Now that we’ve had an official heat wave here on the East Coast, and the AC has been running for days nonstop, it’s safe to say summer has settled in for the season. With the arrival of summer comes the departure of my desire to cook – at least using the oven. When the thermometer sits solidly at 90+ degrees, I cannot bear to turn on any appliances that could possibly increase that heat. Sometimes cooking indoors is inevitable, but grilling is a great alternative, and you can do a lot on a grill that you’d typically do in an oven.
Today I’ve paired up with Land O’Lakes for a Kitchen PLAY event, to bring you a wonderful dish perfect for outdoor dining in the summertime. This recipe is quick, easy, and so incredibly tasty. Using the new Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend, I made margherita pizza two ways: stuffed crust and grilled. The cheese, a blend of Asiago, Romano, Parmesan and American cheeses, hits the perfect balance of creamy and nutty – I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it turned out to be. Since it’s a deli cheese, incorporating it into a stuffed pizza crust was a bit unconventional, but completely genius (if I do say so myself) when all was said and done. It added such a fun element of flavor and texture to a simple tomato pizza.
I used store-bought whole wheat dough for simplicity’s sake but would urge you to use homemade dough if you have a recipe that you love. Even still – the pre-made stuff we get is rather tasty, and a breeze to work with. The first pizza I put together was the grilled pizza, which is a great meal to throw together in a pinch because it makes simple and speedy work of crafting a homemade pizza.
When making a grilled pizza, you place a well-greased round of pizza dough on the grill, cook until grill-marks have been applied on the underside and it is sufficiently cooked through, then flip over, top with desired toppings, and cook for just another couple of minutes until the cheese has melted. In all, it’s probably 15-20 minutes from start to finish, including cutting up toppings and cooking the pizza. And in the end, you haven’t even touched the oven! Summer dining at its finest.
The second pizza I made does use the oven, but I found it a worthy cause for turning that dial – all the way to 500 degrees! I’ve seen many stuffed crust pizza recipes but never tried one before, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity. Boy was I right! Stuffing pizza crust is quite simple to do, and completely transforms your pizza into something new and exciting. For those of you who don’t love the traditional soft, doughy crust on a pizza – please feel free to readjust your preferences here.
I topped both of these pizzas with simple ingredients, to let the flavors of fresh produce and the Land O’Lakes cheese shine through. I used local tomatoes (from Backyard Farms in Maine), fresh mozzarella, San Marzano canned tomatoes for the sauce, and basil picked from my deck 5 minutes before serving! Can’t get much more local than that. On the grilled pizza, I layered slices of the Land O’Lakes cheese and fresh mozzarella on top of the tomato sauce, then finished off the pizza with fresh tomatoes. For the stuffed crust pizza, I used the Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend to stuff the crust, and then baked the pizza with the sauce, mozzarella and tomatoes already applied. Two seemingly similar pizzas, two very different outcomes. Both equally suited for summer!
In case you’re curious about this Land O’Lakes cheese, here’s a bit more info for you:
New Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend is the best combination of the most flavorful Italian cheese—Asiago, Parmesan and Romano—blended with the creamy goodness of Land O Lakes® Deli American Cheese. Add this delicious cheese to everything from favorite dishes to lunchbox sandwiches or burgers hot off the grill. The creamy, decadent taste truly makes each dish an everyday masterpiece. The Land O’Lakes Test Kitchens have developed recipes and tips that highlight the wide range of uses for this new cheese. Find recipes, photos and tips on our new Taste of Italy product inspiration page at http://www.landolakes.com/4CheeseItalianBlend.
Be sure to check Kitchen PLAY every day for the next fabulous recipe featuring new Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend or Land O Lakes® Deli American Cheese. Then, get in on the fun by leaving a comment with your own “30 Days of Outdoor Dining” tip for dining al fresco this summer. If you do, you’ll be entered to win a lovely grilling prize pack, including one grilling spatula, one marinade brush, one set of tongs and one grill scraper. Kitchen PLAY will be giving away four prizes total, one each week! Please visit Kitchen PLAY for sweepstakes guidelines.
Tomato Basil Margherita Pizza, Grilled and Stuffed Crust
Makes two 12″ pizzas
1 package store bought whole wheat pizza dough (or homemade if you please!), divided in half
1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/2 lb sliced Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme, minced
1/4 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
For sauce: Combine crushed tomatoes, oregano and garlic in a bowl, mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Slice tomatoes and lay on a double layer of paper towels, to remove some of the moisture.
For Grilled Pizza: Turn grill to medium/high and let heat completely. Roll one half of pizza dough out to 1/4 inch thickness, and place on a lightly floured pizza peel, or side-less sheet pan. Brush one side of the dough liberally with olive oil to keep from sticking to the grill. When grill is sufficiently heated, place dough oil-side down on the grill, and let cook for 2-3 minutes. Keep a close eye on the dough – it will cook very fast. Once you notice the dough is puffed up on top and almost entirely cooked through, remove from the heat and place grilled-side up on your pizza peel. Spread 3/4 cup tomato sauce evenly over the surface of your pizza, then top with 1/2 the Land O’Lakes sliced cheese and slices of fresh mozzarella (as much as you desire). Return to the grill, and let cook for a couple of minutes more, just until the underside of the pizza is charred and the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and thyme, slice and serve!
For Stuffed Crust: Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If you have a pizza stone place on the bottom rack of your oven. Roll second half of dough out to 1/4 inch thickness, and place on a lightly floured pizza peel, or side-less sheet pan. Slice Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend blend into 1/2 inch thick slices of cheese, and arrange about 1/2 inch from the edges of your pizza doll. Carefully roll dough over cheese, and press gently onto itself to form a pizza dough seal. Brush with olive oil, then place in a preheated oven 8-10 minutes, until the dough starts to turn a golden brown and appear partially cooked. Spread 3/4 cup tomato sauce evenly over the dough. Layer tomato slices over the sauce, then layer fresh mozzarella slices over the tomatoes. Return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted, and the crust is deeply golden brown. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and thyme, slice and serve!
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Land O Lakes as part of the Kitchen PLAY SideCar series. All opinions given are my own.