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 :D
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 :D
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 :D
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.