SNACKS ON SNACKS: Homemade Personal Pizzas

Welcome to the inaugural Snacks on Snacks post, Black Shoe Diaries' weekly food post. Sure, one of the 12 managers, editors or authors could have taken this first post and told you how to make killer ramen noodles or unbelievable toast (I kid, many of us them are good cooks and will be featured later in the series). But the first post just had to go to a woman with whom many of you are familiar, a woman whose food skills need no introduction but merit great praise, and a woman who gave birth to one of BSD's finest commenters. Ladies and gentlemen, jessedotsmom (commonly known as Mel from Kitchen Encounters)! Mel has some incredibly awesome future posts waiting in store for us. She even showed me some great nostalgia that goes along with these posts, so you must stay tuned for later tailgating posts from her. Until then, Bon appetit!

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Everyone loves pizza, everyone loves pizza parties and everyone loves personal-sized pizza they can customize with their favorite toppings. That being said, a pizza tailgate party on a glorious Fall day at Beaver Stadium has got to be the #1 place everyone would just love to be! With a little pre-prep and planning, I'm here to tell you and show you how this can and will be one of your bestest, funnest, easiest tailgates ever!

First your going to need dough. My family loves my homemade pizza crust and so have all of the students I have taught to make it in my cooking classes. So, for starters, I decided to put it to the test and see how it would fare on the grill... and it worked fantastic. I make it in the food processor in less than 5 minutes. Yes, I said less than 5 minutes.

To read my recipe for Preschutti Pizza, Part II: Our Favorite Crust, click into Categories 5 or 12. That being said, feel free to use your own recipe or your favorite store-bought dough.

Step 1. Depending on how much dough you have, line one or two 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans with parchment paper and spray the paper with no-stick spray. Once your dough is mixed and has risen, using a kitchen scale as a measure, divide it into 3-ounce portions and roll it into balls. My dough recipe yields 18 personal-sized pizza crusts and I plan on 2 crusts per person. Using your fingertips, pat, press and push each ball of dough to form a crust about 6" round.

Step 2. Line one more baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper that has been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray. As you form the crusts, place/layer them on the pan, four to a layer, interweaving the crusts with parchment paper that has been sprayed with no-stick spray on BOTH SIDES (all of the parchment paper touching the crusts must be sprayed!).

Note: At this point, the pan of crusts can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours or overnight. They can be taken up to the stadium in a cooler as is, or they can be precooked as follows:

Step 3. Uncooked crusts "shrink up". Give each a second brief pat and press, stretching it to between 6"-7" round, just prior to grilling.

Step 4. Preheat your grill to high. Place desired number of crusts on the grill and cook until golden brown grill marks appear on the first side. Using a long-handled grilling spatula, flip crust over and grill again, until golden brown grill marks appear on the second side. This should take just 1-2 minutes per side, but depending upon just how hot your grill is or gets, could take as long as 3 minutes per side.

Note: Grilled and completely cooled crusts can be prepared 1-2 days in advance of topping, cooking and eating pizzas. Cover them with plastic wrap or store them in a large food storage bag. Grilled and completely cooled crusts can also be frozen. How cool is that!

To cook pizzas on the grill: Preheat grill to high. Top pizzas and place 1-2 of them on a disposable aluminum broiler pan, the kind with the corrugated bottom. Place on grill, close the lid and cook until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 3-5 minutes.

Note: Placing the crusts on this type of pan diffuses the heat really well, which ensures your crust won't burn in the time necessary to melt the cheese. It also prevents flareups caused by cheese and/or sauce dripping down into the flame. It's also great if you're cooking a lot of pizzas all at the same time or at approximately the same time... you can thank me later!

Now that we've grilled the crusts and know how to cook the pizzas, I'd like to share some of my favorite ideas for topping them with you. All of the following toppings can be prepped a day or two in advance, placed in food storage containers (some in zip-top bags), refrigerated and then transported to the stadium in your cooler on game day. Easy enough so far?

