Pizza-oven pizza is wonderful in restaurants, but not many of us have a special high-heat oven at home to get similar results. Using a grill, either charcoal or gas, is the best way to emulate pizza-oven pizza. Grilled pizza should be made like a Neapolitan pie, with a thin crust and a relatively light load of toppings. This recipe doubles up on the grilled flavor with a homemade sauce of fire-charred tomatoes. I’ve also included a scattering of fresh basil common to a margherita pizza, but other room temperature or warm toppings can be added. Just use a light hand, since the quick cooking time doesn’t allow for toppings to thoroughly heat on the grill. Makes two 11-inch pizzas
Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce
- 3 red-ripe plum tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon flavorful extra-virgin olive oil
- Splash or two of garlic-flavored oil, optional
- Pizza Dough for the Grill
- 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced and blotted of moisture (preferred) or 1¼ cups grated mozzarella
- Pinch or two of crushed, dried hot red chile, optional
- ½ cup lightly packed thin-sliced fresh basil leaves
Fire up grill for a two-level fire capable of cooking at the same time on both high heat (1–2 seconds with the hand test) and medium-low heat (5–6 seconds with the hand test).
Grill tomatoes over high heat about 6 to 8 minutes, turning on all sides, until skins are somewhat blackened and split, and tomatoes are soft. As soon as tomatoes are cool enough to handle, halve them and squeeze out watery liquid. Purée tomatoes in a blender or food processor with remaining sauce ingredients.
Place tomato sauce, mozzarella, optional chile, and basil within easy reach of grill. Have baking sheet near grill on convenient work surface, and have large spatula or pizza peel handy.
Place first crust on grill, laying it directly on cooking grate. Grill uncovered over high heat for 1–1½ minutes, until crust becomes firm yet still flexible. Don’t worry about any bubbles that form on crust, as they will be flattened when you turn over crust in next step.
Flip crust onto baking sheet, cooked side up. Immediately spoon on one-half of tomato sauce, and sprinkle with one half of cheese and, if you wish, a bit of chile. Quickly return pizza to grill (without baking sheet), uncooked side down. Arrange pie so that half of it is over high heat and other half is over medium-low. Cook pizza another 3–5 minutes, rotating it in ¼ turns about every 30–45 seconds. This may sound awkward, but becomes second nature very quickly. Using spatula to lift edge slightly, check bottom during last minute or two, rotating a bit faster or slower if needed, to get a uniformly brown crisp crust. Scatter with basil shortly before removing pizza from grill.
Slice pizza into wedges and serve immediately.
The Hand Test: The effective way to measure heat on the grill’s surface is to place your hand a couple of inches above the top of the cooking grate and count the number of seconds before you have to pull it away. One to 2 seconds signifies hot, and 5–6 seconds is mediumlow, with other temperatures in between.
Pizza Dough for the Grill
The crust for a grilled pizza should be a supporting player, but an important one. You can use store-bought dough, but we’ve never found one that gives us the crispy, crunchy, flavorsome results that come from this homemade dough, which is a little stiffer than average.
Makes two thin 11-inch pizza crusts
- 2 cups flour, preferably bread flour, or unbleached all-purpose flour (more as needed)
- 3 tablespoons cornmeal, preferably coarse ground
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast such as Fleischmann’s
- ¾ cup lukewarm water
- 2 tablespoons plus
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
Knead dough a few times on floured work surface, forming it into a ball. Pour remaining oil into large bowl and add dough, turning it around and over until coated with oil. Cover with damp cloth. Set dough in warm, draft-free spot and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Form dough into two thin disks, each about 1⁄8-inch thick and 11 inches in diameter. We find that a combination of first flattening crust with rolling pin and then stretching and prodding it with fingers works best. (A raised edge isn’t necessary.)
Dough is ready to use at this point, but also can be saved in refrigerator or freezer for later. Stack crusts on baking sheet covered with wax paper, and place another sheet of wax paper between crusts. If refrigerating or freezing, chill crusts on baking sheet for about 30 minutes to firm dough, then remove from baking sheet and wrap crusts before storing. Bring crusts back to room temperature before proceeding.
Adapted from 100 Grilling Recipes You Can’t Live Without © 2014 Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, Harvard Common Press.
