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Gothamist has a thing for cook-offs. There’s something about the sincerity of it all—just a bunch of honest folk sharing their love for chili, casseroles or, in the case of Sunday’s event, winter squash.

This weekend’s Great Squash Cook-Off drew twenty amateur cooks to Park Slope’s V-Spot restaurant to compete before a panel of local food authorities (among them KalaLea of organic café and wine bar Smooch, Vikas Khanna of Tamarind and Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of “Vegan With a Vengeance” ).

The mostly local group began crowding the submission table, crowded itself with crock pots of every stripe, at 3:30 on Sunday to get a first look at entries like Winter Squash Risotto, Butternut Persimmon Pudding with maple syrup, cinnamon and ginger, and Winter Squash Soup. Despite Gothamist’s best efforts to stir up some squash based rivalry, the competition was largely friendly—as one guest put it, “not enough protein for aggression.” That it was Superbowl Sunday hadn’t, it seemed, weighed heavily on this crowd or on its organizer, Ameet Maturu who in a subversive move, played Monday Night Football’s ‘Heavy Action’ theme as he described the judges’ criteria.

Split into three rounds—soups and appetizers, entrees and desserts—judges based their decisions on taste, presentation, creative use of ingredients and ease of preparation. They squeezed into a booth happily feasting away on course after course of mushy, generally orange, goodness as we peered sadly on, clutching our meager shot glass-sized portions.

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The evening wore on and more dishes, some plated extravagantly, others reflecting the simplicity of their preparation, were marched proudly from the kitchen and placed on the altar before an increasingly hungry crowd. We put our money on the Bruschetta de Zucca, a clever mix of squash, shallots, ginger and chili flakes presented with brown sugared pecans and aged balsamic vinegar. Others waged their bets on a Raw Butternut Squash Spaghetti with sun dried tomato sauce—interesting if ultimately kind of, um, raw. But the event was an upset, ending with a victory for Courtney Walsh’s (a self-described ‘librarian-mom’) Winter Squash Streusel Pie, flavored with nutmeg and allspice and topped with crystallized ginger (above lower left). “I catalog cookbooks at the library,” said Walsh who walked away with $200 and a V-Spot menu listing, “I love to cook and just decided to go for it.” Other prizes (there were ten, a democracy to be sure) went to a Cider Glazed Squash with Greens, Squash Stuffed Mushrooms and an Indian Winter Squash Halwa.

“There was a lot of heart for this event,” said Maturu. “People signed up because they love to cook and they want to be part of the community.”

Sunday marked the first of his biyearly cooking events, an offshoot of his work as a ‘holistic health counselor,’ or Intuitive Cook. Based on the belief that “healing begins at the stove,” Maturu urges his clients to approach cooking as a centering activity. For updates on events, visit www.cookinbrooklyn.com.