This week's column discusses a pizza that is near and dear to the hearts of all Italians. And, being the history buff that I am, I decided to look into the origin of the name of this simple pizza, which is made of fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil. It prominently displays the colors of the Italian flag, and it is delicious.
The pizza is named after Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna di Savoia. She married her first cousin, Umberto, who became king of Italy in 1868. I guess when you become the queen, you can have things named after you, including food.
For this to be a legit Margherita pizza, it has to be cooked in a wood-burning stove. It can also be cooked on a gas grill or a charcoal grill, in my opinion. You will definitely need a pizza stone, which is inexpensive and a great addition to the kitchen in general. It cooks all sorts of pizzas evenly with radiant heat, and keeps the pizza warm when you pull the pizza off the grill or out of the oven.
And if you make this pizza in your kitchen oven, I won't tell anyone.
We made homemade whole wheat crust. This turned out delicious. Even though Queen Margherita was politically a fascist, I thank her for inspiring this delicious pizza.
- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp sugar
Place the water, yeast and sugar in a bowl. Stir and allow to stand for five minutes.
In a mixing bowl, place the remaining ingredients. Make a trough in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid. Mix and work into a dough. Or better yet, use an electric dough maker if you have one. Place the dough in a large bowl that has been rubbed down with olive oil. Cover with a towel and place in a fairly warm environment and allow to rise for a couple hours.
Take the risen dough, punch it and roll it out over a dusting of flour. Apply a very light coating of olive oil on the stone. Shape into the size of the pizza stone and lay on the stone. Apply a light coating of olive oil to the pizza dough. Layer with slices of fresh mozzarella, sliced or chopped tomatoes and fresh basil, in that order.
WARNING: This does not work with canned tomatoes. They are way too watery. Freshly sliced tomatoes are the only way to go.
Place on a gas grill or a charcoal grill on medium-high to high heat. Close lid. After five to seven minutes, start checking the bottom of the pizza with a spatula. Once the cheese is thoroughly melted and the the bottom of the pizza crust starts turning golden brown, you are ready to eat.
We added a little salt and pepper to taste, as well as a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.
We hope Queen Margherita understands.
Dave Lobeck is a barbecue chef from Sellersburg, Ind., who writes the "BBQ My Way" column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at www.BBQ-My-Way.com.