Cooking For Others: BFF Pizza Party

Posted by on Monday Jun 21st, 2010 | Print

EVENT: New BFF Pizza Party
VENUE:
Phoebe’s Apartment, Flatiron
PARTY-SIZE:
9
TYPE:
Get-to-know-you Buffet Dinner
MENU:
White Pizza with Ricotta, Sundried Tomato, and Scallion; Pepperoni & Shallot Pizza; Margarita Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella & Basil; Spinach Salad with Avocado, Red Onions, and Pecans; Make-Your-Own Cupcakes (Vanilla Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing and Blueberries, Toasted Coconut, and/or Chocolate Chips)

Though on a day-to-day basis we talk about how best to stretch a can of chipotle chiles or how to make cookie-like scones, the sub-plot of our blog has everything to do with friendship.

We’ve known each other since 1997, when we met in 7th grade, in the middle school corridor. Since graduating college, moving back to New York, and starting this blog, we’ve been lucky enough to have those very same friends from 7th grade often at our table, eating our food and hanging out. For the most part, we catch up with our high school girls over elaborate potluck buffets. Of course, we’ve made friends outside this circle too, and we invite them over too to share in our cooking. But unlike most non-New Yorkers living here, we haven’t had the experience of starting over in a new city, without the people we grew up with.

Our friend Rachel, whose father was the beloved dean of our middle school, recently moved to Chicago for love (as in her boyfriend, now husband). To New York, she left behind Cara’s older sister, Jill, and many other close high school girlfriends. To chronicle her social journey, Rachel has started the blog MWF Seeking BFF about the search for a best friend in her new city.

Though she seems to be doing amazingly fine on her own (both off-line and on), Rachel enlisted our help in planning an at-home friend gathering for some of the potential BFFs she’s met over the last few months whom she otherwise mainly sees one-on-one. We happily obliged, deciding to test our menu out on some new New York faces. We each invited two girlfriends from different circles and had Phoebe’s roommate Caitlyn do the same.

Since Rachel doesn’t think of herself as a practiced home cook, we did try to think of a meal that was stress-free, but we were more focused on what sort of menu would best facilitate the kind of easy bonding that we know we’d want at a dinner party with new friends. We landed on a pizza party. The pizza party can be interpreted in one of two ways. If you’re feeling enterprising, and you have lots of oven space, it can be a make-your-own affair. This is awesome if you have lots of oven space and best if you have a fear of awkwardness: making the pizzas together gives you and your guests something to do–and then talk about–to break the ice.

But, since it was a hot night and we wanted to have the oven on as little as possible, we decided to customize the pizzas ahead of time. This actually works pretty well for a new friends party too. We figured Rachel might not be familiar with her guests’ dietary restrictions, and a make-your-own pizza party could potentially create chaos and/or reveal character flaws that Rachel might not yet want to see. There might be the girl who leaves the cheese off her pizza because of a new diet she’s trying, or someone who hogs all of the cheese and greedily snatches up pepperoni slices before anyone else has had a chance to include the ingredient on their pie. These things aren’t so deplorable. But after much thought, we would say it’s a safe bet to get to know new friends’ tastes and habits by seeing who goes for which flavor, rather than by judging them on how neatly they arrange onion slices.

Caitlyn, proudly displaying her cupcake

We did, however, leave definitive room for creativity when it came to dessert, putting out cupcakes, icing, and toppings in front of our guets. Though we know her well enough to have expected such precision, Caitlyn did take the (cup)cake when it came to chocolate chip decoration. (Watching her, we were reminded of these OCD Christmas Cookies and why she and Phoebe make great roommates). More importantly, the cupcake station right on top of Phoebe’s coffee table, was a lot of fun.

faces new & old

We hope Rachel has as much success with her pizza party as we did–she’ll be posting about it later this summer and we’ll be sure to pass the link on to all of you. In the meantime, we are grateful to her for giving us the excuse to invite over a few new faces, and we’ll keep on following her blog.

From our kitchens, where making pizza means making friends, to yours,

Cara and Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS


P.S. If you find yourself with any (non-urgent) quarter-life cooking dilemmas, we’d love to hear about them! You can contact us or just leave a comment below. As we did with Rachel, we’ll consider the problem from all sides and recommend, and post about, an awesome kitchen solution.

**Recipe**

Pizza Dough

Makes 3 pies; serves 8-10

This is the simplest pizza dough we know: just mix together and leave alone to rise. However, if dough making intimidates you, try buying 3 pies’ worth of ready-made dough from your local pizza parlor. They often carry this in the regular grocery store as well, but why not go with a crust you already trust?

Ingredients

7 cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
5 teaspoons salt
2 3/4 cups warm water*
2 packages active dry yeast
5 tablespoons olive oil
*Run the tap water warm and stick your wrist in the stream. When you can’t feel the water, because it’s the same temp as your body, fill up your measuring cup.
Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt in your largest bowl.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the water and the yeast until dissolved. Add the olive oil. Pour over the dry ingredients, and, using a rubber spatula, mix together. You’ll have a wet, raggedy dough. Turn it out onto an oiled piece of plastic wrap and wash and dry the bowl. Brush the bowl with olive oil, and place the dough back in. (If you have a second large bowl, you can oil it and transfer the dough straight to that.) Cover with the plastic wrap and leave in a warm-ish spot for 1 hour. Then, with an oiled hand, punch the risen dough down. It will deflate. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for another 30 minutes.

