I seem to always find something to look forward to – and when our schedules come up dry, that’s when the wheels get turning and I come up with something. Eleven times out of ten. Which is why Scott and I have done the majority of the fun (and sometimes crazy — ahem, moving to Denver) things that we have in our five years of knowing one another. During the first week of our dating, I told Scott it would be fun if we went to New York City together for Spring Break. Eight months later Spring break came, and wouldn’t you know we were on a plane to NYC. For my 24th birthday I wanted to go to Yellowstone. But why plan a trip to just Yellowstone? Why not make it a seven day camping adventure where we camp in four national parks as well as in the middle of no-mans-land and make a TRIP out of it, yeah? So we did. And it was awesome. Living on the road + s’mores in Yellowstone = best birthday ever (although Scott would say feeling as if your life was constantly threatened by grizzly bears lurking around sucks the fun out of it – I wouldn’t know what he was talking about because I am contently oblivious to all negative possibilities and danger). As for Denver, it started out as an anniversary trip I was planning. Well, our anniversary was last week. And we definitely celebrated it in Denver. But it was because we had already been living here for a month and a half. When my wheels get turning, things happen. Which to Scott is both exciting and terrifying.
I could list two or three dozen examples here, both big and small, but I’m moving onto the next thing on my excitement radar. I have been begging Scott to sell our TV. We have a 27″ Apple cinema display I’ve been suggesting we use instead and get rid of the big black eye sore (sorry Scott, no offense, I know it’s your pal). I have also been itching to get out of the city and into the mountains (that itch will never go away until I’m living in those big, beautiful peaks). And Scott and I have been talking about what to do for presents for one another this year, being short on cash and all. How do these three factoids unite? Scott conceded to selling the TV (Eeeee!), therefore we now have money for our gifts to one another, and we have decided to give the gift of experience instead of an item this year. A week from this Sunday we are going to Evergreen, CO, where I will get my escape, and Scott? He will get to do this (something he has been talking about wanting to do ever since he got me hooked on hockey with him last January)(weather permitting, freeze, lake, freeze!). Oh, and a little ice-ing on the cake, we were just given tickets to go to an Avalanche game TONIGHT! Even though we are Penguins fans at heart (don’t hate on me Colorado folk) we will be Avalanche fans as a close second tonight. HOCKEY HOCKEY HOCKEY.
Okay, now that I’m all excited, lets talk about these fritters. Holy heck. If you are looking for a new way to cook with and experience all the wonderful flavors of fall, make these pesto topped patties of goodness asaaap (ASAP, but pronounce it as a word, it’s more meaningful that way — Zoolander reference anyone?). We first made these butternut fritters with chickpeas for Thanksgiving and they were incredible — but they fell apart a bit. I found using navy beans gives them a better consistency and they form together like champs. Either way your taste buds will be singing your praises. This pesto? THIS PESTO. Exploding with flavor, and so unique. The sage and pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) give the bright and fresh pesto an earthy, fall flavor. To pair well with the texture of the fritters and pesto, I suggest serving them alongside a crunchy vegetable of your choice. I made a simple side of blanched red cabbage, but steamed asparagus, broccoli, or roasted potatoes, plus a grain such as quinoa or millet would be outstanding. Load one of these up between a toasted bun with some fixings and you have one heck of a fall veggie burger. Win-win-win. Heat up your skillets.
Makes 6 large fritters and about 3/4 cup of pesto. Serves 3 to 4.
Do ahead of time:
If possible, soak the pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) in water overnight to activate and make more easily digestible. For the navy beans, soak one cup of dried beans overnight. Rinse the beans the next day and cover with fresh water in a large pot on the stove, bring to a boil, and cook until soft. Mine took about 45 minutes. For the butternut squash, halve lengthwise, remove the seeds, and place cut side down on a parchment lined sheet. Bake at 350F until skin and flesh is soft and bubbling. The time will depend on the size of your squash, mine took about 35 minutes. Scoop out the cooked flesh and puree in a processor or blender until smooth. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2 cups cooked navy beans
1 cup butternut squash puree
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 small onion about 1/2 cup chopped
1 tsp salt or to taste
few dashes of pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
3 packed cups of fresh spinach
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
3 tablespoons pepitas soaked
1 clove garlic
juice of one large lemon
2 tablespoons flax oil or evoo
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Blanch 3 cups of shredded red cabbage and drizzle with fresh lemon juice, flax oil (or evoo), salt, and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve as a side. Or you can prepare another crunchy vegetable you prefer. A grain such as quinoa or millet would be fantastic with this as well.
For the pesto, combine the list of ingredients above in a food processor, high speed blender, or a bowl if you are using an immersion blender as I did (pictured above). Process or blend until smooth. Use right away or store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.
For the fritters, mash the beans and squash together until a little over half of the beans are smushed (or pulse a few times with an immersion blender if you are impatient like me). Mix in the rest of the ingredients listed, form into patties (mine were about a half a cup of the mixture each), and cook for 5 to 6 minutes per side in a skillet on the stove that has been lightly drizzled with olive oil and set to medium-low heat.
Serve the fritters with the sage pesto alongside your choice of crunchy veggie and/or grain as mentioned above. You can make the fritter mixture ahead of time and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to fry ’em up! I would recommend cooking the fritters within 2-3 days for best flavor and texture.