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.
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
- 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.