Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Grilled “Ratatouille” Pizza

I’ve had a lot of different food jobs; from my first to my current, normal to abstract, I’ve always worked in the field in some way. From country club server and kitchen extern to restaurant cook, food shopper and beyond, there’s been a little bit of just about everything in my culinary-laced work history.

Perhaps the most desperate and thankfully short-lived job for me was working at a kids’ cooking school. Based out of a multi-colored former KFC kitchen, the small business taught cooking classes for children as young as three years old. It was as impossible as it sounds.

There were step stools in front of the sinks, only plastic knives, and worst of all, a CD of kids’ party music that played songs like “The Name Game” and “Love Shack” on repeat, class after class. As I mixed jugs of Kool-Aid, I could have only hoped for a Chrysler as big as a whale to get me the hell out of there.

I was overqualified and underwhelmed, but it was a job with flexible hours that put a few bucks in my pocket while I was still in school. And it did involve being in a kitchen—somewhat. I worked there for such a short amount of time that I often completely forget about it until something triggers a memory, like whenever I hear “Love Shack,” or whenever I make pizza dough.

It all came back to me while I was working on this pie. I used to make pizza dough mostly every day there, sometimes twice a day, and it was the best part of that job. As one batch got pounded into oblivion at the hands of hyperactive five year olds, another would quietly rise on the counter.

As I molded my pizza dough into a crust on my kitchen counter, I suddenly had a newfound respect for the silence in the room. Then, I went out into the pouring rain and fired up the grill.

You see, it rained almost every day last week, and it rained hard. But I was dead set on my all-grilled pizza concept. Everything would be grilled: the toppings, the dough, everything. Of course, when I actually had time to make the pizza it was pouring. So I slipped on my wellies, threw on my rain coat and hood, and grilled with an umbrella. I’m just that much of a badass, I guess.

Thanks to the movie, we all know that ratatouille is a traditional French vegetable stew. Ignoring the technicalities, I named this “Grilled Ratatouille Pizza” because all of the veggies that I grilled for my pizza are ones that you will commonly find in ratatouille.

Grilled sliced eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, red onion and red bell pepper are layered decoratively on a grilled whole wheat crust over roasted red pepper tomato sauce and melted Asiago cheese. Finished with basil from the garden, every bite of this fresh pizza was worth standing out in the rain for.

Grilled “Ratatouille” Pizza:
Yield: 1 Pie
Red Pepper Tomato Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus about ¼ cup for grilling vegetables
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 4 red peppers: 2 roasted whole, peeled and seeded, and 2 fresh cut down on all sides for topping
- 3 large tomatoes, quickly blanched to remove skin, seeded, and roughly chopped
- Handful of fresh basil, divided
Pizza Toppings:
- 2 large zucchini, sliced thin
- 2 large yellow squash, sliced thin
- 1 eggplant, sliced thin
- ½ red onion, peeled and halved
- 1 pound whole wheat pizza dough
- 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
• For sauce: in a small pot, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium high flame; add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the tomato paste, roasted peppers and tomato and cook until the juices release, about 5 minutes. Add half a handful of torn basil leaves to the mixture and season with salt and pepper. Pulse in a food processor until smooth.
• Heat the grill to medium high and clean well. In a large bowl, toss all of the pizza topping vegetables with ¼ cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill all vegetable slices on each side until they are soft and with grill marks; set aside on a tray.
• Pound out and stretch pizza dough to form a fairly thin crust—it does not have to be a circle. Lay the crust on the grill grates and keep a watchful eye. The dough will have a nice char, but you will need to spin it once or twice as not to burn it. When one side looks crispy and well-browned, flip the dough over. Each side takes about 4 minutes.
• On the cooked side of the dough, pour on red pepper tomato sauce and spread out evenly. Sprinkle with a layer of Asiago cheese. Continue to keep an eye on the crust, giving it a slight spin if needed to keep from burning. Turn off the grill and arrange the vegetables on top of the cheese. Garnish with fresh torn basil leaves, slice and serve.


Priscilla - She's Cookin' said...

Haha, Love Shack triggers totally different memories for me :) (nothing scandalous, my workplace was a broker/dealer). Love this post and your grilled ratatouille pizza!

Aimee said...

This has to be the prettiest pizza I have ever seen!! Love the colors and I'm sure the flavours would be amazing too :)

Faith said...

Wow, does that sound like a challenging job! (I love the concept though -- cooking with kids is so important!) Your pizza looks delicious, I love how you grilled every component!

Evan @swEEts said...

What a beautiful pizza! You arranged everything with such precision.. almost too good to eat.. ALMOST.

Claudia said...

This is outstanding - I love that you grilled all - in-between rain drops. Shows determination and who could argue with your results? I, too have had many jobs where my mantra was "This too shall pass."

Cheap Ethnic Eatz said...

Awesome story intro, wow I would have lasted 1 day at that job. And yes you are badass (my kind a woman) to grill in rain. Great concept for the pizza and it looks like a work of art.

Magic of Spice said...

That must have been some job...
Grillin' in the rain, wow you were serious! Such a beautiful pizza and nothing beats grilled veggies :)

Trix said...

This is gorgeous!! And you know I totally respect the dedication of getting it done the way you wanted NO MATTER WHAT (some might say it borders on obsession, but I am the same way.) And that job ... what a nightmare. All those loud children in one place. *shudders and cries*

5 Star Foodie said...

Very pretty with all the vegetables perfectly arranged, excellent idea!

Lori Lynn said...

It's a real beauty!
Great contribution to the Cooking Club.
P.S. 'Chrysler as big as a whale' is cracking me up.

angela@spinachtiger said...

All grilled pizza is genius and beautiful. I grill my pizza all the time too. Even if it rains. :)

Lazaro Cooks said...

Love the concept of a grilled pizza. The execution your part was spot on. Fantastic grilled veg.

Thanks for continuing to be a part of this awesome cooking group.

Jessica said...

This must have been so much work to produce such a beautiful pizza!!! I love the concept. I am a huge fan of ratatouille so I can only imagine how delicious this must have tasted!

Victoria said...

You ARE badass, my friend. I actually always thought it would be fun to teach kids how to cook, but it sounds like maybe not?? Great idea for a pizza though! Love the all grilled concept.

Tanantha said...

I like the concept, Marisa! Grill everything. Yes, grill them up! This sounds like a lot of preparation but worth the time. Grilling adds smoky and char flavor which I like the most about it. You can't beat grill pizza!

Karen said...

Oh goodness...I have to say, that kids cooking school does sound bad! Kool-Aid? Ugh. KFC building? Ugh.
But this pizza is fantastic. I've done an everything-grilled salad, so I can imagine how good it would be as a pizza. Especially the grilled dough. Great idea!

Bren @ Flanboyant Eats™ said...

I'm on vacay but showing this to my father as I type as he is the ratatouille King of the House! my word, this looks so homey good! So many vegetables.... what ever pizza joint offers "vegetable" pizza has it all wrong. This is it right here. Grilled on top of that! Fab.

ankle wellies said...

What a beautiful pizza! You arranged everything with such precision.. almost too good to eat..