There’s a little pomegranate tree outside our dining room window, its thorny branches lightly grazing the glass with the slightest breeze. The first year we lived here the tree gave us three pomegranates; this year we got about twenty. It was hard to eat that many because they’re not the easiest fruit to prepare and they were all ripe at almost the same time, skins splitting open like mud after a hot day, but it was wonderful when we finally did crack into one. I used them in plenty of salads in the colder months, enjoying the sweet popping crunch of the vibrant, jewel-like seeds.
Perhaps the best part about the tree is that this year it was home base to a sweet little ball of a hummingbird, who we (well, I) named Cheeks. Why Cheeks, you may ask? Well, one day I was feeding Phoebe lunch in the dining room and saw a little round hummingbird alight on a branch of the pomegranate tree. I’d seen the same one come and go for weeks, and pointed him out to Phoebe on those occasions (she’d stared, open-mouthed, for once forgetting to cram as many raspberries into her mouth as she could). But this time, the hummingbird decided to preen himself up on his perch. All of a sudden he was nearly upside-down on the branch and—wait, were those the two most distinct, fluffy white butt cheeks I’d ever seen? Yes, yes they were. Cheeks was showing us his tiny but mighty pantaloons, and I couldn’t stop cackling. Phoebe probably thought I’d gone crazy. When I told Jonji about the experience later, he thought I was joking. But Cheeks did it again a couple of weeks later, and Jonji caught it on camera: the most glorious pair of cheeks we ever did see.
This recipe has morphed a bit on its journey, but it originally came to me via Ristorante Avanti (in Santa Cruz) through Bailey. It can be a meal all on its own, but it’s also delicious served with sausage or roasted chicken. You want the sprouts to get crispy in the oven, almost as if they were fried, so use a decent amount of olive oil. I realize I’m posting this at the end of pomegranate season, so feel free to make the salad without the pomegranate seeds—it’s still very tasty, and you’ll get some crunch from the almonds or pumpkin seeds. Regardless of whether or not you use one, just know that somewhere, at this very moment, there’s a little fluff ball with a big surprise for the lucky few who get to see it.
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Delicata Squash & Pomegranate
2 Delicata squash
1 lb Brussels sprouts
3 slices of bacon (optional)
seeds from 1/2 a pomegranate
1 head of frisée or two giant handfuls of wild arugula
1/4 cup toasted almonds or toasted pumpkin seeds (use this method)
1 tbsp minced shallot
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Wash the delicata squash and slice off the ends, then peel them using a vegetable peeler (or leave the skins on if you like—I don’t enjoy the toughness). Cut each squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and stringy bits, then slice each half into 1/8–1/4 inch crescents. Toss the squash on a large rimmed baking sheet with a couple glugs of olive oil and a few hefty sprinklings of salt, then spread into an even layer. Set aside.
Rinse the Brussels sprouts and trim the ends, then peel off any outer dirty leaves, and slice each in half. Toss on another large rimmed baking sheet with a couple more hefty glugs of olive oil and more salt (roughly 1/2 tsp salt per tray of vegetables). Shake the tray so the vegetables have some breathing room between them.
Roast both trays in the oven for 15 minutes, then flip and toss the vegetables, spread back into an even layer (this is to ensure even browning), and bake for another 10–15 minutes, or until nicely browned and even a little crisp in places.
Meanwhile, if using, slice the bacon into bite-sized pieces. Heat a pan over medium heat and, once hot, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until very crispy. Drain the bacon pieces from the fat (reserve for another use) and set aside.
Wash your arugula or frisée and tear into bite-sized pieces if needed. Put the clean greens in a large salad bowl.
Crack or slice your pomegranate in half. Fill a medium bowl with cold water and break one pomegranate half up over the water, removing the seeds and dropping them into the water as you go. Don’t worry if a little of the white membrane gets in there as well, you can take that out later. Keep going until all the seeds are in the water, then break any clumps apart and fish out pieces of the membrane (most should float to the top, making it easier to fish out by hand or with a small sieve). Drain the seeds and set aside.
Make the dressing: add 1 tbsp minced shallot, 2 tbsp sherry vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 1/4 tsp salt to a small mason jar. With the lid on, shake until homogenous (alternatively, whisk everything together in a small bowl).
Scrape the sprouts and squash into the bowl with the greens, then add the bacon pieces if using, roughly chopped toasted almonds and/or salted pumpkin seeds, and finally the pomegranate seeds. Using a vegetable peeler, peel flakes of Parmesan cheese on top of everything (use your best judgement on how much, but I’d say you’d want around 1/4 cup of flakes). Pour the dressing on top, and toss everything together. Eat immediately. Enjoy!