For the pickled squash:

1 cup butternut squash, diced small

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup light brown sugar

½ cup water

3 whole cloves

5 allspice berries

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

For the sauce:

½ cup onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

½ cup carrot, diced

2 cups maitake mushrooms and trimmed pieces

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon tarragon

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

1 tablespoon butter

¼ cup Parmesan

For the polenta:

1 cup polenta

3 cups half-and-half

1 cup water

1 tablespoon salt

¼ cup butter

1 cup Parmesan

For the roasted maitake:

4 cups maitake, cut into clusters

4 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon tarragon, chopped

1 teaspoon chives, chopped

½ teaspoon dill, chopped

1. To make the squash: Bring all of the ingredients except the squash to a simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the hot pickle liquid over the squash. It should marinate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Add the vegetables, herbs, salt, and peppercorns to a saucepot with enough water to cover by an inch and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain stock into another pot and discard vegetables. Reduce the stock by half, until flavorful.

3. Prepare the polenta by heating the water, half-and-half, and salt. With a whisk, stir in the polenta and continue to stir for about five minutes to bloom the starch. Cook 10 to 15 minutes on low, stirring with a wooden spoon until the polenta is shiny and the consistency of pudding. Set aside off the heat.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Choose a saute pan large enough to roast the mushrooms without their being crowded (use two smaller pans if necessary). Heat the pan, and add the olive oil, butternut squash (without liquid), and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper, give a toss and place in the oven. Roast for up to 8 minutes, looking for some steam and light caramelizing around the mushrooms' fronds.

5. Final assembly: Finish the polenta by adding the butter and Parmesan, and adjust seasoning. Spoon portions into four bowls, about a quarter cup in each. Finish the sauce by heating, then whisk in butter and Parmesan and adjust seasoning. Place roasted mushroom and squash atop the polenta, then ring with sauce, scatter with herbs, and serve.

— From Brian Sikora of

Per serving: 834 calories, 25 grams protein, 86 grams carbohydrates, 40 grams sugar, 59 grams fat, 133 milligrams cholesterol, 1,707 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber