Every time I return from a trip to Paris I'm always asked as a nutritionist how I manage eating all the bread, pastries and cheeses without gaining any weight. It is precisely because I'm a nutritionist that I do indeed enjoy all that French cuisine has to offer without much worry about derailing my good nutritious eating. For the past 25 years my work as a health and culinary professional has focused on emphasizing the Mediterranean approach to eating. There isn't a day that goes by in the US that some newfangled diet rears its ugly and short lived head. But the sensible and utterly enjoyable daily eating habits of the French have lived on for centuries.
In her new book Beyond the Mediterranean Diet, my dear colleague Layne Lieberman, RD says: “The French are leery of fad diets based on speculative studies and media hyped messages, and respond to news of this type with a healthy dose of skepticism.” Now it's not that the French eat with abandon despite the fact that there seems to be a patisserie and boulangerie on every corner. It's also not because of the cream or the wine or the crusty baguette that the French have good health, it's small portions (their croissants weight HALF of what is served in the US and measure almost 4 inches smaller in diameter on average). The emphasis is always on quality versus quantity.
As Layne points out in her book, compared to other countries, France produces food more naturally and with much variety. If you've ever bit into a tomato in France, you know what I'm referring to. So delicious the tomatoes can taste like sweet candy. And that's just the point, who needs gobs of sugar (and in the US it's high fructose corn syrup) when the fruits and vegetables in France can satisfy any sweet tooth.
While scrumptious pastries, chocolates and food high in fat are indeed on the French menu, they're balanced out perfectly with the French love for fiber rich lentils, beautifully prepared fish and juicy ripe pears and peaches. And eating while walking down the street? A foreign concept to the French that thankfully has not been imported to France.
So when I travel to Paris and other parts of France, I do as the French do. I speak French as much as I can, I always start a conversation with a proper Bonjour and I treat myself to carefully chosen sweet and savory goodies not every night of my trip, but enough to feel well satisfied. The remaining times if I wish to have a “dessert” I'm most content like the French with slice of cheese or some yogurt or fruit. And the tradition lives on upon my return.
That's why when every few months I prepare my decadent mousse au chocolat it's not made with low calorie sweeteners nor margarine or egg substitutes. Non, this is the real deal, four real ingredients to create one delicieux dessert. Enjoy this with free abandon, and then simply enjoy a good walk afterwards!
Mousse Au Chocolat
9 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips or broken pieces from a bar
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tiny bits
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar
1. In a double boiler or a bowl set over a pot of simmering water melt the chocolate until smooth.
2. Add the butter, a little at a time, whisking it in after each addition until smooth.
3. Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and add in each yolk, one at a time, whisking after each addition. Let cool, while you prepare the egg whites.
4. In a clean bowl with no trace of any fat, whip the egg whites and sugar together until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, add the egg white mixture slowly, a little at a time, to the chocolate, folding in the egg whites until they disappear. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
5. Serve in small cups with a few raspberries and your favorite toppings for color!
Robyn Webb is an award winning cookbook author, nutritionist and culinary instructor in Alexandria VA and Miami FL. She's been accused on licking the bowl of chocolate mousse on more than one occasion. She can be reached on twitter at Twitter.com/robynwebb.
(Image Credits: Mousse au Chocolate by Didriks, all other photos by author)