When you’re nearly ready to eat, ease the dough out from the bowl onto a floured countertop. Divide it into three balls, cover them with plastic wrap, and let them rest for 10 minutes. Then shape them into your desired pizza–rectangular, circular, or totally free form–using your hands or a rolling pin. Transfer the dough to parchment-lined baking sheets.

Pizza Sauce
Makes about 2 cups sauce

Ingredients
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 can crushed tomatoes, or whole tomatoes pureed in a food processor
6 basil leaves, coarsely torn
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash of red pepper flakes

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the garlic in 1 tablespoon of oil until fragrant, about 1 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced to about 2 1/2 cups. Add the basil, and season sauce with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes more, then turn off the heat and cool to room temperature. (You can make this 3-4 days in advance).

White Pizza with Ricotta, Sundried Tomato, and Scallions

Ingredients
1 ball pizza dough (see above)
1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 – 3/4 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella
1/2lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
3 scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup thinly sliced sundried tomatoes
1/2 cup pizza sauce (optional)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Spoon the ricotta over the pizza dough and spread with the back of your spoon. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top of the pizza. Arrange the fresh mozzarella, scallions, and sundried tomatoes on top. If using, dot the top of the pizza with small spoonfuls of tomato sauce.


Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust has browned and the cheese is bubbling and brown in spots. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with salt, hot pepper, and grated parm if you like. Rest for a minute or two, then cut into slices and serve.

Pepperoni & Shallot Pizza

Ingredients
1 ball pizza dough (see above)
3/4 – 1 cup pizza sauce (see above)
6 oz (3/4 cup) shredded whole milk mozzarella
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
6 oz pepperoni, thinly sliced
1/4lb fresh mozzarella (optional)
red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Spoon the sauce over the pizza dough and spread with the back of your spoon. You want every inch to have some sauce, but not be overly saturated. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the pizza. Arrange the shallot and pepperoni slices over the top. Add some coarsely torn fresh mozzarella (if using).


Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust has browned and the cheese is bubbling and brown in spots. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with salt and hot pepper or oregano if you like. Rest for a minute or two, then cut into slices and serve.


Margarita Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella & Basil

Ingredients
1 ball pizza dough (see above)
3/4 – 1 cup pizza sauce (see above)
1 lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
10 basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Spoon the sauce over the pizza dough and spread with the back of your spoon. You want every inch to have some sauce, but not be overly saturated. Arrange the fresh mozzarella and half of the basil leaves on top.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust has browned and the cheese is bubbling and brown in spots. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with salt and hot pepper and the remaining basil leaves. Rest for a minute or two, then cut into slices and serve.

Make-Your-Own Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients
For the Vanilla Cupcakes:

1 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature
For the Cream Cheese Icing:

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Toppings:

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles
1 cup blueberry compote or other chopped fresh fruit
1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and line each cup with a paper or foil liner.

Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.

In a small bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder and the salt. Add 1/3 of this mixture to the butter-sugar-egg mixture and beat together. Now add half of the milk and beat that in. Repeat with 1/3 more of the flour mixture, then the remaining milk, then the last 1/3 of the flour.

Divide the batter evenly among the cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden. When you lightly push on the cupcakes, they should easily bounce back. Cool completely.

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  • http://www.calvine.blogspot.com Calvine

    Is there something in the air about pizza these days? Total coincidence but I had a make your own pizza party myself this weekend and another last week – they are so fun! Loved seeing your flavor combinations, I’ll definitely have to try some soon.

    The logistics of a make your own pizza party in a NY apartment are difficult, especially in the summer, so I’m glad you brought this up. I’ve started doing one pizza at a time and eating in courses (i.e., we all make a mushroom pizza, cook and eat it, then make a pesto pizza, cook and eat it and so on). It becomes a little long, but it is a good way to get guests involved (ha, the only way when you have a miniature oven!). Anyway, great post, thanks for the ideas!

    xo Calvine

    • BGSK

      So glad to hear you are having some pizza fun as well! it’s definitely a great idea to do in courses! We kind of did this one in 2–we served the white pizza and the peperoni pizza together, since the first one out of the oven needed to cool a bit anyway. And then we added the margharita one towards the end. So easy and fun!

  • Wendy

    I am so making that!! DELICIOUS!

  • http://www.Eclectic-Unions.com Jessie

    The white pizza looks delicious!! I love the idea of scallions on a pizza… yum.

    We did individual pizzas for my best friend’s bachelorette party a few years ago. We could fit four in the oven to cook for five minutes. Just don’t forget about them, as it can not only fill your tiny kitchen with smoke, but sets you back a pizza!

  • Anonymous

    Great job with those pizza’s, they all look great! and I do love cupcakes!

  • Jesus

    You have great taste in food, I’ll have to try this sometime. Its always good to get together and have fun making and eating delicious foods.
    The information you provided was very helpful, thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/felicia.kinnee Felicia Kinnee

    Your pizza looks like the ones my boyfriend and I make~we just add a little white wine to our pizza dough~if you haven’t tried it already I highly recommend it. Nice Blog.