My anxieties subside when three things align in my world: a full gas tank, cash in my wallet and plenty of food in the refrigerator. Specifically, fresh fruit and vegetables.
Luckily, fall farmers markets and produce stands overflow with goodness. Think squash, onions, potatoes, sweet peppers and hot chiles. The variety of tubers and root vegetables can be intimidating, but rest assured most take to simple cooking methods, such as steaming and roasting, beautifully.
I'm particularly fond of the mild-mannered, pale green globes of kohlrabi. Especially when they sport bright-green, leaf-topped stems. Not only does that mean they are very fresh, but also those leaves are edible. I treat the greens like lacinato kale — steaming or sauteing them.
Kohlrabi is technically not a root vegetable or a tuber; rather it is an enlarged, above-ground stem. I prefer to purchase kohlrabi when it's the size of a baseball because it can be enjoyed raw in thin slices or fine shreds, or quickly steamed in the microwave. Some kohlrabi varieties can be as large as a softball — these are best steamed to tenderness. I always peel the globes to remove any tough, fibrous skin.
Kohlrabi, with its mild, broccoli-stem flavor, absorbs other ingredients, such as herbs, garlic, soy sauce, olive oil or butter, beautifully.
Beets, on the other hand, sport loads of their own unique, earthy flavor. Cooks and chefs have embraced the once-maligned burgundy-red root and now feature them prominently on menus and in cookbooks. Farmers markets prove a good source for non-traditional types, such as candy stripe, golden and white beets. I like how well all of them pair with flavored oils and smoky bacon fat. Sharp additions, such as tangy cheese, vinegar, onions and garlic help mellow their inherent beetiness. So does oven-roasting or grill-steaming them in foil packets.
Like kohlrabi, the freshest beets are sold with their green leafy tops intact. Do not discard the greens — instead saute them in a skillet with a little olive oil and enjoy as a side or addition to scrambled eggs or grain bowls. To motivate me to cook the greens before they wilt terribly, I remove them as soon as I get the beets home. Rinse, spin dry and they are good to go.
This kohlrabi and sausage skillet supper can be made with other vegetables as well. I often sub in diced parsnip and turnip as well as cubes of golden potatoes. The foil-packet roasted beets taste good hot or chilled. I spoon warm leftovers onto toasted naan for a casual meatless main dish.
KOHLRABI AND CARROT RIBBON SALAD
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 side servings
3 medium-size kohlrabi, about 1 1/2 pounds, trimmed, peeled
2 medium-size carrots, trimmed, peeled
2 1/2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons honey or sugar, to taste
1/2 to 1 tablespoon piri piri hot sauce (or other hot sauce), optional, to taste
1/2 teaspoon dark Asian sesame oil
Chopped fresh green onions or chives
1. Cut peeled kohlrabi in half through the stem end. Put the cut side down on the cutting board and slice thinly into half-moons. You should have about 4 cups. Use a vegetable peeler to shave carrots into long ribbons; you should have about 2 cups loosely packed.
2. Put sliced kohlrabi into a microwave-safe bowl. Add 1/3 cup water and cover with a lid or plastic wrap vented at one corner. Microwave on high (100% power), stirring once or twice, until fork-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. (The tip of a fork should pierce it easily.) Let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Drain well. Return to bowl; stir in carrots. Cover and set aside while you make the dressing.
3. Whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, honey, hot sauce and oil in a medium-size bowl until homogenous. Add kohlrabi and carrots. Toss well to coat. Taste and season with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with plenty of chopped green onions and sesame seeds.
Nutrition information per serving (for 6 servings): 69 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrates, 10 g sugar, 3 g protein, 665 mg sodium, 4 g fiber
SMOKED SAUSAGE AND KOHLRABI SKILLET
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Makes: 6 entree servings
If desired, use smoked sausage made from turkey or chicken here to reduce the richness of the dish. If serving the dish with pasta, choose medium shapes such as penne, orecchiette or gemelli.
3 medium-size kohlrabi, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled, diced to 3/4-inch size
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large (12 ounces) Vidalia or other sweet onion, halved, thinly sliced
1 small red, yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded, diced
3 cups chopped fresh kohlrabi greens, lacinato kale or baby kale leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
12 ounces smoked, fully-cooked sausage, such as Polish, kielbasa, cheddarwurst or andouille, sliced 1/2 inch thick
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups cooked pasta, optional
Malt or unfiltered cider vinegar
1. Put diced kohlrabi into a microwave-safe bowl. Add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir well. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap vented at one corner. Microwave on high (100% power) until fork-tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Let stand, 5 minutes. Drain well.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large (12- or 14-inch) nonstick skillet over medium heat, then add oil and onion. Cook, stirring often, until golden, about 8 minutes.
3. Add drained kohlrabi and red pepper to onions. Cook, stirring, to brown the kohlrabi, about 5 minutes. Stir in greens, 1/4 cup water, cumin and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook and stir, 2 minutes. Stir in sausage and garlic. Cook, covered, to heat everything through, 2 to 4 minutes. Add pasta if using and heat through, about 2 minutes. Serve with splashes of vinegar, if desired.
Nutrition information per serving (without pasta): 296 calories, 24 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 41 mg cholesterol, 13 g carbohydrates, 6 g sugar, 9 g protein, 619 mg sodium, 3 g fiber
GRILLED BEETS AND GREENS
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Makes: 6 servings
If you do not have fresh, unwilted beet greens, substitute about 4 cups chopped lacinato kale or Swiss chard leaves.
4 large golden or red beets with leafy green tops, about 1 1/2 pounds
1 small red or yellow bell pepper, seeded, diced
1 large (12 ounces) red onion, halved, thinly sliced into wedges
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 or 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup crumbled feta cheese or farmer's cheese or queso fresco
Chopped cilantro or parsley
1. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium hot. (Or heat oven to 375 degrees.)
2. Remove leafy green tops from beets, rinse them thoroughly and roughly chop. Set aside.
3. Peel beets and cut into 3/4-inch dice. Place on a large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Top with bell pepper, half of the onion and half of the olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, the thyme and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Fold foil to completely enclose beets.
4. Put the foil packet on the grill directly over the coals if using charcoal or over the heat source if using a gas grill (or on a baking sheet in the oven). Cook, turning the packet once, until beets are fork-tender (peek into the packet and spear them with a knife), 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer from the foil package to a bowl. Season with the balsamic vinegar and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
5. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining onion and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in chopped beet greens; saute until barely wilted and tender, 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in garlic; saute, 1 minute. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Spoon beets over the greens. Sprinkle with feta and herbs. Serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 187 calories, 12 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 22 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrates, 9 g sugar, 6 g protein, 486 mg sodium, 3 g fiber