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A Tough (Butter)nut to Crack

Cutting up and skinning a butternut squash is kind of like carving a pumpkin. But a pumpkin is easier! Cutting the sillhouette of a witch and her cat into the pumpkin included.

Sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving, I decided it was time to face my fear and try to make something out of this mysterious squash.

Just before that, I was lucky to meet Chef Jason Alley of Comfort and Pasture in Richmond, VA, and eventually I got his recipe for Squash Casserole, which, as it turned out, called for zucchini, but I had my heart set on butternut squash.

I bought two great-looking squash at a local farm market and researched the best ways to cut and peel it. It has a shiny, tough skin, it's oddly shaped and my knives aren't all that sharp. I didn't use a vegetable peeler, I just hacked into it and ended up peeling the sides with my knife, then slicing it up and proceeding with the casserole making and baking. Success! The casserole came out great, and I added pecans because I wanted the casserole to have even more southern charm. The flavor of butternut squash is kinda sweet, but not a sweet potato. It's definitely its own thing.

I still had one squash left! For the second squash the following week, I was ready. It did get a little easier, and I wasn't going to skin this one. I just sliced it into about six big hunks. "Sliced" is way too weak a word; I had to lean with all my weight on that knife! (This is probably not technically correct...)

Then, I seasoned the pieces of squash a few different ways: White truffle oil and fresh rosemary on one; Southwest seasoning on another; plain salt, pepper and olive oil on another; and finally, maple syrup and cayenne. A few garlic cloves, too, and some sea salt for that salty crunch. Into the oven at 400 degrees... This turned out to be a great way to do it, and I had a lot of squash that I later mixed into some couscous. It looked like this.

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