Fresh Ideas: Eating raw winter squash

It’s time to rethink the way we eat raw vegetables. Certainly veggie sticks have their place, but they’re far from the only way to serve seasonal produce.

In fact, one of the best ways to bring out a vegetable’s natural flavor is to do very little at all. Raw vegetables pack far more in the way of texture and nutrients than their cooked counterparts. One serving of butternut squash contains considerable amounts of fiber and Vitamins A and C, much of which are lost when roasted or boiled. Plus, butternut squash is low in calories, too.

For this Butternut Squash Salad With Dried Cranberries and Honey-Infused Vinaigrette, the concept is actually quite familiar. Imagine the first time you tasted your favorite carrot salad.

This salad expands upon the same idea: by opting for dried cranberries instead of raisins and freshly julienned squash instead of carrots, it’s a new, seasonal take on a classic dish. Plus, the salad is both delicate and crunchy, just like any good carrot salad would be.

And there’s plenty of room to play around with the recipe’s ingredients. Although I’ve added ginger and a dash of allspice to the vinaigrette, substitute citrus, candied or raw ginger, and cinnamon to taste.

The key is to rethink how you prepare butternut squash. By shredding the flesh into thinner, less stubborn pieces, the process brings out new flavors you may not have noticed before. Julienned butternut squash actually has a subtle pumpkin flavor that might surprise you.

However, since raw butternut squash is notoriously tricky to peel and cut, here are some tips that will encourage safety food preparation without testing your patience:

  • Size: The smaller the butternut squash, the easier peeling and preparing the vegetable will be. For this recipe, I used two locally grown 11/2-pound butternut squash from the farmers market.
  • Technique: Begin by removing both ends of the squash with a sharp chef’s knife. Then, stand the squash upright (flat without any tilt). Using a sharp paring knife, peel down the side of the squash. Start with the bottom rounded end first, then peel leftover skin starting at the top.
  • Thickness: Be sure to process raw squash to a thin, short consistency. Use the julienne disc on your home food processor so your results are crisp, but tender pieces.

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