The Hand Off: Butternut Fritters with Lentils and Spinach
by Brianna Bain
Sarah’s Fruits of Fall Vegetarian Ramen sent me on a soup search of my own. I had high hopes of finding a recipe that would assist me in creating a tasty blend of my relay ingredient, the lovely butternut squash, and the contents of my trial CSA box. Sarah found inspiration for her recipe in Louisa Shafia’s Asian Warming Soup so I too turned to the trusty Lucid Food cookbook for some ideas. Shafia’s use of spices, seasonal bounty and unique culinary combination has never failed in bringing a satisfying meal to the table and has proved to be a wonderful starting place to many of my culinary trials. I selected Shafia’s Red Lentil and Spinach Soup (pg.49) as a jumping off point to my own lentil creation by transforming her soup into a thick side dish. Warm and robust with cumin, coriander and cayenne this recipe had me dreaming up a slew of ways I could incorporate the creamy and sweet butternut squash. Unsure of just exactly how I would introduce butternut squash into the mix, I remembered an approach my Dad loved to use in the kitchen – when in doubt make fritters! Instantly, visions of a cross-cultural vegetarian sope took over. Unfamiliar with the makings of butternut squash fritters, good old Mark Bitman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian came through with the perfect fritter recipe to incorporate squash purée (pg. 392).
A great way to create a tasty snack or appetizer, Fritters are versatile fun food and extremely adaptable for personal preference or dietary need; they are a great vehicle for using up left over vegetables, bits of meat and even cheese. One of my Dad’s favorite are corn fritters, a cross between a pancake and corn bread that make for a quick yummy breakfast! Traditionally fritters call for a mixture of flour, milk and egg, but as usual I am always looking for ways I can cut out flour and diary for my gluten and diary free friends. So, I have introduced another form of vegetable as the floury binder in these fritters – garbanzo bean flour from Bob’s Red Mill, a favorite grain company located in Milwaukee, Oregon. I preface this recipe with a warning, my selection of garbanzo bean flour in place of wheat flour may not be your personal preference. Although these fritters were a hit with my friends! I had to do a lot of tweaking of the batter before I could get the garbanzo bean flavor to marry the turmeric and butternut. Drawing on my own hummus making experience I added some familiar ingredients ( lemon, garlic, paprika) that helped to mellow the distinct garbanzo flavor and make for a very tasty veggie fritter to carry my lentils with outstanding fritter pride!
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 cup garbanzo bean flour
- 3 eggs
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- a few sprigs fresh lemon thyme, minced
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- pinch of paprika
- unsweetened almond milk, enough to thicken batter
- 2 tsp grapeseed oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups firmly packed spinach
- 1 cup red lentils
- 2 Tbs grapeseed oil
- 1 dollop goat yogurt
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 Tbs fresh minced ginger
- 1 Tbs ground coriander
- 1 Tbs brown mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt to taste
- Start with baking the butternut squash: Cut into 4 equal pieces (for even cooking), remove seeds and place in a large pot with 3 inches of water. Cover the pot with a lid and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes or until flesh is soft enough to scoop out. Keep and eye on the water level – you don’t want it to dry out.
- Once squash flesh is tender enough to scoop out, remove from the pot and set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Scoop out the flesh of the squash into a large bowl and mash.
- In medium sized bowl mix garbanzo bean flour turmeric, paprika, baking powder, cumin and salt.
- Add almond milk, lemon juice and well beaten eggs to dry ingredients. Mix with a fork until all dry ingredients are absorbed.
- In blender or food processor add semi cooled squash mash with garbanzo bean mixture. Blend until smooth and consistency of pancake batter.
- In a small pan add grape seed oil, garlic and fresh lemon thyme. Saute over medium heat for ~ 1 minute or until lightly browned.
- Add garlic and herb mixture to butternut batter and blend.
- On a preheated, oiled griddle or pan, spoon batter to desired fritter size. Let cook until bubbles appear and almost dry to touch, then flip. Repeat.
- Lentils: In a soup pot heat grape seed oil and add chopped onion, cook until the onions is translucent, stirring occasionally ~ 5 minutes.
- Stir in ginger, garlic, salt, coriander, mustard seed, cumin, cayenne, and lentils. Let cook for 1 minute
- Add 2 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil
- Decrease the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cooked to a purée, ~ 20-30 minutes.
- Just before serving add fresh spinach and stir into mixture, cook for 1 minute to wilt. Add more salt if necessary.
- Add spoonfuls of lentil and spinach mixture onto fritter and top with a dollop of goat yogurt.
I am always looking for an adventure in my cooking endeavors; it’s attitude that has served me well in becoming a better cook. I am open to trying something new and facing the the possibility of complete failure or triumphant success. It’s what made my garbanzo bean butternut squash fritter not only possible but also a success. I encourage everyone to push the envelope on what you think you can do in the kitchen. This recipe is ready and waiting to be tested, so I challenge you to take the plunge and share your adventure with us. If you are not feeling inspired by the garbanzo bean flour you can just as easily use quinoa, wheat, oat, or rice flour. The same goes for the almond milk - it is easily substituted with any other desired milk. Just be prepared for a change in flavor and consistency. Whatever you choose in remaking this dish keep your mind open to the possibilities of taking risks.