- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer grilling season is a great excuse to give the pizza delivery guy a break. Grilling infuses pizza with a wonderful smoky flavor and a crisp, chewy crust.

You need to know a few basics, however. First, the toppings need to be precooked because the pizza won’t be on the grill long enough to cook them there. Second, it’s important to start with clean, well-oiled grates. The dough will stick to any charred bits of food left on the grates.

Finally, start by grilling the dough plain until the bottom is lightly browned. Then oil the top, flip it over, add your sauce and other toppings, and then finish cooking.

We’ve opted for a slightly unusual combination of sausage and sweet potato for toppings. Classic sliced tomatoes and mozzarella (with fresh basil thrown on after it comes off the grill) or sauteed peppers, onions and zucchini topped with pepper jack cheese also would be great summery options.

GRILLED SWEET POTATO AND SAUSAGE PIZZA

1 medium sweet potato

2 sweet or spicy Italian chicken sausages, each cut diagonally into 8 slices

20-ounce ball of pizza dough

2 tablespoons olive oil

16-ounce ball fresh mozzarella, sliced

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Peel the sweet potato and slice it into 1/8-inch slices. Drop the slices into the boiling water and boil until just tender, but not falling apart, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the sweet potatoes, then set aside.

Heat the grill to medium-high.

Grill the sausage slices until charred and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and set aside.

Clean the grill grates and brush with oil. Stretch the pizza dough into a rough circle, about 14 inches in diameter. Lower the grill to medium heat, then set the dough on the grate. Close the lid and grill for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the bottom is toasted and golden.

Brush the top of the pizza crust with half of the olive oil and flip it over. Brush again with the remaining oil. Top with the sweet potato slices, the cooked sausage pieces and the mozzarella slices. Close the grill and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the crust is golden and crispy. Remove from the grill and sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme.

Makes eight large slices.

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