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Pizza Margherita

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Rina Jordan

Sometimes the simplest things are the best. I love making this pizza in late summer when tomatoes are at their ripest. You can use any type of tomato on this pizza; they all taste wonderful when they’re in season. The tomatoes soak up the flavor of the smoke better than any other vegetable or fruit and transform this pizza from something simple to something simply spectacular.

NOTE: To slice chiffonade means to cut leafy herbs and greens into thin ribbons. For basil, stack the leaves one on top of another, roll them up lengthwise like a cigar, and, with a sharp knife, slice them crosswise into thin strips.

Soaking the Plank

Start by using a clean, untreated piece of wood. Most of the wood planks sold in stores are 1/2 to 1 inch thick. Be sure to choose a plank that allows at least a 1-inch border around the food you are preparing. No matter the size, plan on soaking your plank for at least one hour, and up to twenty-four hours. This important step adds moisture that helps the wood to resist burning, which prolongs the use of your plank.

Place the plank in a kitchen sink, cooler, glass or ceramic baking dish, or any container large enough to fit it for soaking.

Soak the plank in water, or if you feel like being creative, try adding some white wine, beer, salt, or apple, berry, or citrus juice to the water.

Keep the plank submerged with something heavy, like a brick, so it stays weighted down during soaking.

Preheating the Plank

Preheating the plank before grilling is an important step. With woods like maple, oak, cherry, and alder, the plank will often begin to warp when placed over heat (cedar does not usually warp). Preheating the plank will control the warping, kill any bacteria on the cooking surface, and impart a more intense flavor to the food.

Before preheating the plank, have a spray bottle with water handy to smolder any flames if flare-ups occur.

For a gas grill, preheat your grill to medium-high, or about 400 degrees F. For a charcoal grill, prepare your grill for indirect cooking: Fill a chimney starter (charcoal chimney) to the top with charcoal. Light the charcoal and let it burn until half of the coals are glowing. Spread the coals onto half of the bottom of the grill, leaving the other side without coals (this is called the “indirect method”). Place the grill lid on top and fully open the top and bottom vents. If your grill does not have a thermometer, place a grill thermometer through one of the vent openings and let it sit for 5 minutes to get an accurate reading. If the grill gets too hot, close the vents partially and let the temperature adjust. Continue making adjustments to the vent openings until the grill reaches a consistent temperature of 400 degrees F.

For optimum smoke and wood flavor, place the plank 8 to 12 inches above the flame and close the grill lid. I prefer to place a plank on the warming rack of my gas grill for preheating and grilling. It takes a little longer to get it lightly toasted and get some smoke going (8 to 10 minutes), but it reduces the number of flare-ups so that you will get more uses out of the plank. If the plank is placed closer to the flame, you should see some light \ smoke after 3 to 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on the grill if the plank is closer to the flame.

Once you see some light wisps of gray smoke emanating from the grill, open the grill lid and flip the plank over. If the plank has not bowed, you are ready to begin grilling. If warping occurs, close the lid again and continue preheating another minute or two until the plank flattens out. Continue flipping and heating the plank one or two more times until warping is controlled.

Makes4 servings

Cooking Methodgrilling

CostInexpensive

Total Timeunder 2 hours

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Equipmentgrill

Mealdinner, lunch

Taste and Texturecheesy, savory

Type of Dishpizza

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 pound store-bought or homemade pizza dough, at room temperature
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Coarse grind cornmeal, for sprinkling
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 large tomato (about 6 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 5 large fresh basil leaves, sliced chiffonade (see Notes)

Instructions

  1. Soak the plank for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

  2. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the garlic, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

  3. On a well-floured surface, roll out the pizza dough as thinly as possible into a rectangle slightly larger than the plank you are using.

  4. Prepare the plank for grilling according to the instructions (see Notes). Lightly spray the toasted side of the plank with the cooking spray and dust with cornmeal. Place the pizza dough on the prepared plank, folding up the edges so that the dough is the same size as the plank. Lightly prick the dough all over with a fork. Close the lid and grill for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the pizza dough is lightly browned and crisp.

  5. Open the grill lid and brush the oil mixture evenly over the pizza dough. Lay the mozzarella slices on top of the crust, then the tomato slices. Close the lid and grill until the cheese is golden and bubbly and the tomatoes are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pizza to a clean work surface. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, sprinkle with the basil, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

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