Farmers Market Favorite: Spicy Squash Bisque

The first seasonal cool breeze blew through the Hill Country last Saturday morning, and thoughts moved quickly from the autumn salad I had planned to prepare to this silky, slightly spicy, soul-warming Squash Bisque.

With long summers, and mild autumns, you'll often find summer and winter squashes peacefully cohabitating, side by side, on Texas farmers' market tables. We've used patty pan squash from Johnson's Backyard Garden for this particular version, prepared at the Cedar Park and Mueller Farmers' Markets, but if not available in your area, substitute any seasonal squash such as butternut, or acorn winter squashes, zucchini or yellow summer squashes, peeled or unpeeled, according to the thickness of the skin. Alternatively, use frozen squash, oven roasting as directed, below.

This bisque was strained through a chinois, or china cap, therefore peeling, seeding, and/or prepping squash, ginger, and remaining ingredients is unnecessary. Alternative methods for preparation without straining include pureeing with an immersion blender, or cooling slightly, pureeing in a traditional blender, returning to the pan, and heating gently after adding milk or cream.

Serves 4, for entree

2# patty pan squash, sliced
1 large sweet red bell pepper, sliced
2 large New Mexico green chiles, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 thumb of fresh ginger, grated
1t ground sage
1T white wine vinegar
salt, to taste

1 pint half & half
Chives or Scallions, garnish

Local vendors: Squash, ginger, scallions, and garlic from JBG. Peppers and Chiles from Tecolote Farms. Ground Sage from Organicare Farms. Half & Half from Mill-King.

To get the most flavor from your vegetables, pan or oven roasting are your best bets. Below, find the easiest method for preparation, oven roasting (we prepared our bisque at the market with stovetop only, and a hot, dry, cast iron skillet).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a large, silicone pad or spray-lined baking sheet, strew sliced squash, peppers,and garlic cloves. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Roast in preheated oven until tender, but not browned, about 30 minutes.

In a deep soup pot, add roasted vegetables, ginger, sage, and white wine vinegar. Add water, filling to cover vegetables. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium, simmering for about 15 minutes, or until vegetables begin to break apart. Remove from heat.

With a hand-held immersion blender, puree vegetables in soup pot until smooth. (For additional silkiness, press through a fine-mesh strainer or chinois. Return to pot.) Stir in half & half, adjust salt and seasonings, warm gently. Garnish with chopped chives or sliced scallions. Serve.

 Chili? Gumbo? Chowder? Stew?  What is YOUR favorite first cool snap dish to prepare?

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