Parsnip and juniper berry tart with a walnut crust

Parsnip tart with a walnut crust

Parsnip tart with a walnut crust

In mid-February, a meteor streaked across the sky in Russia’s Ural mountains, which is news to absolutely nobody at this point. It’s one of those events that is almost too big to worry about – it’s so completely out of our control and (apparently) unpredictable. It’s one of those events that makes you see your day-to-day concerns in a new light. All of those gnawing anxieties, which you lie awake trying not to think about – are they suddenly incredibly important, or completely inconsequential? Typically, I have only a foggy notion of the facts relating to the case. What sticks with me is this video, which I’m sure everybody has seen. It’s a series of shots cobbled together from surveillance cameras mounted on cars and buildings. I find it so beautiful as a film! I find it so moving – the first time I watched, it made me weepy. (If you’re thinking to yourself “Pshaw, that’s no uncommon feat these days!” you are, of course, absolutely correct.) The landscape is austere and wintery, bare trees silhouetted against a pale sky. And the camera’s lens distorts the shot to focus everything on the horizon, the distant space where the sky meets the road, where the colors deepen. On the horizon the light changes in colors of dawn or dusk, which makes the road seem strangely lonely. We get a glimpse into the life of a series of strangers as they see it themselves. We hear what they’re listening to, we see what they’re seeing, we catch a hint of their voices. Each one is different from the other, and so distant from my life, so literally foreign. The scene repeats, starting from the same point in time. The light changes, the music changes, but the movement of the car and the movement of the meteor form a pattern, a rhythm that we follow across the sky. And they couldn’t have known about the meteor! As we watch, we know what it is, we know what happened, but the people in the cars, the people in the apartment buildings and walking by the side of the road, they didn’t know. They didn’t know what it was, where it came from or where it would go – this awesome, frightening, oddly beautiful glow. It moves across the sky, transforming the light like the hours of the day or the seasons of the year, but all in one smooth arc, all at once. The silent shots from buildings, with huge flickering shadows giving way to a burnishing radiance that obscures the scene entirely as it passes over, feel like a dream of a memory – too strange and huge to be real, and yet it is.
Walnut-crusted parsnip tart

Walnut-crusted parsnip tart

Last week I wrote about the fact that I didn’t have juniper berries. That same day, my generous friend Diane left a little jar of juniper berries in my mailbox! I’m so excited. They’re lovely, a little piney, a little citrusy. I decided to use them to flavor this parsnip tart. I kept the tart very simple otherwise, so that I’d be able to detect the juniper flavor. So the only other seasoning is thyme. And the only other ingredients are shallots and garlic, which play more of a starring role in this tart than I usually allow them. I used gjetost cheese, because I had some left from the other week, but you could easily substitute cheddar or mozzarella, or whatever else you like and have on hand. (And if you don’t have juniper berries, the tart would still be tasty. You could substitute a bit of rosemary, if you have some lying around.) This isn’t a light and fluffy tart, it’s dense and flavorful, and very delicious!

Here’s Regina Spektor with On the Radio, in honor of the curiously effective soundtrack of the video.

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