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This past weekend, on a trek to Chelsea Market in Manhattan with a friend and our kids, we stopped in for lunch at Buon Italia, an Italian grocery store that many of the citiy's chefs turn to for esoteric and high-quality Italian ingredients. I couldn't stop thinking about one of the dishes we had, a butternut squash antipasto. The squash had been sliced into ribbons so that it looked like pappardelle, and then these ribbons seemed to have been roasted -- there were browned edges -- and yet not quite cooked through -- some had a great little crunch. They tasted candied but were doused with plenty of vinegar.
Transfixed and determined, I got in the kitchen, and now you, too, can make this salad....
- 1 small butternut squash, halved, seeded and peeled
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- Coarse kosher salt
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1/ 2 teaspoon thyme leaves
- Coarsely ground black pepper
1. Using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler, slice the butternut squash halves crosswise into thin strips (they should be thin enough to bend into a "u" shape). You will need 6 cups.
2. Spread the strips on two baking sheets. Sprinkle with the sugar and season generously with salt. Let sit for at least 20 minutes. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
3. Sprinkle the squash strips and garlic cloves with the olive oil, just enough to dress the strips. Toss to coat both sides. Bake until the edges begin to curl (some should brown lightly) and the strips are just barely cooked through (a little crunch is good), 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
4. Gather up the squash strips and arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the vinegar, thyme and pepper. Toss lightly. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more oil, vinegar and salt as needed.