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Cookbook Challenge #1 – Three Chefs: The Kitchen Men

September 23, 2014

I adore cookbooks. The pictures are enticing, the text is poetic and the possibilities are endless. I’ve built a nice collection over the years of books both new and old. But I have so many books that I’ve never actually used!
In an effort to do more things for me, I’m challenging myself to choose one of my cookbooks each week, make something from it and blog about it.
My rules:
1. Use ingredients I have on hand if possible
2. Must be cow-dairy free or able to be substituted with a non-cow dairy product.
If I was really on the ball I would set up one of those link lists and ask you all to join me, but let’s just take what we can get for now, ok?

The first cookbook I chose is one I bought on our first wedding anniversary trip to Niagara-On-The-Lake, at the Peller Estates Winery. The recipes in this book are amazing, the kind you would find in an upscale restaurant. It’s called Three Chefs: The Kitchen Men by chefs Michael Bonacini, Massimo Capra and Jason Parsons.

I ended up choosing elements from two dishes to create a yummy lunch. I was initially drawn to the Puréed Squash and Apple Soup because I bought a butternut squash at the store recently and the temperatures have been very fall-like, so a soup sounded warm and cozy. Then, a few pages down, I discovered the Baby Spinach, Spiced Pecans and Crunchy Mustard Dressing salad and was intrigued. I love nuts in salads! Unfortunately this one would have required a trip to the store. I was sad about not making this salad right away until I came up with an ingenious plan. The garnishes suggested for the soup were sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds. I can’t have sour cream right now and didn’t have pumpkin seeds on hand. I did however have goat cheese in the fridge and some pecans in the pantry. I could make the candied pecans from the salad recipe and garnish the soup with those and some goat cheese. Goat cheese and pecans are a lovely combo and would work well with the squash in the soup.

Sold!

A few adjustments were made to both recipes. The original soup recipe called for a specific kind of apple but I only had Gala on hand so I used that. I was also a bit lax on measurements, using half a butternut squash, one apple and one onion rather than measuring one cup of each. I also substituted olive oil for the butter, since I’m dairy free. For the pecans, I only had pecan pieces on hand as opposed to whole nuts, so I used those, and since I was hoping Molly would enjoy them, I omitted the cayenne pepper. I also didn’t have pumpkin pie spice mix, so I made my own using cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Spiced Candied Pecans
Adapted from Three Chefs: The Kitchen Men

For the Soup:
1/2 butternut squash, chopped
1 apple, chopped (I used Gala)
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil
Dash of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups vegetable stock

Mix the squash, apple and onion in a bowl. Add enough olive oil to coat the mixture, then add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Spread over a baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes or until very soft.

Bring vegetable stock to a boil. Add cooked squash mixture. Using an immersion blender, standing blender or food processor, purée the stock and squash mixture until smooth. Season to taste and garnish with goat cheese (or sour cream if you’re able to have dairy) and candied pecans (see below)!

Candied pecans:
1/2 cup pecan pieces
2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Combine honey and spices. Add pecans and stir to coat. Spread mixture over baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-15 min at 350 degrees F.
Allow to cool, then break apart as necessary.

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