Yes, you can eat butternut squash raw. And you should! When left in its natural state—not roasted, not sautéed, not boiled—it tastes like the superhero alter-ego of a carrot, with a buttery flavor, snappy texture, and ultra-vivid color.
Though you can shave the squash into ribbons (see this salad from our co-founder Amanda Hesser), I love the crunch of matchsticks. Salting these amplifies their flavor and wilts their texture just enough.
A note about the other ingredients: Any hot pepper works, depending on your preference. Fresno, serrano, and jalapeño are all popular with me. Likewise, the vinegar is flexible here—rice is a soft-spoken backdrop, cider brings lots of fall vibes, and red or white wine never hurt anybody. Work with what you’ve got. In lieu of dates, dried tart cherries would be awesome. And try to find a block of feta in water if you’ve can—it’s loads livelier than the pre-crumbeld sort.
This is one of our Big Little Recipes, our weekly column all about dishes with big flavor and little ingredient lists. Do you know (and love) a recipe that’s low in ask, high in reward? Let us know in the comments. —Emma Laperruque
Thinly slice the chile(s) and combine in a small bowl with the vinegar.
Peel the squash and chop into thin-as-possible matchsticks. (I like to do this by cutting the top part into rounds, stacking those, and julienning. Then you can halve the bottom part, scoop out the seeds, and julienne from there.) Add the squash matchsticks to a large bowl and season generously with salt.
Halve, pit, and slice the dates. Add to the butternut squash, along with the chiles and vinegar. Break apart the feta with your fingers and sprinkle on top. Drizzle with oil (I eyeball a couple tablespoons) and toss. Adjust the salt, vinegar, and oil as needed.
Transfer to a serving platter if that’s your thing.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.