I always say to my chefs, if you can make vegetarian food taste delicious and create something super-craveable, I think that shows more skill than just throwing pork fat on everything. This salad gets right down to it, utilizing beautiful produce and layering flavors that could satisfy even the most carnivorous guest.
This is a dish that also nods to my original New Orleans roots, with that jalapeño vinaigrette, which is similar to a dressing I learned during my days at K-Paul’s.
Swap option: If you prefer to roast the Brussels sprouts instead of deep-frying them, line another baking sheet with cooking parchment and adjust the oven to 400 F. Prep the sprouts as described, then toss them in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and roast until deeply golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
Prepare the vegetables:1.
Preheat the oven to 375 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel and seed the squash, then cut it into 1-inch pieces. Toss with the olive oil, salt and all the spices, then spread on the sheet in a single layer. Roast until tender with lightly browned edges, 20 to 30 minutes.2.
Meanwhile, halve the Brussels sprouts and trim their tough outer leaves. Pour the canola oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot and clip a thermometer to the side. Line a plate or wire rack with paper towels.3.
Bring the canola oil to 375 F over medium-high heat and fry the sprouts in batches until golden-brown, about 2 minutes per batch. Use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer them to the lined plate, season with salt and continue with the rest.
Make the vinaigrette:1.
Preheat your grill to medium-high or place a metal grate directly atop a gas burner on medium-high heat. Set the jalapeños and green onions over the flame and roast, turning occasionally, until they’re soft and charred all over. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel any papery char from the jalapeño, then remove its stem, seeds and membranes.2.
Confit the garlic by covering the cloves with the oil in a small saucepan or skillet and gently warming over medium-low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, until they're soft but haven't taken on too much color. Remove the garlic when cooked and reserve the oil.3.
Chop the roasted jalapeños and green onions and puree in a blender with the confit garlic, rice vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, agave nectar and cilantro. With the blender still going, stream in the reserved garlic oil and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Use right away or store in refrigerator up to 1 week.
Assemble the salad:
Pour the vinaigrette into a large mixing bowl, then gently fold in the squash, Brussels sprouts, cilantro and serrano pepper, to coat. Scatter the cheese and a handful of pomegranate seeds over the top, for serving.