Rooftop alfresco dining and drinks strikes me as elevated in all ways. The higher perspective gives a broader look down at streetscapes and bubbling fountains. It allows gazes to soar upward and, here, that means panoramas of mountaintops and fiery sunsets. Meals taste better outdoors, especially in New Mexico’s blue-sky, bug-free outdoors. Once lilacs and crabapples burst into bloom, it’s time to go up on the roof. Here’s a selection of my choices for this spring and summer.
Amore Neapolitan Pizzeria
On Amore’s University of New Mexico–area rooftop, you might indeed “see the moon hit the sky like a big pizza pie.” It was love, actually, that struck Gabriel and Kimberly Amador when they met in Naples, Italy. Gabe had accompanied his parents for a business move and met Kim, who was serving in the NATO forces. Planning their future, they decided to train as Neapolitan pizzaiolos, and open a true Naples-style pizzeria when they landed back in the United States. The Amadors are certified by the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, which is a big deal. Kim is one of the small number of women who has been trained not just to make the dough, but also to be a fornaia, the tender of the pizzas in the wood-fired oven. Even though Amore has been in business less than a year, it serves the best pizza in New Mexico, and I don’t say that lightly.The care the Amadors put into the pizzas and other dishes shows a real commitment to quality. The scarlet mosaic-tiled pizza oven, named Sophia, is nearly as drop-dead gorgeous as its namesake Italian actress. Extra-fine 00 Caputo flour, legendary in the food world, is sourced directly from Naples, as are the San Marzano tomatoes. Just about everything else that can be found locally is used, from the fresh basil for the margherita pies to the pecans for the Waldorf salad. Gabe and Kim even made an arrangement with a local tree service to cut standing dead wood, usually ash or oak, to burn in the oven for the blistering fires needed to almost instantly cook the thin pizzas. The staff stays lean from running hot pizza, beer, and wine up to the third-floor deck, which captures a panorama from the Sandías to the sunset. Launched last summer, there’s lots to love about Amore. 2929 Monte Vista NE; (505) 554-1967; amoreabq.com
Seasons Rooftop Cantina
The terrace atop Seasons overlooks an intimate plaza enlivened by a splashing Mexican fountain. Some of the handsome upper level is enclosed, with a semi-circular bar counter that beckons. However, the action’s really out and around, on the surrounding cantina terrace, and in a connected outdoor room, where a pair of garage doors sweep upward to open the space to the breezes. Locals know Seasons for its rooftop live jazz, which kicks off as the days lengthen.
On the fringe of Old Town, Seasons sits back a bit from its Mountain Road address. The building is contemporary adobe style, with a brightly painted indoor dining room on the ground level. On nearly every wall, abstracted Southwestern landscape paintings by Albuquerque resident Kevin Tolman catch the eye. In this downstairs space, Chef Paul Mandigo serves a well-crafted menu of upscale dishes such as rotisserie chicken with kale-and-pumpkin seed coleslaw, or prime rib with green-chile mashed potatoes. You can have those dishes served to you upstairs on the rooftop, or choose from the more casual “cantina” fare. Think red lentil hummus (recipe at mynm.us/rc-hummus) and pita wedges, and tacos filled with sautéed cilantro-lime shrimp, or carne asada with Moroccan hot sauce. If there’s a grilled chicken sandwich topped with a haystack of crispy onion strings offered as a special when you go, be sure to order it, as it’s among the top sandwiches I’ve eaten this year. Along with the eats, order a pitcher of housemade sangria, or maybe a mojito, while you watch stars emerge in the night sky. 2031 Mountain Rd. NW; (505) 766-5100; seasonsabq.com
Apothecary Bar and Lounge, Hotel Parq Central
The Hotel Parq Central, near I-25’s intersection with Central Avenue, is one of my top choices when I stay in Albuquerque. Steffany Hollingsworth and HVL Interiors from Santa Fe put together an inspired, comfortably chic design—cleanly contemporary while linking clearly to the past. The four-story building was orignally a hospital, and the design throughout it playfully hints at that history, especially in the rooftop Apothecary Bar and Lounge. Humorous touches include an antique surgery table for bar nibbles and a wall full of fascinating old medicine-bottle labels. Some striking vintage apothecary jars line the lighted back bar.
