0714 Dinner at Jolly Pumpkin

My husband is the best.  Did you know that?  Because he is.  Apologies to all of your husbands, but mine takes the cake.  I had a super disappointing and frustrating day today – the sort requiring a straight line towards ice cream and a nap.  I had planned to make dinner, but Shane convinced me to let him treat, so we pedded up to Jolly Pumpkin.

Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery
photo by brian cors

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned JP here before, but it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite places to eat out in Ann Arbor.  The food and drink are consistently excellent, and we can usually enjoy both without breaking the bank.  The founder of the brewery is vegan, and as a result the menu features exceptional vegetarian and vegan options – in fact, I don’t think I’ve had meat there yet, though I have enjoyed two delicious and filling tofu salads.  Tonight we opted to split an appetizer and a pizza along with our drinks – a beer for Shane, and a lovely strawberry-balsamic cocktail for me.

Our appetizer was a trio of dips – hummus, edamame, and red pepper walnut – served in a perfect ratio to rustic pieces of flatbread. I particularly liked the simplicity of the hummus, which really allowed the flavor of the chickpeas to come through. Our truffle pizza arrived as we scooped up the last bites of dips – not a minute too soon. And oh, was it lovely.

Jolly Pumpkin
photo by william couch

Three rich, salty, gooey cheeses covered a thin layer of creamed shiitake mushrooms, with a fresh bite of arugula and a drizzle of truffle oil on top. We both stopped after two pieces but looked longingly at the last two before finishing off the pie – far too big for just one person, but the right size for two to split.  As Jamie Oliver would say, happy days.

0228 A Stellar Day in the Kitchen

Today started with an outstanding breakfast and carried on full-bore to homemade Twinkies.  Pretty damned amazing.

Breakfast: ruby-red grapefruit broiled with a bit of sugar.  Fresh squeezed orange juice for Shane from 2nds produce we found at Meijer.  Soft scrambled eggs with wheat toast and slices of avocado.  A pot of  Ethiopian Sidamo from Zingerman’s.  If I could breakfast like this every day, I’d be a happy girl.

But before that, and actually before the coffee had started brewing, I had Thin Mint ice cream freezing away.  I haven’t made it to custard-based ice creams, but when the basics taste this good, I’m not going to sweat it.

After breakfast, I infused some olive oil with garlic, then added it to the dough for a savory flatbread for tonight’s baking extravaganza.  While the bread rose, I made paneer – the second cheese making adventure!  Paneer is much more forgiving and simple than mozzarella – basically just heating up milk with an acid to separate the whey from the solids, then draining, rinsing, and pressing.  We’ll use it up in matar paneer tomorrow night.  The warmth from the paneer process made the bread rise beautifully – much better than the last time ’round.

To go with the flatbread, a spinach pesto with sun-dried tomatoes, all whirred together in the Cuisinart with olive oil, salt and pepper, a couple of cloves of garlic, and a handful of toasted pine nuts.  It tasted so green and fresh that it was hard not to dig in right away.  The flatbread, just fancied up pizza dough, was rolled out thin, rubbed with the infused oil, and topped with lavender salt and oregano.  Savory, crispy, and delicious.

And then the pièce de résistance – homemade Twinkies.  But that may be a story for another day.

Twinkies awaiting their buttercream

Recipes:
Simple Vanilla Ice Cream from Cuisinart – sub 1 tbsp vanilla extract and 1 tbsp mint extract for the vanilla, and add 1 cup crushed Thin Mints in the last 5 minutes of the freezing process.  I didn’t have enough heavy cream, so I subbed in 1 cup half and half and increased the freezing by a couple of minutes.

Paneer from fxcuisine – made a half batch, as we really didn’t need a gallon’s worth

Pesto from Jamie’s Dinners – except with spinach instead of basil, and with a handful of sun-dried tomatoes tossed in for good measure

Pizza Dough from a variety of sources
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp (1 envelope) active dry yeast
3 1/4 c flour, any type or combo
1 tsp salt
1/4 c olive oil (garlic-infused!)

In a small bowl or a measuring cup, dissolve sugar in warm water.  Sprinkle yeast over water and stir a minute or so to dissolve.  Set aside for 5 min or so–a layer of foam should form on top.  In a big bowl, mix together flour and salt.  Make a well in the center and pour in the yeasty water and the olive oil.  Stir with a wooden spoon (and possibly your hands) until everything holds together as a dough.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and flexible and not sticky.  When you’re done kneading, form the dough into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl to rest, flipping it around in the bowl so it gets coated with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let it sit for about an hour.  When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and make it into a ball, then roll it out and top it.  This recipe makes enough dough for one great big pizza or two small-medium ones.  Preheat your oven to 500, then bake the rolled-out dough 10-12 minutes before adding toppings.