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When the weather turns cold, we love the warm, comforting flavor of roasted butternut squash — in salads and in pastas, as a soup or a side. What we don’t love is the thought of going head-to-head with the squash itself; the process of prepping one has the potential to be daunting.
Breaking down winter squash is the animal butchery of the vegetable world — it requires equal parts know-how and muscle. Fear not: The key is to take it one step at a time and trust that in the end, you’re tougher than even the mightiest winter cucurbit.
First, level the playing field: Cut the squash down into manageable pieces so that it’s easier to handle. Slice off and discard the stem, then cut the squash in half at its waist — just above where it starts to get wider — as well as about an inch from the bottom. The two remaining pieces will have flat sides, so that they can sit flush on the cutting board without wobbling around.
Next, remove the skin from each piece with a vegetable peeler. (You can use a paring knife instead, but a peeler will remove less flesh and cut more evenly.) Cut each piece of squash in half again horizontally, and scoop out the seeds and all the innards with a spoon into a bowl — if you like, save the seeds to roast for future mid-cooking snacks.
To finish breaking down the squash, cut each piece lengthwise, then horizontally, then crosswise, as you would an onion. You’ll end up with small, even cubes of butternut squash, at the ready for your next great dish.
Now shake off that squash anxiety and get roasting.