Mark Encinias, the hotel’s genial food and beverage director, also serves as the head mixologist. He loves creating seasonal cocktails such as the refreshing Sangre de Naranja Margarita, Flying Figs, and Rosemary Gin Fizz (recipes on p. 56). Accompanying nibbles are simple, perhaps a selection of olives with Manchego cheese, chips with housemade salsa and red chile queso, or sesame-crusted calamari with green chile–chive aioli. Apothecary’s terrace views, especially toward the west
at sunset, may make you forget all about eating. The open-air terrace is spacious, with lots of cushy Dedon lounge chairs, and blankets if there’s a chill in the air. 806 Central Ave. SE; (505) 242-0040; hotelparqcentral.com
Ibiza, Hotel Andaluz
You may remember that my February column mentioned James Campbell Caruso taking over the restaurant Más, at the Andaluz. The esteemed Santa Fe chef and multiple James Beard Best Southwest Chef Award nominee also oversees food and drink at the rooftop bar, Ibiza. A substantial fire-emitting sculpture greets guests stepping out onto this large, sleek second-floor terrace. Scattered vine-draped wire ramadas surround some of the tables. The rooftop is perfectly sited to take in the enormous swath of eastern sky and the Sandía Mountains, which turn ruddy from reflected light as the sun sets. Along with the full bar, Chef James serves up Spanish nibbles such as warm bacon-wrapped dates, and cocas, pizza-like Mallorcan flatbreads. 125 Second St. NW; (505) 923-9033; hotelandaluz.com
This and the following two recipes come from Apothecary at Hotel Parq Central. Mark Encinias, the head mixologist, created all three refreshers.
- 2 slices fresh fig
- ½ ounce St. Germain liqueur
- 1½ ounces vodka
- 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ ounce agave nectar
- Small mint sprig
Muddle together fig and St. Germain in cocktail mixing glass or shaker. Add vodka, lemon juice, agave nectar, and several ice cubes. Shake well and strain into chilled 8- to 10-ounce rocks glass. Garnish with mint and serve.
Note: If you can’t find fresh figs, cut off 2 slices of a dried fig and soak them in the St. Germain for 5 minutes before muddling.
Sangre de Naranja Margarita
This margarita gets its fetchingly pale sunset hue partially from a Sicilian blood-orange liqueur available in well-stocked liquor stores. The liqueur’s flavor is a bit more bittersweet and zestier than common orange liqueurs such as triple sec, Cointreau, or Citronge. Any of these may be substituted in a pinch, if you wish. Just bump up the grenadine a touch to add more color. Don’t overdo it, though, or the drink will become too sweet.
- Lime wedge and kosher salt
- 1. ounces silver tequila, such as Sauza Blue
- ½ ounce Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
- 1 ounce agave nectar
- 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
- ¼ ounce grenadine
Rub lime wedge around edge of 8- to 10-ounce rocks glass. Dip glass rim in salt.
Combine the remaining ingredients in cocktail shaker with several ice cubes. Shake well and strain into prepared glass. Serve.
Rosemary Gin Fizz
Apothecary whips up this summery fizz with Beefeater Gin, but I prefer to use KGB Hacienda Gin, from here in New Mexico.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 large fresh rosemary sprigs
- 1½ ounces gin
- 1 ounce rosemary syrup
- ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1½ ounces soda water Lemon slice Small fresh rosemary sprig
Make rosemary syrup. Combine ingredients in small saucepan and simmer 5 minutes. Let mixture sit until cool. Strain out rosemary. Refrigerate unneeded syrup in covered jar. It keeps for weeks.
Combine in cocktail shaker gin, syrup, lemon juice, and several ice cubes. Shake well. Place several fresh ice cubes in 8- to 10-ounce rocks glass. Strain cocktail mixture over ice, and add soda. Garnish with lemon slice and rosemary sprig, and serve.
Cheryl Alters Jamison is New Mexico Magazine’s contributing culinary editor. Read her blog at nmmagazine.com/tastingnm. As of late April, you can order her latest book, The Rancho de Chimayó Cookbook: 50th Anniversary Edition, from the New Mexico Magazine Store at shopnm.co/ChimayoCookbook.
See more of Douglas Merriam’s work at douglasmerriam.com.