From the Kitchen – Fresh New Summertime Companions

by Joan Saunders | photos by Amanda Cribdon Photography – 

I love pizza. As we would say when we were kids, I love it enough to marry it. In the winter I usually make pizza on Friday nights, and we hunker down and watch a movie. It’s a glorious way to signal that the weekend is nigh.

But in the summer, I switch it up. When the weather gets warmer, I usually find myself making a classic pizza that features, on top of a tomato base, bocconcini, prosciutto, arugula and parmesan. However, it is refreshing exploring new options and I found myself drawn to stunning images of pizzas topped with fruit (and I don’t mean pineapple!).

Wandering down the rabbit hole of pizza recipes, I discovered a world of undiscovered fabulousness: pizzas with nectarines, blackberries, peaches and, gloriously, figs. A base of tangy cheese coupled with the sweetness of figs, the saltiness of prosciutto and the peppery freshness of arugula drew me in. Add to that some zesty-sweet balsamic glaze and you’ve got a winner of a summertime pizza that you can cook on the grill. No oven required.

The flavour of the slightly charred dough from cooking it on the grill is superb, and I’m now a big fan of making pizza on the BBQ. Every grill is different, however, so take the time to figure out what temperature will work best for you. I promise that it’s not only easy to do but also so worth it.

The original recipe called for only blue cheese, but not everyone is a big fan, so you can mix up the options to create your best personalized blend of cheesiness. If you go with feta or goat cheese, remember that they might be a bit saltier than blue cheese so adjust the amounts accordingly. One great combination is half a cup of blue, half a cup of grated parmesan and one cup of feta.

As this is the time of year to relish fresh fruit, you could also play around with other options. Try thinly slicing nectarines or peaches over the cheese and, once the fruit has heated through, top with slivered basil along with the balsamic glaze. Toss on a few blackberries to add more colour in contrast to the golden tones of the fruit. What a glorious way to revel in our wonderful local harvest!

On a lovely August evening, take your time and experiment with alternatives for your pizza dough base. I’m sure that your taste buds will thank you. And even if you don’t want to marry the pizzas you create, these flavour-packed options could become exciting new summer mealtime companions.

Grilled Fig, Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza
Pizza dough for one 12″ pizza, homemade or purchased
1 ½ to 2 cups crumbled cheese, or mixture of cheeses (recommended: blue cheese, feta, plain goat cheese, gorgonzola, roquefort, stilton, queso fresco, parmesan, fontina)
3 fresh figs, cut into sixths
2-3 tbsp balsamic glaze (store bought or make your own by simmering one cup balsamic vinegar and ¼ cup brown sugar until reduced)
4 slices prosciutto, torn into  bite-sized chunks
1 cup arugula
olive oil cooking spray
(This will make one pizza and might feed 3-4, but it really feeds 2, as we love it so.)

Heat grill on medium-high heat if cooking on the BBQ or preheat your over to 450°. Flour your work surface; roll/press dough into a 12-inch round or 12- by 10-inch rectangle. Be as free form as you like with the shape; do two smaller pizzas if that’s easier.

If grilling, spray the dough generously with the olive oil and transfer oil side down to the hot grill. While that side is grilling, spray the other side with olive oil. If using the oven, put the dough on a cookie sheet/pizza pan and place in hot oven. Cook one side for about 5 minutes, then flip over and cook the other side for about 5 minutes.

After both sides are cooked, remove pizza crust to a baking sheet; turn your grill to low or your oven to 200°. Sprinkle the cheese all over the crust, gently smearing some of it to make a base. Evenly place all of the fig sixths on the pizza then drape the pieces of prosciutto around the pizza. Return the pizza to the grill and shut the lid or return to the oven for a few minutes until the toppings are warmed through and cheese is melty.

Remove the pizza from grill or oven and top with the arugula; drizzle with the balsamic glaze. Slice into pieces; serve.

Adapted and amalgamated from: grilled-fig-and-prosciutto-pizza/
Half Baked Harvest Super Simple by Tieghan Gerard, Clarkson Potter Publishers, New York

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