Low Mileage Kitchen: Slow-cooked butternut squash warms heart, if not weather

Butternut Squash

(Chandler West~Chicago Sun-Times) Photo styling by Judith Dunbar Hines.

Recipe: Sunshine Squash

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.