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Slow-cooked butternut squash warms heart, if not weather

SUNSHINE SQUASH

MAKES 6 SERVINGS

1 (3-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup finely chopped onion

½ cup vegetable or chicken broth

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage

¼ cup sour cream

Salt and fresh ground pepper

Place squash in a 3 quart slow cooker.

On a cutting board, chop the garlic, orange peel and salt together until it forms a paste.

Place a skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes until soft and golden. Add the garlic mixture; stir for another minute. Add the broth and stir to pick up any browned bits in the pan, then pour over the squash.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the squash, leaving the ends reaching up the sides of the cooker. Place the lid on top and set on low for 3 hours, stirring once or twice. About 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the sage and stir.

Squash should be very tender. Liquids will have pooled on top of the paper, so carefully remove without spilling the juices into the pan.

Stir sour cream into the pot and mash with a potato masher or fork. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Inspired by Judith Finlayson’s Slow Cooker Comfort Food (Robert Rose)

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Updated: April 14, 2014 4:39PM



What a brutal winter. With the official start of spring still almost month away, it seems impossible to find things to serve that are going to keep menus interesting and healthful. Cooks can only make so many pots of stew to take the chill away.

In an earlier column I mentioned my method for storing some market bounty in an improvised root cellar. Although I had to bring the box into the house for a few nights when the Polar Vortex hit, it has kept me in fresh local vegs for weeks and today I took out the last of them, a butternut squash stashed at the bottom and almost forgotten.

Ah, I thought, finally something that will look bright and sunny on the plate. A pork roast was waiting for a partner, and this would be perfect.

Winter squash often brings to mind the warm spices of cinnamon and nutmeg but I wasn’t in the mood for a side dish that tasted of dessert. Adding orange peel and some sage from the windowsill would take this in the right direction.

Once I decided on the flavors for the squash, I brined the pork with brown sugar and sage for two hours, adding some orange peel to subtly mirror the flavors on the palate and the plate. The brine was then wiped off and the roast went into the oven, timed to finish at the same time as the slow-cooked squash.

The resulting plate indeed looked sunny and the flavors warmed our hearts.

Local Attractions uses the best of regional produce and products and hopes you will do the same.

Judith Dunbar Hines is a cooking teacher, tour guide, writer and culinary consultant in Chicago www.judithdunbarhines.com



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