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Get Gemütlich with Winter Squash

feet-hearthBy Heidi Lewis

Gemütlich––[gəˈmyːtlɪç] adj., having a feeling or atmosphere of warmth and friendliness; cosy.

The first sparkle of hard frost and the chill that grips us this month triggers thoughts of cozying up by the hearth of a little cottage somewhere. Maybe in your imagination, it’s a Hobbit house or a Thomas Kinkade bungalow. Or maybe your hearth is something from Dickens––where the heart of every tale, and the hands of practically every character, is warmed by a few chunks of coal on the grate.

In our modern homes, the TV has likely replaced the stone hearth, but there is still an oven in the kitchen. So generate some warm, cozy Gemütlichkeit by baking up a winter squash. It’s an easy, fortifying, and comforting food––plain or combined with anything from lentils to pasta. Each variety of squash has its mild flavor, melding well with root veggies, apples, nuts, maple syrup, or even Indian spices.

butternut-squash-cubed1Winter squash is hard-skinned squash. All squash are cucurbits, from acorn to zucchini, but summer squash are soft-skinned and should be eaten fresh. Winter squash are the “keepers” and have a long history of keeping humanity fed during the cold and lean times. Cucurbits are also one of the few native North American crops; numerous heirloom varieties were handed down by the Native Americans, such as the Arikara tribe from North Dakota and the Menominee nation of Wisconsin.

Most common are acorn, butternut, carnival, kabocha, or kuri. All make for great roasting. Simply cut in half, scoop away seeds, dot with butter or brush with oil, and bake at 425°F in the oven until fork tender. Depending on the size, it’ll take about 1 hour. No need to struggle with peeling, simply scoop out the flesh of the cooked squash. And while it’s baking, you can curl up with your copy of Great Expectations, a soft blanket draped over your lap, and fuzzy slippers to adorn your feet.

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