Beets & Greens: Two Fall Harvest Recipes

‘Tis the season, people. Time to cover those arms.

See that right there?  That’s a sweater sleeve.  And do we wear sweaters in the summer?  No.  No, we do not.  We wear sweaters in the fall.

Oh, yeah.

How you doin’, Fall?  Wanna come cozy up next to me on the couch so we can clink our mugs of mulled wine together and toast how awesome you are?

Why is fall so awesome?  Well, besides comfy apparel and alcohol on the stovetop, it’s really all about the food.  Everything becomes pumpkin flavored, and there’s not a thing wrong with that.  And the jewel-toned vegetables that come out of the earth when the weather cools are really something to be celebrated.  Ruby beets, emerald kale, golden squashes… If you ask me, Fall kicks Summer’s ass when it comes to produce.  Hands down.

Beets and turnip greens

On this particular fall day, I decided to try something different with a few of the goodies we got from the local food cooperative that we just joined.  There’s plenty of time in the season left for soups and stews and roasting vegetables in the oven with olive oil and sea salt.  Come February, I’ll admit that I usually suffer from root veggie burnout from doing the same things to them over and over.  So, with beets and turnip greens as the stars of my feast, I took on a pancake and a tart, respectively, for this chilly fall evening meal.

I adapted these recipes from two of my favorite sources – Vegetarian Times and 101 Cookbooks.  If I’m being totally honest here –and I am – I’ll admit that neither of these were easy dishes to make and I kind of wish I hadn’t made them both together.  Separately?  Sure.  I could see having the beet cakes stuffed into a whole grain pita shell and served with some oven-roasted potato wedges.  Or the turnip green tart with a side salad and maybe a little fruit.  But not together.  It was just too much work.

Beet Pancakes with Dill Yogurt Sauce (adapted from Vegetarian Times’ recipe, here)

Dill Yogurt Sauce

  • 6 oz. plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic, chopped
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Pancakes

  • 3 medium [I used 6 small] beets (1 lb.), trimmed and scrubbed
  • 2 medium carrots (6 oz.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg plus 2 large egg whites, beaten

To make Yogurt-Dill Sauce: Whisk together yogurt, dill, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 3 days.

To make Pancakes: Preheat oven to 250°F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray, and set aside. Shred beets and carrots in food processor fitted with grating blade, or grate with box grater. Place beet-carrot mixture in large bowl, and toss with garlic and salt. Add egg and egg whites, and mix well.

The beets and carrots, all shredded up from the food processor. Aren’t they just gorgeous?

Lightly spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray, and heat over medium-high heat. Drop 1/4 cup beet mixture into skillet, and flatten slightly to form 3-inch-diameter pancake. Repeat, forming 3 other pancakes in pan. Cook 4 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown. Flip pancakes, and cook 3 minutes more. Respray pan, and repeat process with remaining batter, keeping prepared pancakes warm in oven. Drizzle with Yogurt-Dill Sauce, and serve immediately.

The verdict?  They were a little difficult to keep together in the frying pan.  They didn’t seem to be bound together well enough.  The flavor was okay – it was what you’d expect from eating beets and carrots together.  Very earthy, very… beety.  Without a good roast on them to mellow them out and enhance their sweetness, I think beets can be a little powerful, so I think if I made this recipe again I’d maybe swap out a beet or two for a potato of the same size, to make these more hash-like, and to soften the flavor up a bit.  I’d also season them more.  I think that some paprika would have been lovely in here, or a heavy dash of chopped herbs like tarragon and flat parsley.  Topped with that yogurt sauce (which I could have eaten all by itself with a spoon.  Yum.), these would be really yummy in a pita pocket with some fresh greens and a bit of feta or chevre.  So, I don’t want to write these pancakes off entirely… they just need a bit more pizzazz and a helping hand from the spice cabinet.

