Wintry Yucon Panzanella

Berkeley's Mission Heirloom was a staple during my time at culinary school. They are ridiculously allergy-friendly, and I often found myself stopping by for a to-go Shepherd's Pie or piece of actual pie to accompany me on one of my many trips back to Colorado. Beyond hanging out in the SFO Southwest terminal together, we share a philosophy: that delicious is a requirement for even the most nutritious food, and that dietary restrictions are culinary opportunities. You can see why I was pretty pumped when they sent some of their new Yucon Crunch Crackers to my door. I've eaten these every which way this past week, and couldn't get the texture of pita chips out of my head. Since I can't just post a recipe for faux pita chips and call it a day, I gathered up the very best produce of the moment and put together this bright, wintry take on a panzanella. I like to think it's the kind of thing they'd take on a plane, too.

2 full Yucon Crunch Crackers

2 Tbsp ghee

1 large clove of garlic, minced or grated

1 large sprig of thyme, stripped and chopped fine

1 ¼ tsp sea salt, divided, plus more to taste

¾ lb winter squash, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 lb Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and halved, reserve any leaves that fall off

1/2 c + 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 large shallot, sliced thinly

¼ c sherry vinegar

1 pomegranate, seeded

½ c shelled pumpkin seeds

Juice of ½ a lemon

1 tsp dijon mustard

Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a small skillet, melt the ghee over medium heat. Remove from heat once melted, add in garlic, stirring to prevent it from burning, and set aside. Break up the crackers into the size of chips and place them into a medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle the thyme and salt over top, and drizzle with melted garlicky ghee. Toss the chips to coat them evenly, then spread them onto a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until ghee is absorbed and they are lightly golden.

While the chips are cooking, in a large bowl toss the squash with 1 Tbsp olive oil and ¼ tsp of salt. Set on a small sheet pan. In the same bowl, toss the halved Brussels sprouts with 2 Tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp of salt. Do not include the reserved leaves. Place on a separate sheet pan. Once the chips are done, increase the oven temperature to 425° and roast the vegetables for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and toss with a spatula. Bake the squash for 10 minutes more, and the Brussels sprouts for 20 minutes more.

Meanwhile, toss the sliced shallot with the sherry vinegar and allow it to macerate for at least 15 minutes. Halve the pomegranate across the equator and set a colander in the sink. Hold the pomegranate cut-side down in your palm and assertively smack it with the back of a wooden spoon. The seeds should pour out easily into the colander. Remove any of the membrane that may also come out. Set seeds aside.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the pumpkin seeds. Cook 4-6 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant and slightly toasty. Set aside.

In a jar or lidded container, combine 2 Tbsp of the sherry vinegar from the shallots, lemon juice, mustard, and ¼ c and 3 Tbsp olive oil. Add ¼ tsp of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Shake vigorously.

To make the salad, place the reserved Brussels sprouts leaves in a medium-sized bowl. As soon as the squash finishes roasting, add it to the bowl. Repeat with the roasted Brussels sprouts. Drain the shallots from the remaining vinegar and add along with the pomegranate seeds. Drizzle about ¼ of the dressing over top and taste—add more salt and a few grinds of pepper if the flavors are a bit dull. If serving to a large crowd, add in the yucon chips and pepitas, otherwise, add these to the salad as you enjoy it over a few days. Toss and serve.