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.
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.
Sprinkle the squash strips and garlic cloves with 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.
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.
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.