I do remember the fall.

Well. Time flies when you work your buns off.

This is me (yellow jacket) on a typical fall work day... I'm not complaining, OK? Although I don't usually enjoy making faces at the camera. I'll complain about that.

I gave myself a break today, and stayed home. One of my goals was to write, but here it is 4:56 pm, the arrival of the family is imminent, and I’ve just managed to get a cup of tea brewed and cued up some nice music. Floor washed, dinner made, pear butter bubbling… wait.

Pear butter?

We’re at pear butter already? Again?

What about all the garden posts I was so excited to do? Zucchini recipes, kale recipes, beans, peas, carrots, broccoli, spinach, beets?

2 of the 11 carrots that didn't get stolen by ants

Well the thing is – the garden’s over. There are some tenacious beans taking shelter under some plastic, and a couple of pumpkins that keep getting bigger but won’t turn orange, and of course, good ol’ kale that’ll just keep going till I rip it out of the ground by its stalk, but apart from that… well, see, it’s fall. Again. My thoughts are turning to cozy, belly-filling pots of beans and fiery curries and chilis.  The light zucchini sautés of August are being pushed aside for…the stuff I wrote about last year.

The end of the summer was a little fast-paced. I went back to work and immediately started and finished 4 of the 5 courses that I have in my workload this semester. I was on the water 4 to 7 days a week. In there somewhere was Frida’s birthday party which required quick thinking on the cake (which almost got axed from the program due to time constraints but I thought that would make for a pretty shitty birthday party)

Girls discover beans

What a birthday party would be without swings and a garden, I have yet to discover.

To hang on to the last vestiges of summer, we booked a little chalet in Coin du Banc and hung out on the beach far away from our kitchen, laundry room, lawnmower and yes, garden.

And by the time I got done with all that, well, it was October 2nd, and I found myself cooking down 8 pounds of pears and hankerin’ for beans.

All of a sudden, it was fall.

I did manage to squeak out some pickled beans but I have to wait for 3 weeks before I can tell you if they are any good. The bean production was out of control. I’m really happy about the late planting of Ice Haricot beans I got from Les Jardins de L’Écoumène  – these beans feature “Small cloves lime green to the exquisite flavor are sought in the gourmet kitchen. The plants that reach 40 cm high should be visited regularly if you want to get an extended harvest. This bean is perfect for short seasons seasons”  (I love translations). But really – I got a shitload of beans, and I think I planted them in August. They are halfway between green and yellow and have a really delicate flavour. The kids went nuts over them.

Golden and Chioggia beets from the gah-den

And I’m pulling up my last beets now, and would like to share with you my all-time favourite way to cook beets and their greens together. This recipe comes from Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen which was the first book I bought when I decided to learn how to cook for real. It’s a great resource despite the sometimes snobby and lengthy ingredient lists. While his instructions verge at times on the ridiculous (e.g., one should stir in a clockwise direction in the northern hemisphere because that’s the natural way that things, like your risotto, like to go around), it’s clear he loves food and feeding people, and his emphasis on seasonal eating works so well with a garden-sourced menu or for those of you with access to farmers’ markets or CSAs.  The recipes are always delicious and there are tons of instructions for making stuff like biga, sourdough, and seitan, and even just for how to chop vegetables. It leans heavily toward the vegan rather than the meat-eating-lapsed-vegetarian, but nonetheless,  my copy is dog-eared and sauce-splattered and this is one page that gets used a lot (possibly due to its short, accessible ingredient list). The result is tender, sweet beets that melt in your mouth and invariably cause people to stop and look at what they’re eating and say, “these are BEETS? Are there more?”.

(On a side note, Berley has since come out with another book that seems to have been written just for me: The Flexitarian Table: Inspired, Flexible Meals for Vegetarians, Meat Lovers, and Everyone In Between. This one’s going on my christmas list. Oh, and remind me to tell you about the Osso Bucco that was my downfall.)

Balsamic Glazed n Braised Beets and Greens

Adapted from Peter Berley’s recipe, from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

1 medium red onion, cut into wedges or crescents

4-5 fresh beets (more if you’re using smaller beets, enough to cover the bottom of your pan in a snug layer) with tops*, roots trimmed, and cut into wedges,

Beet greens,  chopped*.

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed

Coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

*if you can’t get beets with the tops still on (PIPPA: DON”T USE CANNED BEETS), you could probably substitute other greens such as collards, chard, mustard greens, or, OK, twist my arm: kale – but I wouldn’t use spinach, I don’t think it’s tough enough for this job.

1. In a heavy pan that has a cover, arrange the beet slices and onion so that they fit snugly on the bottom of the pan. Add the vinegar, oil, thyme, and 1/2 tsp salt. Toss and then pour enough water over top to just cover the vegetables, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or so, until the beets are nearly tender, but not quite.

2. Raise the heat and boil, uncovered, until the liquid has reduced to a syrup and the beets are fork-tender.

3. Add the beet greens, reduce the heat again, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Uncover and turn the greens over so they mix with the beets. Add pepper and salt to taste. Simmer for 2 minutes more and serve.

Yum.

You can tell by the wind
By fresh cut wood
All stacked to dry
That autumn’s here
And it makes you sad
About the crummy
Summer we had

With pine trees creaking
And ravens screeching
Just like the story my grandma tells
About when a bird
Hits your window
And someone you know
Is about to die

Autumn’s here
It’s ok if you want to cry

Find a sweater
And you’ll be better
Until the kindling is tinder dry
We can be quiet
As we walk down
To see the graveyard
Where they are now
I wonder how
They brought their piano
To haldane hill
From old berlin
Be hard to keep it
Well in tune
With winters like the one
That’s coming soon
Auntumn’s here
It’s time to cry now

I think that ghosts like
The cooler weather
When leaves turn colour
They get together
And walk along
These old back roads
Where no one lives
And no one goes
With all their hopes set
On the railway
That never came
So no one stayed
I guess that autumn
Gets you remembering
And the smallest things
Just make you cry.

Autumn’s here.

  –Hawksley Workman, Autumn’s Here

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9 thoughts on “I do remember the fall.

  1. Lovely to hear your voice through your blog. Also lovely to see photos of the girls. Man, they grow! What’s up with that? Happy cooking. I’m off to the grocery store to buy some butter to make oatmeal cookies. I think it’s safe to say it’s been over a year since I baked anything. We are loving having our own digs for a while!

  2. stayfunie

    Thanks for sharing, its very nice to read that after a 4 day hike in a steady “crachat breton”! I just wish my boyfriend didn’t hate beets!

  3. Pippa

    I wouldn’t think of using canned beets for anything ever again, but alas, I do not have a “heavy pan with a lid.” Maybe I’ll break down and buy one. I finally made cookies last night – like Tina, I hadn’t baked anything since early last winter, I think.

    Cute pictures of the girls – though Elsie looks like she’s about to get pushed down the slide by you-know-who… I hope that ended well!

    xoxoxoo

  4. looking at that slide picture, I just noticed that while Elsie is dressed in a tuque and huge sweater, and is wearing shoes suitable for october, Frida is behind her in crops, a t-shirt, and bare feet. And I’d put 5 $ on the fact that she’s not even cold. For a skinny kid, she has a remarkable capacity for body heat regulation .

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