Grilled Pizza with Fennel and Parmesan
- 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cut in half or quartered, cored and sliced thin across the grain
- Extra virgin olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 10-inch pizza crusts (1 recipe)
- 3/4 cup marinara sauce made with fresh or canned tomatoes
- 36 imported black olives (12 per pizza, optional)
- 1 tablespoon (or more, to taste) fresh thyme leaves
- 3 ounces freshly grated Parmesan
- Fresh basil leaves, torn or cut in slivers
Prepare a hot grill. Place the sliced fennel in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place a perforated grill pan on the grill and let it get hot, then add the fennel and cook, tossing in the pan or stirring with tongs, for about 5 minutes, just until it softens slightly and begins to char. Remove from the grill and return the fennel to the bowl.
Oil the hot grill rack with olive oil, either by brushing with a grill brush or by dipping a folded wad of paper towels in olive oil and using tongs to rub the rack with it. Place a round of dough on a lightly dusted baker’s peel or rimless baking sheet. Slide the pizza dough from the peel or baking sheet onto the grill rack. If the dough has just come from the freezer and is easy to handle, you can just place it on the rack without bothering with the peel. Close the lid of the grill – the vents should be closed — and set the timer for 2 minutes.
Lift the grill lid. The surface of the dough should display some big air bubbles. Using tongs, lift the dough to see if it is evenly browning on the bottom. Rotate the dough to assure even browning. Keep it on the grill, moving it around as necessary, until it is nicely browned, with grill marks. Watch closely so that it doesn’t burn. When it is nicely browned on the bottom (it may be blackened in spots), use tongs or a spatula to slide the dough onto the baking sheet or peel, and remove from the grill. Cover the grill again.
Make sure that there is still some flour on the peel or baking sheet and flip the dough over so that the uncooked side is now on the bottom. Brush the top lightly with oil, then top with a thin layer of marinara sauce (no more than 1/4 cup) and a layer of fennel. Arrange the olives, if using, here and there, and sprinkle with thyme and Parmesan. Drizzle on a little more olive oil. Slide the pizza back onto the grill. If using a gas grill, reduce the heat to medium-high. Close the lid and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes, until the bottom is brown. Open the grill and check the pizza. The top should be hot and the bottom nicely browned. If the bottom is getting too dark but the pizza still needs a little more time, move it to a cooler part of the grill and close the top. Use a spatula or tongs to remove the pizza to a cutting board. Sprinkle with torn or cut basil leaves. Cut into wedges and serve. Repeat with the other two crusts.