an explorer's club of Wisconsin foods and recipes

Grilling Your Way Through July

finished close-up

Whoa!  The Fourth of July is upon us!  And, by this time of year, I’m grilling almost every meal.  How about you?

So I decided to devote this month’s Wednesday posts to grilling.  And not just the usual dogs, brats and burgers.  While I was figuring out what main, appetizer, dessert and breakfast items to grill, my friend Pam McCarthy-Kern talked to me about guest posting.  While Pam doesn’t live in Wisconsin — she’s a Minneapolis-based publicist and event designer (check out her floral company:  Fleurissima) — she and I share a love of all things food and, in this case, Wisconsin cheese.

I couldn’t ask for a more fitting guest poster, as she has cooked professionally — in restaurant and catering capacities — and has taught cooking classes.  She describes herself as “a passionate cook who loves nothing more than preparing a feast for family and friends.”  On top of that, she’s married to photographer and web site developer David Kern.  David happily photographed the recipe below, since he got to eat it afterward.

So Pam came up with grilling pizza as appetizers for Wisconsin Bites, using one of our favorites — Sartori Cheese — as a key ingredient.

“Knowing the pizza needed to feature a Wisconsin-made food product, I decided to use Sartori’s fabulous cheeses,” Pam said.   “I’d first tried them at a Women Who Really Cook meeting and immediately became a big fan.  Sartori is a fourth-generation artisanal cheese-making company based in Plymouth.  I used their basic varieties for my pizza but they also make a wide array of flavored cheeses.  I live in Minnesota and I like to say that Sartori gives us yet one more reason to love our neighbors across the St. Croix River.”

Sartori is special because they simply aim to make the best cheese.  A look at this short video gives you a 3-minute look at how Sartori cheese is made.  And they’re on to something, as they keep winning awards.  Over the past few years, Sartori has won over 100 awards!  In 2013 alone, Sartori has won Best of Class (First Place) for their Extra-Aged Asiago and Espresso Bella Vitano® and Second Place for their SarVecchio® Parmesan and Merlot BellaVitano® at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.  Click on the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest video to see what they captured.


Sartori’s SarVecchio® Parmesan is the most decorated Parmesan made in America and has been a recognized gold-medal winner at the American Cheese Society, World Cheese Awards, the World Dairy Expo, the Wisconsin State Fair and many more.  Since 2007, SarVecchio has held the honor of being “the Best Parmesan in the USA,” winning the Parmesan category at every U.S. Cheese Championship in that timeframe.

sarvecchio_parmesan_sartori_lgSo Pam took three of these award-winning cheeses to offer you what could be an award-winning (from your friends!) pizza appetizer!

Grilled Pizza with Shrimp & Tomato-Olive-Basil Paste

Serves:  One 9” pizza serves 4 as an appetizer

Timing:  15 minutes, hands-on; Cook:  5 minutes; Rise:  50 minutes

Pizza Dough Ingredients

1 package active dry yeast

1 tsp. honey

1 c. warm water

1 tsp. kosher salt

3 c. all-purpose unbleached flour

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil

2 T. basil-infused olive oil, for brushing

1 clove garlic, peeled & cut into half lengthwise

Topping Ingredients (makes enough for one 9” pizza)

Prep:  8 minutes

1/3 c. sundried tomatoes, finely chopped

1/3 c. pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled & finely chopped

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil for paste

8 large shrimp, peeled & deveined & sliced in half lengthwise

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil (for sautéing shrimp)

¾ c. Sartori mozzarella cheese, shredded

¼. c. Sartori Extra Aged Asiago cheese, grated

½ c. Sartori Parmesan cheese, grated


Pizza Dough

  1.  In small bowl, dissolve the honey & yeast in ¼ c. of the warm water.
  2. In a food processor, combine the flour and salt and pulse twice to mix.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and process until the dough begins to stick together (you can continue pulsing a few times at this point).
  4. Turn dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand for 2-3 minutes.  Cover with a clean, damp cotton towel and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
  5. Divide dough into 4 balls.  Work each ball by pulling down sides and tucking under the bottom of the ball, turning the ball with each tuck (about 4-5 tucks is plenty).
  6. Place each ball, one at a time, on a clean, unfloured surface and roll the ball under the palm of your hand for about one minute.
  7. Cover the dough with the damp cotton towel and let it rest for 15-20 minutes at room temperature.
  8. You’ll need one ball to make one 9” pizza.  If you don’t use them all at one time, the balls can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  9. When you’re ready to grill the pizza, turn grill on high and allow to heat for 10 minutes.
  10. Dip a dough ball into flour and shake off excess.  Lightly flour a smooth surface and roll dough out to a 9” circular shape (don’t worry if it’s not a perfect circle – an imperfect shape adds to its artisanal allure).  Rub crust with cut side of garlic clove.
  11. Brush one side of the 9” crust with basil-infused oil.
  12. When grill is hot, place the crust, oil side down, directly onto the grates. 1 pizza on grill
  13. Cook for about one minute until crust begins to lightly brown.  Remove with a wide spatula and place (grilled side up) onto a tray.  Set aside for topping (keep grill on high).grilling pizza dough


  1.  Pulse first 4 ingredients a few times in a food processor until mixture resembles a coarse paste.
  2. Transfer mixture into a mortar and use a pestle to further grind the paste for about a minute.mortar and pestle
  3. Heat 1 T. oil in a wide skillet.  When hot, add shrimp and cook each side for just over a minute until just cooked through (don’t overcook or shrimp will get tough).  Remove & set aside.
  4. To top the pizza, first smooth the tomato-olive-basil paste over entire grilled side of the crust, leaving a ¾” border of the crust uncovered.close up of dough with topping
  5. Next, sprinkle the mozzarella cheese evenly over the paste, followed by a sprinkling of the asiago cheese.adding cheese
  6. Place shrimp evenly over the cheese, then sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the shrimp.adding shrimp

all toppings on

To Grill the Pizza:

  1.  Using the wide spatula, carefully place the pizza directly onto the grill grates. Close the lid and allow to grill for about 2 minutes or until cheese has melted and bottom of crust is lightly browned.  You can check for doneness by gently lifting one side of the crust to check the color. You might need to grill it another minute or so but be careful not to burn the crust.finished close-up
  2. Use the spatula to carefully lift pizza off grill and onto a serving platter.finished pizza

NOTE:  You can grill two pizzas at a time if you keep the size of each pizza at about 9” maximum.  Have toppings organized and within reach so you can quickly top the pizzas and continue the grilling process.


Swap roasted, pulled chicken for the shrimp and replace the mozzarella with feta cheese.  Or go vegetarian and swap chopped spinach and sautéed bell peppers for the shrimp and top with feta cheese.

Thanks to Pam and Sartori for a great grilling option that’s sure to impress friends.  And thanks to Pam & Dave’s son Rhys — who loves his Mom’s pizza — for his patience, as he prefers pepperoni!

Happy July 4th to all!

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