I could never understand countries like the Soviet Union who strictly regulated or prevented their citizens’ travel to other countries.  Who made travel so difficult and near impossible that when Russians were allowed to exit, it was like they won the lottery or died and went to heaven, which made the Soviet Union a big, open, combination minimum security prison with a maximum security branch in Siberia where Hell truly did freeze over.  Obviously the Communist party officials didn’t think this one through.  It wasn’t a good image for the country inside or outside.


Finally in the 1970s some party official woke up, out of vodka and stone cold sober, with a very rational thought.  “Hey, wait a minute, we’re anti-Semitic.  Why are we preventing the Jews from leaving?  Let those people go!  It could improve our image and tidy up our country with an humane ethnic cleansing!”  The Russian Jews could have cared less about Soviet reasoning and packed immediately.


Unfortunately, every official wasn’t out of vodka nor sober and most found it difficult to surrender authority over a captive people; sort of like the Pharoah/Moses thing except that the Jews were all out of plagues and the Soviets were experts at foot dragging.  Isn’t history interesting?!   At least from my point of view  😀


Anyway.  Our friends Vadim and Galina Barshai exodus-ed from the Soviet Union in the 70s.  Unhappily for Galina, her father Lev Blitshtein an official of the Soviet Ministry of Meat and Dairy Industry, was not allowed to leave with his wife, son and daughter because he “knew too many secrets about the Soviet meat industry.”  Color me nonplussed  (:-   In fact Galina’s mother, in order to emigrate with her children was forced to divorce her husband because, wait for it,  Soviet emigration law prohibited the splitting up of families. Color me shaking my head and reaching for a shot of chilled Stolichnaya.  12 years later, after Lev had forgotten everything he ever knew about meat, he was allowed to join his family in the U.S.


Vadim and Galina are so cool and so interesting that I thought we would get to know each other even better by eating and drinking together for a very long time, a la M. Parret, while exchanging our life experiences.  This meant I would have to make dessert 😲


It’s the blueberry season in Chile.  So that’s why.  I thought to make panna cotta, an easy dessert that I like and know how to make, topped with a blueberry compote.  Sorted!


Whenever I make panna cotta, my guests are always so impressed and complimentary,   thinking that I must have worked my fingers to the bone.


“Thank you”, I say with a modest simper while inside I’m going, “tee hee, tee hee hee.”


It’s also the quail egg season at our local Quail R Us Plus.  So fresh!  I gobbled 2 before I made the salmon plates.


I wanted to top the quail eggs with a little red lumpfish caviar but there is no caviar in Honesdale and I’d only embarrass myself and others if I asked 😀


So anyway, I wanted the meal to be easy enough to allow me to chat,  yet with a certain amount of elegance to show our guests how much we appreciated their company.  A smoked salmon beginning can set the tone 😉


For the main course I went with a Georgian inspired tajine of garlic chicken with leeks and sweet peppers that we had enjoyed before and that again acknowledged our guests, followed by a plate of cheese and salad that M. Parret would not have adored but he wasn’t there to criticize, being where he is normally and correctly, in France  😀


Thanks to a timely run to New Jersey for “correct” French wine and Russian vodka, we were properly supplied for a laid back, wonderful lunch with our new friends.  Galina brought home made dessert blintzes to share over coffee.  Marvelous!

Panna Cotta with Blueberry Compote

3 cups fresh blueberries

1/3 cup sugar

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 1/2 bars of white baking chocolate, chopped

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp boiling water

2 tsp gelatin

250 g plain Greek yogurt

Cook the blueberries, sugar, water and lemon juice in a sauce pan over medium heat, stirring until the blueberry skins have burst and the sauce has thickened, about 8 minutes. Cool the mixture and refrigerate until ready to use.

Combine chocolate, cream, sugar and vanilla in a sauce pan over low heat.    Cook and stir until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and heated through.   Set aside for 5 minutes.  Dissolve the gelatin in 2 tbsp boiling water, set aside and allow to cool slightly. Add gelatin to cream mixture, stir and set aside for 15 minutes.   Whisk in the yogurt. Pour into dessert glasses and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Top the panna cotta with the blueberry compote before serving.










About cookinginsens

An American living in Burgundy, France
This entry was posted in Appetizer, Cooking, Dessert, Food and Wine, Georgian, Main dishes, Recipes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Russians

  1. Mad Dog says:

    That all looks delicious!
    I believe that the Russian government wanted to stop people bringing back capitalist ideas from the west, not to mention happiness and a better lifestyle.

  2. Thank you Mad. Instead the knowledge of these ideas was hidden and the Western lifestyle aggrandized way past reality which eventually helped in the break down of the country and it’s system.

  3. An incredible entry Rose. Food and story alike.

  4. sabine says:

    Looks like a feast from start to finish! I´ve had the same responses about panna cotta by the way ,-)

  5. I spent three weeks traveling the country of Ukraine a few years back. I truly enjoyed the food an the people.

  6. onmillroad says:

    Beautiful pictures and an interesting opening story. Great post all around!

  7. Trish says:

    what a lovely story, very entertaining. and wonderful food.

  8. Yum! Looks like a delicious meal with friends… the best kind 🙂

  9. Have never tried panna cotta, but it sounds really easy to make! Looks tasty 🙂

  10. Darya says:

    Very interesting story, I would be interested in hearing more about the Soviet meat industry! What a brave family, to have had the courage to divorce-emigrate-reunite; very moving. My mom also left the Soviet Union in the 70’s, the Russian Jews were allowed to leave, but they also had to leave… everything behind. They were only allowed a couple hundred dollars and one suitcase per person, so it really meant starting from zero in a new country. She never looked back. The panna cotta looks heavenly.

  11. Fantastic lunch….wonderful running commentary…I think Russia has a few more surprises up its sleeve for our brave new world.

  12. Brilliant, they forbid splitting families so they forced them to divorce. Honestly, WTH. That aside, what a fabulous meal. Well done.

  13. chef mimi says:

    What an interesting post. But your food!!! EVerything is so lovely!!!

  14. Yes, a sad history in so many ways. My grandfather left Belarus more than a century ago in protest of the onset of communism and left his entire family behind. Our family there now, although post-Soviet Union, of course has to live with a horrific leader. Perhaps my heritage is why I am so appreciative of everything we have in our western democracies, particularly the opportunity to write about whatever inspires us….

  15. What a sad, wonderful story. They are lucky to have you as friends, and cooking beautiful food like this for them.

  16. milkandbun says:

    I do love panna cotta, too! It’s such a delightful dessert! I’ve made it with low-fat yogurt and milk, and it turned also good. 🙂

  17. Great story and cleverly told, as usual. 🙂 What a lovely meal and your panna cotta recipe is a keeper. Love how you served it in the beautiful coupes.

  18. V 8 Mile says:

    Interesting story and history— and meals eaten with good friends while reminiscing are the best kind. Reminds me of Anya von Bremzen’s Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking (a very intriguing read.)

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