In a few short days, the sun will pause as it reaches it most distant point in our Southern sky. Winter Solstice will arrive, and with it our longest night. With the sun rising at its lowest altitude above the horizon, the ancients believed the sun could easily slip out of sight and slide into the abyss, leaving us in the dark forever. To show appreciation for the sun’s warmth and spark of life, the ancients lit bonfires during Solstice, to light a path that would show the sun the way back North.
In this season of dwindling light, we often find ways of resisting the darkness. Lighting candles, and stringing lights, making merry, filling much of our time leading up to the holidays with social obligations and of course, shopping. Solstice reminds us to take a pause, like the sun. Tapping into nature’s cycle of dormancy and stillness we emerge feeling refreshed and alive -with space for new things to grow. Like how it feels to wake up from a good night’s sleep.
Lately Brian and I have started back up our wintertime ritual of going on “night walks”. Bundled up, we walk our dog Max, after the sun has long set. I have come to love these walks… seeing the moon and stars, breathing in the cold misty air, embracing darkness and its silence, and seeing what arises.
During mid-winter, in our area, the growing cycle too, takes a pause. Fresh locally grown produce comes to a halt. But there are always root vegetables. A little under appreciated and misunderstood, they often get passed up for showier green vegetables. But don’t be fooled by their stodgy and dull exteriors – like most things, there is usually more than meets the eye. If you get past appearances, you’ll discover a whole world of flavor. Grown in summer, harvested in late fall -root vegetables like yams, parsnips, turnips, beets, and celeriac, just to name a few are resilient enough to be wintered over – all the way into the light of Spring.
Holding the celeriac (aka celery root) in my hands, I am amazed, quite frankly, at how anyone would have been brave enough to eat it. It looks terrifying with its twisted roots and hairy tendrils. But beneath its villainous exterior resides the tenderest of hearts. And given proper consideration, one discovers a huge and amazing secret -its incredible flavor. You may feel as if you’ve known it all your life. And you have. For celeriac is a very close relative of celery. Light familiar flavors of celery and parsley flirt with the palate, while underlying notes of earthiness, nuttiness and spice, add mystery and depth. But to unlock theses flavors you must brave the beast.
Onion is sauted, then fennel and celeriac are added to the heavy bottom pot.
Fennel Bulb couples well with celeriac and gives the soup a hint of sweetness.
1 large fennel bulb, cored and diced ( about 1 ½ cups)
1 C white onion-diced
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 grapefruit-sized celeriac- peeled and diced ( about 4-5 cups)
8 Cups Chicken or Veggie stock
¼ teaspoon white pepper
salt to taste
¼ cup creme fraise or sour cream for garnish ( optional)
Parsley oil -for garnish- see recipe below ( optional)
In a large heavy bottom pot, saute diced onion in 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil, over medium high heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add fennel. Turn heat to medium-low and saute until fennel begins to caramelize, stirring occasionally about 12 minutes. Add celeriac, pepper and 8 cups chicken stock. Turn heat to high, bring to a simmer, lower heat, cover, and continue simmering until celeriac is very tender, about 15-20 minutes.
Using a blender, blend until smooth -in batches, only filling blender 1/2 full. (Remember when blending any hot liquid, cover the blender lid firmly with a kitchen town, and only fill blender 1/2 full, and start on the lowest speed, to prevent a blender explosion.)
Return to the pot. Taste for salt. When serving, garnish with a swirl of creme fraise, (or sour cream) and a little parsley oil.
1Cup packed Italian parsley ( stems ok)
½ Cup olive oil
½ clove garlic
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoon lemon juice
Pulse all ingredients in a blender or food processor until combined.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 Cups Soup