We made our first winter squash soup of the year with the Sibley Squash that I picked up at the Hillsdale Farmer’s Market this morning . Our main purpose of going to the Hillsdale Farmer’s Market was to procure some Ayers Creek Farm heirloom beans but I couldn’t resist when I saw this beautiful squash at their stand while waiting in line to pay for my many bags of beans. Several people even commented on my arms full of beans. I overheard someone say “now there’s a bean lover”. Guilty as charged, but I do have a good excuse in that we don’t live in Portland, right?
A little about Ayers Creek Farm.. Although I didn’t ask the many questions I wanted to because the stand was mobbed, the reason that just about every local food writer in the Northwest is writing about Ayers Creek was obvious. They were even being filmed for a short film on Cooking Up A Story today. When I first heard about them, I was a little confused how a farm without a website could be so well known in the local food world. Eventually, I found an email address and wrote them a note. Anthony emailed me back right away, taking the time to explain things he has probably explained hundreds of times. Things began to make sense – this guy really knows his stuff and is really open to sharing his knowledge. As I asked more questions, he pointed me to a blog that he writes guest posts on, and I was blown away. At their stand, I realized that they treat their farmstand customers the same way my email was treated - generous with their time and knowledge. They offered ideas on how to use their ingredients, even with a line 5-10 people deep. The draw of Ayers Creek Farm is clear – they grow unique and delicious food, they know how to prepare it, and they genuinely enjoy interacting with their customers.
If you are thinking about going to this market to get Ayers Creek beans, I recommend getting there right when it opens (which is 10am for the winter market). Luckily I thought of this and got my pick of beans. When I returned to their stand about 20 minutes later to take some photos, the beans were almost gone.
On to the soup… I took their recommendation and made a soup. It is perhaps the best squash soup I have ever tasted. The credit goes almost entirely to the freshness of the squash and its superior quality. I also added some roasted garlic to the puree, which really combined well with the sweetness of the squash.
Winter squash soup
Serves about 4
2 lbs winter squash (we used Sibley, butternut would be a good substitute)
8 cloves of garlic
1-1/2 cups of chicken or turkey stock (more for a thinner soup)
1/4 to 1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted
2 Tbsp butter
Salt & pepper
Truffle oil – optional
1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. Place squash in a baking dish, skin side down. Brush on olive oil and place the garlic in the cavity where the seeds were. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until tender. Baking time will depend on the type of squash. The Sibley took longer than any other squash I have ever cooked before – about 90 minutes. Butternut squash halves typically take about 40-60 minutes. When the squash is done, remove from the oven, let cool for about 5 minutes, and then scoop squash filling out of the shell. If you prefer really smooth squash soup, put squash filling and garlic in a food processor to puree. We prefer our soup to have a little texture, so I use a potato masher to break up the squash filling and roasted garlic.
2. Melt butter in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add squash and garlic puree, and stock. Stir and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste. When heated through and soup starts to simmer, add heavy cream and turn heat down to low. Stir cream in and serve with walnut pieces sprinkled on top and a drizzle eof truffle oil.
Notes about ingredients: To make this a Dark Days meal, we used local walnuts (Hentze’s), turkey stock (from our Thanksgiving turkey), and heavy cream (Organic Valley).
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Other winter squash recipes on this site: