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THE AMERICAN TABLE: Recipe for red, white and blue grilled fruit pizza

This April 21, 2014, photo shows grilled fruit pizza in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

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This April 21, 2014, photo shows grilled fruit pizza in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

As somebody who spends a whole lot of time thinking about grilling, I love that so many Americans celebrate July Fourth by busting out the grill.

So many of us are eating the same thing cooked in the same way, it's kind of like summer's version of Thanksgiving. Hamburgers, hot dogs and ribs rule the day. And that's how I like it. It's good to keep the main course traditional because that is what everyone looks forward to.

But dessert is your opportunity to switch it up. This year, wow your friends and family with a dessert pizza. And cook it right on the grill.

This pizza — aptly named a red, white and blue pizza — is not some gimmicky colored icing kind of dessert. It's quick, easy, fresh, healthy and delicious! Red and blue berries, plus a sweet ricotta cheese, decorate a grilled pizza crust for a beautiful, festive and patriotic finish to your meal. I use blueberries and raspberries most often, but blackberries and raspberries, or sliced strawberries or cherries also are great.

The dough is grilled crisp on both sides to give the dessert a hearty crust that is more substantial than pastry dough and can be grilled hours in advance, then assembled just before serving. This is the best way to make the pizza so the crust stays crisp and crunchy.

The ricotta cheese base is sweetened with just a touch of sugar, some vanilla, lemon zest and slivers of crystalized ginger. You could top the lemony-ginger ricotta with fruit and serve it in a bowl, but atop a crisp, crunchy, slightly smoky crust, it becomes an addictive dessert. This pizza would be equally good served for a special brunch on a lazy summer day.

When grilling the dough for this dessert pizza, follow these pizza making tips (many of which apply whether your pizza toppings are sweet or savory).

— Always start with very clean cooking grates

— Ensure the grill is hot before adding the dough

— Roll the dough as thinly as possible, about 1/8 inch thick

— Brush the dough liberally with olive oil on both sides, then sprinkle with coarse polenta or grits

— Grill the crust over direct medium heat, usually for 2 to 3 minutes per side (or until golden)

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RED, WHITE AND BLUE GRILLED FRUIT PIZZA

Start to finish: 30 minutes (10 minutes active)

Servings: 6

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 tablespoons sugar, divided

2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

Zest of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons uncooked grits or coarse polenta, for rolling the dough

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

20-ounce ball prepared pizza dough, at room temperature

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries

1/4 cup honey

Heat the grill to high.

In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, vanilla, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, ginger and lemon zest. Set aside.

Sprinkle your work surface with the grits or polenta. Set the dough on top.

Mix together the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon, then sprinkle this mixture over the dough. Knead the cinnamon-sugar into the dough until well mixed. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Gently roll or stretch the dough out into a 14-inch rectangle or circle about 1/4 inch thick. Brush the top of the dough 1 tablespoon of the oil.

For a gas grill, reduce all burners to medium. Pick up the dough by the 2 corners closest to you and carry it to the grill. In one motion, lay the dough down flat on the grill grate. Close the lid and grill for 3 minutes, then check the crust and, if necessary, continue grilling until the bottom is well marked and evenly browned.

For a charcoal grill, bank all of the grey-ashed briquettes to one side. Pick up the dough by the 2 corners closest to you and carry it to the grill. In one motion, lay the dough down flat on the grill grate on the cooler side of the grill. Close the lid and grill for 3 minutes, then check the crust and, if necessary, rotate the dough and continue grilling until the bottom is well marked and evenly browned.

Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over the top of the dough, then use tongs to flip it and grill until the second side is well browned.

Transfer the crust to a baking sheet, then immediately spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the top. Arrange the berries over the ricotta, then finish with a generous drizzle of honey. Slice and serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving: 420 calories; 110 calories from fat (26 per cent of total calories); 12 g fat (2.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 75 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 28 g sugar; 12 g protein; 370 mg sodium.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling and Southern foods expert and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, as well as Hill Country Chicken in New York. She is the author of three cookbooks, including "Pizza on the Grill."

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