I just polished off the final bowl of Tuscan bean and barley soup from a hearty pot I made last weekend. Not surprisingly, the soup improved with age, especially because of the cheese rind I threw in for flavor. I've eaten so well in the past few weeks that it's hard to keep up with my culinary adventures and accomplishments, so I'm going to try to remember some of the highlights.
To accompany the bean soup, I made some easy ham and cheese muffins, which managed to turn out well even with the substitution of 1 cup of flour, 1/2 t salt, and 1 1/2 t baking powder for a cup of self-rising flour. For the same meal, I baked and constructed the Pecan Spice Layer Cake from Gourmet's April cover. I needed some help smooshing the crushed nuts around the cake, but the final product closely resembled the photo, and did not disappoint in taste.
Ukrop's and Ellwood Thompson's (a local grocery store with natural and organic products) provided excellent sandwiches for quick meals over the weekend. Ukrop's has a nice selection pre-made paninis that are grilled to order. My favorite is the chicken pesto, which I had on white bread but is sometimes made on flatbread or sunflower seed bread. The chicken is sliced and chopped finely, then mixed with a perfect amount of pesto and layered underneath spinach and tomato. And Ukrop's has great pickles to go with their paninis.
Ellwood Thompson's takes a different approach at their prepared foods counter. Laminated order forms and dry erase markers are perched above the refrigerator with appealing and vegetarian-friendly dishes. Customers can choose various combinations for their meal, and have the option of a sandwich, wrap or panini. On Sunday, thinly sliced smoked turkey, garlicky hummus, mashed avocado and fresh spinach and lettuce on grilled whole wheat hit the spot. I am loyal to Ukrop's, but the quality of ingredients at Ellwood Thompson's is tough to beat.
I suppose now is the time to admit that Davy and I went back to Zeus Gallery Cafe not two weeks after our first visit. In our defense, my parents were visiting and I was anxiously anticipating a look at one of their full menus (which is written on a chalkboard and changes frequently). The butternut squash risotto with duck confit and lamb strip loin I had that night shouldn't be left out, but going into too much detail will only make me want the food more, because I had one of the best desserts of all time at that meal. It was called "melting chocolate cake," and was simply to die for. A tiny scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream and thick curl of soft, high-quality chocolate were nestled against the cake. I couldn't finish it, even with help, which normally would make me feel ashamed, but I was so pleased with the confection that nothing else mattered.
Before I start drooling on my keyboard, I'm going to end this post. I hope anyone who reads this has been as lucky in their edible experiences as I have.