Kitchn

1 large chicken breast
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

1 pound ball whole wheat pizza dough
extra virgin olive oil
prepared basil pesto (see recipe below)
1 tomato, sliced thin
1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced very thin
fresh basil, thinly sliced, for serving

Prepare the Balsamic Chicken:

Cut the chicken breast into 1'' chunks and place in a ziploc bag.  Pour 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar onto chicken and close bag.  Make sure vinegar is in contact with all of the chicken and allow to marinate in the refrigerator 1 hour.

Preheat broiler to high and line a sheet pan with foil.  Spray foil with nonstick baking spray.  Put marinated chicken onto prepared baking sheet in one layer, making sure the pieces are not touching, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Broil 5-7 minutes until fully cooked, stirring and rotating the tray once or twice to insure even cooking.  Remove from oven and allow chicken to cool slightly while you prepare other ingredients.

Prepare the Pizza Dough and Get the Grill Ready:

While chicken is marinating, remove pizza dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before manipulating it.  Preheat grill to about 500-600 degrees, as hot as you can get it.  This could take 20 or 30 minutes depending on your grill.

Lightly oil one side of the pizza dough with extra virgin olive oil (a neat little trick is to oil a rimless baking sheet and roll the dough out on top of it - this way, the dough slides right off the baking sheet and onto the grill - no muss, no fuss!).  Depending on your tastes, roll the dough out into a circle as thin as you dare without risking a tear (this will yield a thin, crispy crust) or about 1/3 inch thick (for a thicker, doughy crust).  With the grill cover open (or off), place the dough directly on the grates for about three minutes (feel free to check the underside with a spatula to ensure the bottom isn't getting burned).

At the three minute mark, use your rimless baking sheet (or spatulas) to flip the dough.  Immediately spread the pesto and add the other toppings - but hurry!  When finished, quickly replace the grill cover and allow to cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browning.  Remove from the grill and serve fresh and hot!

Basil and Spinach Pesto
makes 2 cups
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

1/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese

Place the cashews and garlic in the bowl of a mini-food processor.  Process for 20-30 seconds until finely chopped.  Add the basil, spinach, salt and pepper and pulse a few times to start to break down the greens.  Add the olive oil in two increments, pulsing in between additions and process until pesto is pureed.  Add the Romano cheese and puree another 30 seconds - 1 minute.  Use immediately or store in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.


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