The Ataman’s Colors

I got a little side tracked with colors, and will get to the second red, white and blue dessert next time. What crossed my mind were the blue and gold colors of the cossack uniform that my grandfather, Nicholas Mamontoff,  wore.

Mamontoff was a cossack from the Lake Baikal region. The word “cossack” itself comes from a  Turkish word meaning adventurer or freeman. Certainly in Russian history the cossacks were that. It was they who actually took Siberia and gave it to the czars in great chunks of land as gifts. Political favors were traded back and forth, but that’s another story.

Cossack leaders were called “atamans.”  When the early post revolutionary Russian immigrants arrived in San Francisco, they brought with them traditions from the old country. In 1945 Nicholas Mamontoff and Gleb Pervushin co-founded the Cossacks Union in San Francisco. In 1948 Mamontoff was voted ataman. The organization sponsored many events, including an annual ball held at Russian Center on Sutter Street. Members of the union would always wear their uniforms on these occasions.

For the upcoming patriotic weekend, I was inspired to create a cossack’s dessert with gold and blue colors. A red, white and blue dessert honoring the Russian flag will be next. Here, then are “The Ataman’s Colors, a fruit soup ( kisel in Russian) made from wild, Sonoma county yellow cherry plums, finished with a swirl of lightly sweetened whipped cream and accented with fresh blueberries. Enjoy!

Fruit soup (kisel): 2 lbs. cherry plums, 1-2 cups water, 1 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp. potato starch, 2 Tbsp. peach liqueur (optional). Wash plums and put them in a 2 qt. saucepan with the sugar and water. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Put mixture through a sieve or food mill to remove the pits and puree the fruit. Pour a 1/2 cup of it into a separate bowl and allow to cool slightly. Then mix the starch into this and pour it back into the strained plums Add more sugar here, if desired. Bring to a boil, turn down to low and cook until thickened. (For a thicker kisel, reduce the water from 2 to 1 cup initially, as the plums will give off their own liquid.) Remove from the heat and add the peach liqueur. Let cool and serve with heavy cream, and blueberries. The cream may be poured into the individual dessert dishes or slightly whipped with powdered sugar added to taste.

The Ataman’s Colors will be among the desserts featured in The Russian Sweet Tooth, my new ebook coming soon on Amazon.

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