Beet pancakes in the skillet

Turnip Green Tart (adapted from 101 Cookbooks’ recipe, here)

I did a few things differently here.  For one, when I parbaked my tart, I didn’t cover it with parchment and dry beans, as the author instructs in her original version, because I didn’t have parchment paper.  It still turned out fine.  Also, Heidi’s recipe calls for Gruyere cheese, which I also didn’t have.  So I used a sheep’s milk queso fresco, whose creaminess worked really well with the mustardy zip of the tart’s filling.  Finally, I omitted the red pepper flakes and used whole wheat flour instead of spelt.  Note that doubling this recipe is a lot easier for measurement purposes, so Heidi did just that and made two tart shells.  I had no interest in doing that, so I halved everything and made just one.  To simplify the prep, feel free to double everything below to make two shells.

I just love the soft texture and the bright, mustardy flavor of turnip greens. This batch was particularly gorgeous.

Cornmeal Tart Shell:

  • 1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, cut in cubes
  • 1/2 large egg yolk (*use the other half in filling mixture.  See below.)
  • 1/4 cup – 3/4 cup cold water

Turnip Green Filling:

  • 1/4 lb. turnip greens
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 2 large eggs + 1/2 yolk (*use the other half from your tart shell)
  • 3/4 cup veg. broth
  • 1/4 cup milk or cream
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon salt (more if broth unsalted)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose seasoning, Herbs de Provence, or other herb blend
  • ½ cup sheep’s milk cheese, Gruyere, chevre, or other cheese

Process flours, cornmeal, and salt in food processor. Add butter and pulse 20-30 times.  Add the egg yolk and 1/4 cup water. Pulse, trickle in more water if needed, just until dough comes together. Turn out onto a floured countertop and gather into a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Carefully roll out dough on a floured surface to about 1/8” thickness and transfer to tart pan.  Press all around the surface of the dough with the heel of your hand and be sure to fix any holes.  Use your rolling pin to trim off any excess.  Bake for 25 minutes.

For the filling, process turnip greens and garlic in the food processor. Add the eggs and yolk, pulse. Then the broth and cream. Lastly, incorporate the salt, mustard, and herbs. When you’re ready to bake, fill the tart shell and bake for 30 minutes or so, or until the center is set, and has firmed up to the touch. When there’s only 10 minutes left on your oven timer, top the tart with the shredded or crumbled cheese of choice.

Ready to eat, bubbly cheese and all.

This one was a pretty big success.  The toddler loved it, which is the only true barometer of what’s considered a good meal in our household.  It was a lot of work, a lot of prep time, but worth it.  A great, outside-the-box recipe to use up those bright fall greens in a creative and satisfying way.  I’m going to keep this one in my bag of tricks and try it with spinach, arugula, maybe even chard.  With a sweater on my arms and warm wine in my hand, I can do no wrong.

Happy Fall, all!

Turnip Green Tart and Beet Pancakes with Yogurt Dill Sauce

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Anatomy of an Anxiety Attack

I had an anxiety attack today.  My first in many months.  One of only a few I’ve had since my son was born.

After my daughter’s birth, they were a regular occurrence.  I was treated for postpartum anxiety and depression and felt the walls closing in on me on a regular basis.  It’s not a great feeling.

But this time around, my disposition has been pretty great overall.  No major mood swings or blue spells.  I’ve been optimistic despite our constant financial troubles, and haven’t really let too much get to me.  I’ve been in a good place.

So today came out of left field.  I wasn’t prepared for it and didn’t handle it well.  I ended up on my parents’ doorstep, sobbing hysterically and begging for help with the kids.  The entire time I’d been driving over there, I hadn’t been able to stay on top of my breathing.  It was like being in labor.  That feeling you have when your contractions are overwhelming you and you cannot catch your breath.

My vision kept shifting from clear to tunnel.  My hands and face felt numb.  I kept repeating the same thing over and over again, screaming “What?  What?”  I wasn’t asking anybody a question.  It was just something that came out.  It terrified my poor toddler, and I’m sure the infant was freaked out, too.

