The solace of solstice

by forumholitorium

Tuscan bliss

At 12:12 PM Central European time, precisely as I was walking in the direction of home after completing my formal responsibilities for this calendar year, the winter solstice occurred. The sun was the lowest it had been in the sky at high – no, at solar noon since last year. The word “solstice” is derived from the Latin sol (=sun) and sistere (=to come to a stop, make stand still). Since the city was shrouded in its normal grey cloud of winter smog, I must confess I didn’t notice anything. Nonetheless, this pause has great ramifications. Starting tomorrow, the sun will appear to rise higher and higher in the sky, and the darkness which has gained the upper hand as of late will start to retreat. Back and forth, the cyclical flirtation of light and dark starts anew.

Color did break through the gradients of black and white in the mixture of almonds and candied cherries pictured above. Following my grandma’s recipe, I made a batch of decadent Tuscan bar cookies for a musical pre-Christmas gathering. Dinners in December have been very green too. Not because of an advent wreath (we have opted for the minimalist version of four beeswax candles on a dessert plate), but because TC and I have taken a fancy to devouring numerous baking sheets full of strips of kale drizzled with olive oil, salted, and baked for 10 minutes at 200° C /400° F until slightly browned.

Just call me Kale. Olive Kale.

Yes, this year could be described as the year of cruciferous vegetables, in which I learned how to esteem cabbage and its many kissing cousins. I embraced making homemade sauerkraut, prepared broccoli and cauliflower with more enthusiasm than ever before, and fell head over heels in love with kale. It was a year in which I started blogging again, and much to my surprise, my readership expanded from family and friends to include complete strangers from all around the world. Thank you, dear readers, for your interest!

This blog will be silent through the twelve days of Christmas, through the Rauhnächte (a good explanation of this and other New Year’s customs in the German-speaking world can be found here), as I embark upon a road trip and start dreaming about what I hope 2013 will bring. I will leave you with one more recipe to enjoy – perhaps it will warm you and someone you love on a cold and snowy day. This recipe grew out of a desire to make Mollie Katzen’s Cottage Cheese and Apple Pancakes recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook while avoiding any grill smell in the kitchen.

Apple Topfen Delight

Apple Topfen Delight

4 eggs

150 g / 5.5 oz. Topfen, cottage cheese, ricotta, or farmer’s cheese

1 or 2 grated apples

90 g / 3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3 Tbs raisins

2 Tbs butter

Melt the butter in a cast-iron skillet. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl and pour into the skillet while the butter is still hot. Bake 20 minutes at 200° C / 400° F.