Grilled Summer Squash Pizza
The summer really feels like it begins for me when I'm grilling summer squash. This is usually one of the early vegetables in abundance at markets at the start of the season, so it's an early dietary indicator of a change to lighter and fresher foods. Grilling is also my absolute favorite preparation of these green and yellow veggies, rendering them well caramelized with a light sweetness and incredible charred flavor that just screams that it's time to be outdoors. So it should come as no surprise that zucchini and yellow squash feature heavily this time of year on my blog over and over again, always in a new variations like salads, skewers, or boats, and this time around they served as the central focus of this grilled summer squash pizza.
Planning on making this a white pie, I knew the flavor of it would be pretty light, so wanted to finish it a chili oil to give it a little boost and touch of heat that I thought would taste great with the sweet squash. Calabrian chili oil is pretty much a must for the wife and I anytime a pizza joint has it, so that's exactly what I made. Calabrian chiles have a mild fruity flavor and great kick of heat that tastes like it's built for pizza, but they're not the easiest to find. I got mine in jar, packed in oil, from a local Italian market, but if you're having troubles finding these guys, you can sub them out for Fresnos for their fruitiness plus a lesser amount of bird's eyes or habaneros to get something close utilizing easier to find specimens.
Finding the peppers are the hard part, making the chili oil itself is a snap—you just chop up some peppers and combine them with oil, then gradually heat until they start to bubble, then remove from the heat and let steep until cooled. At this point you need to transfer the chili oil a container for storage, and whether you want to strain the peppers away or keep them in is a matter of personal preference.
Since it's the char and sweetness of grilled squash that attracts me to them, my goal in preparation is usually trying to maximize surface area to boost those two traits as much as possible. Cutting the squash into thin slices is an excellent way to do this, and sometimes I do that in long strips, other times in smaller ovals, like I did here since that shape felt more appropriate for a pizza topper.
Thin slices of squash do grill up incredibly quickly over a hot fire though, so a watchful eye is needed to prevent them from burning or designating completely—both things that can happen sooner than you may expect. So I was kept busy grill-side, attentively flipping the squash a pulling them off the grill as they turned well browned, but not blackened.
Once they were all done, I was able to assemble my pies which consisted of Kenji's trusty Neapolitan pizza dough recipe, a brush of extra-virgin olive oil, a layer of fresh mozzarella, the squash slices, and then dollops of fresh ricotta. I failed to take a pizza-baking action shot, but this pie cooked in just a couple minutes time in my blazing hot KettlePizza. I can't endorse this accessory enough for making the best quality pizzas at home—you get the heat and wood flavor to output results as good, if not better, than some top quality pizza joints.
Once the pizza was done cooking, I grated on some fresh parmesan and drizzled on the chili oil. If grilled summer squash is my gateway to summer cooking, this pizza embodied that with many added bonuses. The zucchini and yellow squash delivered that grilled flavor synonymous with the season, and the light pairing of mozzarella and ricotta let the veggies really shine while adding a substantialness to make this a filling meal. These mellow flavors really let the tangy and crispy crust have more prominence than usual, while the chili oil added a fruity and spicy flavor I personally find necessary and addictive. What's more exciting than this pizza though is what it represents—summer is here and the days of more grilling have begun!
Grilled Summer Squash Pizza
- Yield 4 servings
- Prep 40 Minutes
- Inactive 3 Days
- Cook 3 Minutes
- Total 3 Days 43 Minutes
- For the Dough
- 20 ounces (about 4 cups) bread flour, preferably Italian-style "OO"
- .4 ounces kosher salt (about 4 teaspoons)
- .3 ounces (about 2 teaspoons) instant yeast
- 13 ounces water
- For the Chili Oil
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped drained oil-packed Calabrian chiles
- For the Squash
- 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices on a bias
- 2 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch slices on a bias
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the Pizza
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated
- 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
- 2 ounces finely grated parmesan
- To make the dough: Combine flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl and whisk until homogenous. Add water and incorporate into flour using hands until no dry flour remains on bottom of bowl. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and divide into four even balls. Place each in a covered quart-sized deli container or in a zipper-lock freezer bag. Place in refrigerator and allow to rise at least 2 more days, and up to 4.
- To make the chili oil: Place chiles and oil in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Continue to heat until oil begin to bubble around chiles. Remove from heat and let sit until cooled. Transfer to an airtight container and set aside until ready to use.
- To make the squash: Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place zucchini and yellow squash slices in a large bowl, add in 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss to evenly distribute seasoning and coat squash in oil. Transfer squash slices on grill and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until second side is lightly browned and squash is tender, about 2 minutes more. Transfer squash to a plate.
- To make the pizza: 2 hours prior to cooking, remove dough from refrigerator, shape into balls, and allow to rest at room temperature, covered, for at least 2 hours before baking. Heat KettlePizza or pizza oven to 950°F. Alternatively, set a baking stone or Baking Steel on upper middle rack in oven and heat on highest setting possible for 45 minutes. Stretch dough into a 12" round. Brush dough all over up to 1-inch from the edge. Spread on a layer of mozzarella and top with squash sliced. Add dollops of ricotta. Place pizza in pizza oven and cook for 2-3 minutes, rotating pizza for even cooking as necessary. Alternatively, place pizza on baking stone or steel in heated oven and cook until crust is baked through and mozzarella is melted, 7-10 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle on parmesan, drizzle with chili oil, and serve immediately. Repeat with remaining dough and ingredients.
Pizza dough recipe adapted from J. Kenji López-Alt.