Life is just a little overwhelming right now.  We have a lot of big changes going on and I feel as though the weight of it rests entirely on my shoulders.  All of the decisions that have led to this point have been mine.  It was my decision to leave my job; my decision to leave our house so that I could stay at home to raise our children.  I am 99% satisfied with the choices that I’ve made, but that one percent of me tickles my brain from time to time, asking, “Did I really do the right thing?”

Whether or not I did the right thing was the star of today’s anxiety-riddled sideshow.  I was pondering this very question while sitting on a park bench at the playground, my toddler climbing a slide slick with last night’s rainfall nearby.  And, of course, she slipped and fell, hitting her head and screaming in pain for several minutes.

Image

Typically, my daughter is a master of playground equipment. Here she is on a different, sunnier day (in more ways than one) than today.

I knew I shouldn’t have taken her to a wet playground.  I knew better than that.  I should have been wearing the baby in the Ergo so that I could have supervised her more closely with two free hands, ready to help her.  But I wasn’t.  I wasn’t there.  I made a bad decision and it resulted in her getting hurt.

And suddenly, the knot on the back of my little girl’s head was a metaphor for my whole life.  Look at all these bad decisions I make.  Look how I screw everything up. 

The next thing I knew, I was crawling along at 25 mph in a 40 mph zone, terrified of giving the gas pedal any more pressure for fear that we’d veer off the road.  Drivers behind me honked and waved their hands in frustration while my heart raced and my skin went clammy.  There was nothing I could do to stop it.  I had to just let it run its course, run through me, and eventually run out of me.

Why am I sharing this?  Honestly, I don’t really know.  Maybe because writing about it is cathartic for me.  Maybe so that if you, too, suffer from a postpartum mood disorder then you’ll know that you’re not alone.  All I know is that feels good to put it on paper.  And I’m not afraid of it.

I’ve been through this before, and it was a hundred times worse than this the first time.  I know what to do, I know what changes I need to make in my life.  I’ve worked with an immeasurably helpful postpartum therapist in the past and I intend to implement the same measures that worked then, now.  Among these include:

  • Eliminate caffeine.  Caffeine is an upper, and can trigger or aggravate anxiety.
  • Eliminate processed foods and refined sugars.  I try so hard to do this already, but have slipped lately.  It’s an ongoing battle that I don’t think I’ll ever conquer.  But for right now, I know that my body needs more whole foods and less junk.  It always, always, always makes me feel better emotionally to feed myself healthy, nutrient-rich foods.
  • Exercise more.  This almost goes without saying.  Endorphins are mood-busters.  Exercise is nearly always the answer – or part of the answer – to any problem.
  • Supplement with Vitamin B12, Omega-3 Fatty Acids (preferably cod liver oil), and herbal remedies as needed.  Passionflower is great for anxiety, as is skullcap, catnip, and lavender.
  • Get 15 minutes of direct sunlight each day.  This should be no problem if I can get a handle on exercising.
  • Take a break.  Ask for help.  Hand the kids over to the husband or to the grandparents and go into a room, shut the door, and read a book.  Or nap.  Or knit.  Or watch a TV show on Hulu.  You get the idea.  Just take some time away from Motherhood.  It’ll still be there when I get back.

These are the tips that have worked for me in the past, though they might not work for everyone (and they are NOT intended to be medical advice).  Some people may do best with prescription medication, or with meditation.  I know myself Imagepretty well and I know that I suck at meditating and that I can’t tolerate the side effects of pharmaceuticals.  So this is the plan of action I intend to take for me and for my circumstances.

The silver lining about having a postpartum mood disorder the second time around is that you know what to expect, and you know how to treat it.  I’m not suggesting that I have postpartum anxiety again – I suspect that mine is more of a case of situational anxiety due to some of the huge life changes that are happening right now.  But it gives me peace and optimism to have a game plan, to know that I can survive it again if I have to.