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#1. Sauces. I like to give my family and guests three sauces to choose from. My favorites are Parmesan-Alfredo, basil-pesto and tomato-basil, which just happen to be the three colors in the Italian flag!

 

Note: While I make my sauces from scratch, feel free to use your favorite bottled brands. You can read my recipe for Preschutti Pizza, Part I: Our Favorite Sauce by clicking into Categories 8, 12, or 22. I'll be posting the others in the near future!

#2. Fresh vegetables. Feel free to use any fresh vegetables that you like, just remember to slice them very thin and/or chop them into bite sized pieces. My four favorites are blanched, fresh broccoli florets, shaved Vidalia or sweet onion, small, sliced Campari tomatoes and white button mushroom caps. Occasionally I like to take the time to roast and slice some red and/or green peppers too!

#3. Marinated vegetables. My favorite duo is broken/coarsely chopped Kalamata olives and sliced artichoke hearts, but two other great suggestions are anchovies and sun-dried tomatoes!

#4. Proteins. In warm/hot weather, I love the taste of freshly grilled boneless, skinless chicken thighs (which have been cut into thin strips) and small shrimp (which were steamed using some fresh lemon juice and bay leaves). In cool/cold weather, I head towards sauteed sausage and pepperoni!

#5. Cheeses. Real Parmigiano-Reggiano is a must. Three accompanying options which work and taste great on grilled pizza are fresh mozzarella, goat and/or feta.

My tip for quickly and easily slicing soft, fresh mozzarella into thin and even slices is to cut the cheese ball into quarters and us an egg slicer!

#6. Fresh herbs and dried spices. My favorite herb is fresh basil leaves, picked right out of the garden and torn into pieces. Rosemary, thyme and oregano work quite well too.

As for dried herbs, I keep them simple, relying upon my highly-flavored sauces to spice my pizzas up. A sprinkling of garlic powder, an herb blend and some red pepper is all I require. Once the pizzas are off the grill: drizzle with EVOO, slice and eat!

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The recipe for my pizza dough yields 18 personal-sized pizza crusts. This will feed 8-10 adults or 3-4 college-age boys.

Special Equipment List:

  • 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans (2-3)
  • 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" sheets (5-6)
  • parchment paper
  • no-stick cooking spray
  • kitchen scale
  • plastic wrap (optional)
  • cutting board
  • chef's knife
  • egg slicer
  • long-handled grilling spatula
  • 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pans w/corrugated bottoms

Cook's Note: What happens if you have grilled pizza crusts leftover or want to take one or two out of the freezer and don't want to heat up your grill? Top and bake them in a 375-400 degree oven for 5-8 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly. To insure the crust gets as crispy as it does on the grill, place them on a rack in a baking pan!

Extra Cook's Note: The topping combinations pictured in the three pizzas today are my favorites: basil-pesto w/olives, artichokes, shrimp and mozzarella; Parmesan-Alfredo w/broccoli, tomato, chicken, mozzarella and basil, and; tomato-basil w/mushrooms, onions, mozzarella and basil. Before going onto the grill, they were all sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Italian seasoning blend and red pepper flakes. Once off the grill, they were drizzled with EVOO.

"WE ARE... PENN STATE!!!"

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011, All Reprinted with Permission)

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We want to thank Mel for sharing her fantastic pizza recipe. And now is the time on Sprockets when ve dance when we ask you for your questions, comments, and suggestions. I'm sure Mel will make her way over at some point and chime in, so feel free to fire away.

We're also seeking contributions for next week, as we will be every week. We'll try to keep an even BSD staff/commenter mix, so if you'd like to be a part of this and have something you want to share, email me (my address is linked at the bottom, and if you put "BSD Food" or some similar title in your email, it'd be a great help). Mel certainly went above and beyond what we asked, so don't feel like you need to live up to her in depth recipe/direction. Anything that you love to make and want to share is fine for these pages. As Mel can tell you, the page is yours - we will be as helpful as you need, or simply get out of the way and let you write what you want (within SBN parameters). We hope you will enjoy these as much as we will reading them and talking about them in the comments. Food, drink and football go together like lamb and tuna fish.

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