I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in
battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!
― Dwight D. Eisenhower
Au contraire. June 6, 1944 began the slow but sure liberation of France and was – and still is - welcomed with joyous festivities, even as cemeteries are dressed in bleu, blanc et rouge, even as images of death and destruction are splashed across the television screens for days and days before and after, even as each remembers those lost, displaced, entire cities and villages destroyed. My in-laws' families were from the north of France; during each of the World Wars, they were chased from their homes and returned to find only destruction, nothing else. All had been taken or lost. And after each of the two World Wars, each family, my mother-in-law's and my father-in-law's, had to start over from the ground up, with nothing, from nothing.
Yet fond memories of the liberation, of the American soldiers who arrived in their villages with laughter and good humor, chocolate and gifts, stayed with them the rest of their lives. With joy did my mother-in-law pull out that shoebox stuffed with photographs and find the one of the American soldier, the first her family had contact with and who stayed in touch after the war, after his return home. A thrill shook her voice as she recounted the days, told of this man, the first American she had ever met in her life, the one who set the bar for all of the others, who made it all right that her son brought home an American to marry.
The Royal De Luxe brought 500,000 happy souls to Nantes to celebrate, literally dance in the streets, for the entire weekend. I have never seen the streets of this city so packed with humans quite like this, and thrilled I was! Between following in the giants' wake, JP and I began our summer-long tradition of daily afternoon strolls and ice cream. Summer has finally arrived, yet not without its turbulence, so these tiny little pleasures, these quick little escapades allow us much needed down time, a "change of air" as the French say.
I am working diligently on a book proposal, Marty has to be operated on and husband is in and out of town, not to mention my own trip back to Florida to spend time with my mother and family, not to forget the Food & Wine Conference where I will be speaking on writing professionally, speaking on a panel alongside illustrious writer and cookbook author Monica Bhide and Janet Keeler, Food and Travel Editor at the Tampa Bay Times. So as you can see, it is busy in our little home.
photo Ilva Beretta
So, as summer heats up our days, the sun streaming in through our windows and lighting up my desk, I put together a light, almost ethereal, cool and lowfat treat, the sweetness without the guilt, with no-fat fromage frais or quark and gorgeous ripe, sweet cherries. Perfect to balance out that afternoon ice cream cone.
To be perfectly honest, husband went crazy for this mousse, absolutely loved it but he would have preferred it made with a bit more fat and body. Feel free to change out the 0% fat fromage frais or quark with a version with more fat in it or substitute some of it with heavy cream or petit Suisse, cream cheese, a light fresh goat cheese, even lowfat yogurt, ricotta or cottage cheese or fat-free Greek yogurt, adjusting the sugar in the recipe to account for added tang or tartness.
LOWFAT FROMAGE FRAIS MOUSSE WITH CARAMELIZED RUM CHERRIES
Makes 6 individual servings.
The mousse needs to chill and set overnight in the refrigerator so prepare the day before serving.
For a richer mousse, replace the formage frais or fromage blanc with whipping cream, whipped until peaks hold. If using powdered gelatin, increase to 2 tsps. You can also replace the mousse with servings of fabulous Crémet Nantais.
For the Mousse:
2 large egg whites
Dash of salt
1 ¼ cups (300 ml)
0% fat fromage frais, fat-free quark or light cream (see note above for substitutes and suggestions)
½ cup (125 ml) low-fat milk
Scant 1 tsp (2 g) agar-agar (seaweed gelatin substitute) or 1 ½ tsps powdered gelatin
3 Tbs sugar, divided, + ½ tsp vanilla – OR - 2 Tbs sugar, divided + 1 Tbs vanilla sugar
For the Cherries:
1 lb (500 g) ripe cherries
2 Tbs granulated brown sugar (cassonade or demerara)
2 Tbs rum (or replace with dessert or fruity red wine)
Prepare the cherries:
Prepare the cherries by discarding the stems and pitting. Cut each cherry in half or in fourths, catching the juice by cutting over a bowl or directly over a pan or skillet. Place the prepared cherries and juice in a wide pan or skillet and stir in the sugar and rum. Cook over low heat: when the cherries come to a gentle boil, simmer, stirring, for 10 minutes – the strong rum or alcohol flavor will have disappeared and the cherries will have softened and released juice. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature before preparing the mousse. The cherries can be cooked the day before preparing the mousse.
Prepare the mousse:
Pour the cold milk into a small saucepan and sprinkle the agar-agar or gelatin over the surface. Allow to sit for 5 minutes to soften. Place the saucepan over very low heat, whisking constantly, until steaming. If using agar-agar, allow to gently simmer for only 30 to 45 seconds; it will begin to thicken and the agar-agar will have completely dissolved. If using powdered gelatin, allow to steam (without boiling) for 4 – 5 minutes, whisking constantly, removing from the flame/heat for the last minute or two if hot enough and threatening to boil. Set aside to cool just for the time to prepare the rest of the mousse.
Place the egg whites and a dash of salt in a small mixing bowl, preferable plastic or metal, and, using an electric mixer beat the whites on low for 30 seconds then increase the speed to high. Once soft peaks begin to hold, gradually add 1 tablespoon of the white sugar as you continue to beat. Beat until stiff peaks hold. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the fromage frais or quark with the remaining 1 tablespoon white sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or 2 tablespoons white sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla) until fluffy. Immediately pour the warm milk onto the sweetened fromage frais beating on medium speed to incorporate completely.
Fold the stiff, sweetened egg whites into the fromage frais mixture until completely incorporated.
If you like, place the mixing bowl with the mousse in the refrigerator until well chilled and beginning to set before spooning into individual cups/ramekins/verrines over the cherries.
Divide the cooked cherries evenly between 6 individual cups/ramekins/verrines then divide the mousse lightly over the cherries. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate minimum overnight before serving.
Serve topped with crushed chocolate biscuits or Breton cookies (palets bretons au chocolat) and a fresh cherry.