Sadly, our culinary, I mean cycling, adventures in France came to an end just as quickly as they began. With heavy heart, and swollen ankles, I awoke my last morning in our surprisingly quaint, yet modern,hotel room. Oddly, I would miss the six floor, un air-conditioned climb to my attic-like room with it’s glossy pumpkin colored armoire and slanted ceiling. Only days earlier I had made the surprising discovery that if I stood on my tip toes, craned my neck and held my tongue just right I could see the tippy top of the Eiffel Tower from our rooftop window. Suitcases bulging with dirty laundry and pockets full of unspent Euros we rolled into the early morning heat of the awakening City of Light. Shop keepers threw pales of water onto the little parcel of land in front of their shops, boulangeries made another baguette and brasseries planned their plats du jour. Life continued in this great city as it always had. And we would sadly leave it behind.
Now, we were miles away from my my little slice of heaven that I had called home for a week and heading towards the airport. Our senses were once again overwhelmingly met by the sights, sounds, and smells of a European airport crowded with anxious tourists and impatient business people. Carts full of luggage surrounded the families that excitedly stood in the long lines to the ticket counter. We too entered this sea of backpacks,passports, languages,and watchful eyes. Our sadness of a trip ended mingled with their excitement of journeys begun.
And so it was that we ate our last French meal in the crowded little airport cafeteria. It was no surprise to find it did not serve the classic French cuisine of Julia Child or Le Cordon Bleu. The eggs were powdered ,the coffee from a machine and the cheese in shiny foil wrappers. Where were the cafe au laits and chocolate croissants that I was now accustomed to eating? I guessed it was time to wake up and smell the Folgers. For once, I was not a member of The Clean Plate Club for I feared the effect of finishing this strange petit dejeuner on my looming 14 hour flight. I dared not chance it. Maybe this airport was the zone between wonderful European vacation and reality; the limbo- like place that held tourists until they came to the realization the vacation was finally over. So I did what any other girl with a pocket full of strange paper money and coins would do to console herself; I went shopping.
French Macaroons, fleur de Sel caramels, and two mass produced pictures of the Eiffel Tower later and I was done. With money still in my pocket and hunger in my stomach I returned to the cafeteria. Maybe it was the sadness or maybe it was the money burning it’s hole, but I threw prudence to the wind and payed the amusement park-like prices of a $2 lukewarm cup of coffee and a $7 cup filled with what appeared to be plain yogurt topped with a fruit puree. To my great surprise the “yogurt” was fabulous! This wasn’t your McDonald’s fruit and yogurt parfait. No, this was something so much more. It was creamy, sweet heaven in a cheap airport cup. It was a taste of France that I had almost missed! What was this stuff and how did it get here? And more importantly, would I ever taste it again? I vowed right there in front of cafeteria workers and God that we would meet again.
I would soon learn that what I thought was yogurt was most likely fromage blanc. According to Wikipedia , fromage frais (also known as fromage blanc, maquée and similar to some kinds of quark) is a dairy product, originating from Belgium and the north of France. The name literally means “fresh cheese” (with fromage blanc meaning “white cheese”). Fromage frais is a creamy soft cheese made with whole or skimmed milk and cream. It has the consistency of cream cheese, but with fewer calories and less cholesterol. Where available, low-fat cream cheese is an acceptable substitute for fromage frais. Pure fromage frais is virtually fat free, but cream is frequently added to improve the flavor, which also increases the fat content, frequently to as high as 8 percent of total weight. Fromage frais can be served either as a dessert similar to yoghurt, frequently with added fruit, or used in savory dishes. It is often served with honey in restaurants, as fromage blanc au miel.
Where can you buy fromage blanc in Oklahoma? I’ve tried La Baguette and Whole Foods with no success. So I have settled, quite happily I might add, on Greek yogurt. It is shockingly similar and very tasty. I even found a recipe for Greek yogurt topped with fruit compote that is pretty close to my long lost airport treat. I have listed the recipe below, along with a few others using Greek Yogurt. It may not be French, but Greek will do just fine.
Apricot-Compote Yogurt Parfaits
1/4 cup honey, plus 2 Tbsp.
3 Tbsp. water
pinch of coarse sea salt
1 pound fresh apricots, pitted and cut into eighths (or 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved)
2 containers (17 ounces each) nonfat plain Greek yogurt
In a small saucepan, bring 1/4 cup honey, water, and sea salt to a simmer overt medium; stir until honey dissolves, 1 minute. Add 1 pound fresh apricots ( or any other fresh fruit). Raise heat to medium-high and simmer, stirring often, until fruit is soft and liquid is syrupy, 10 to 12 minutes (adjust heat if necessary to keep at a constant simmer). Divide compote among seven small glass jars or airtight containers. Refrigerate, uncovered, until cool, 10 minutes. Stir 1 tablespoon honey into each of 2 containers of Greek yogurt; divide yogurt among jars. (To store, refrigerate in jars, up to 1 week.) Serve with toasted sliced almonds if desired. Makes 7. 143 calories, 0 fat, 12 g protein, 24 g carb, 1 g fiber per serving.
~Everyday Food, June 2011~
Other Greek Yogurt Recipes
Breakfast or Snack-
(1) 5.3 oz nonfat, plain Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon agave nectar, pinch of pumpkin pie spice
(1) 5.3 oz nonfat, plain Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon agave nectar, 1 teaspoon raisins or dried cherries, 1-2 teaspoons sliced almonds
A creamy Greek yogurt sauce that is great served with 100% whole wheat pitas, crackers, wraps, or vegetables. It can be used as a dip or in the place of mayo or other high fat, and high calorie dressings on sandwiches. We like to put it in our pitas along with Greek turkey meatballs, red onion, and cucumber. This makes for a great healthy and yummy weeknight meal. One of my favorites because it is so packed with flavor! Read my Fish Taco post to see the difference between Greek yogurt and regular plain yogurt.
1 cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. fresh mint (I omit if I don’t have any)
2 Tbsp. fresh dill (I use dried if I don’t have fresh)
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 clove of garlic, crushed with press or finely chopped.
1/4 tsp. salt
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until serving.