Strawberries, those firm yet delicate bite-sized morsels, are a just-right addition to lend nutrition and elegance to springtime menus. The irresistible little treats are picked at the peak of the season and have high nutritional quality. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C and contribute potassium, fiber and folacin to the diet.
One serving, about eight medium berries, contains about 60 calories yet supplies 150% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Vitamin C. That is good news for smokers, who were last year advised by the National Resource Council to increase their intake of this vitamin.
(Vitamin C has an important role in the development of collagen, a protein that forms the base for bones, teeth, skin and tendons in the body, but some of the vitamin's positive and protective effects can be destroyed by smoking.)
The daily RDA for Vitamin C, 60 milligrams for men and women, remained the same when the 10th edition of these guideposts for nutritional adequacy were published last year. However, it recommended that smokers consume at least 100 milligrams of the vitamin each day because these people process and eliminate it more rapidly than nonsmokers.
The fruit also may have a role in cancer prevention by supplying ellagic acid, a chemical compound that may possibly prevent certain carcinogenic chemicals from damaging cellular DNA. This substance also is found in raspberries, loganberries, grapes, plums and Brazil nuts.
According to animal research conducted during the past six years by Gary D. Stoner, professor of pathology and director of experimental pathology at the Medical College of Ohio, ellagic acid reduces by as much as 70% the damage caused to DNA by carcinogens such as nitrosamines, present in tobacco smoke and some foods.
Since a similar effect has not been documented in humans, Stoner advises people to eat a variety of foods that contain ellagic acid since many of these also contain other cancer-inhibiting compounds.
For nutritional value, use strawberries soon after purchasing them. Refrigerate the fruit, unwashed, until ready to use. Then wash and remove caps with a gentle twist to prevent excess water from seeping into the berries and breaking down their texture and flavor.
A one-pint basket of strawberries provides about 3 1/4 cups whole medium berries, 2 1/4 cups sliced berries or 1 2/3 cups pureed berries for use in recipes. Or take advantage of peak-harvest flavor and enjoy them right from the basket.
2/3 cup nonfat yogurt
3 tablespoons toasted, slivered almonds, finely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
Combine yogurt, almonds and honey. Makes about 3/4 cup or 6 servings.
CHOCOLATE FUDGE DIP
6 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
6 tablespoons chocolate fudge sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
Combine yogurt, sauce and juice concentrate. Makes 3/4 cup dip or 6 servings.
STRAWBERRY CREAM DIP
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
1/4 cup no-sugar added strawberry fruit spread or jam
Combine sour cream and spread. Makes 3/4 cup dip or 6 servings.
LEMON-POPPY SEED DIP
2/3 cup reduced fat sour cream
4 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Combine sour cream, honey, lemon juice, poppy seeds and lemon zest. Makes 3/4 cup dip or 6 servings.
STRAWBERRY-ORANGE YOGURT TARTS
Butter-flavored nonstick vegetable spray
12 sheets filo dough
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup orange juice
1 pint strawberries, hulled and pureed
2 cups vanilla yogurt
2 egg whites
Spray bottom and sides of 6 (4-inch) tart pans with butter-flavored nonstick vegetable spray. Using 2 filo sheets per shell, spray each with butter-flavored spray. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Fold in half lengthwise and place in bottom of tart pan. Spray again.
Place second sheet folded sugar-coated filo dough in opposite direction across bottom sheet in tart pan. Gently press to outer edge of pan, tucking and turning edges of pastry under to form edge. Repeat with remaining dough to make 6 shells. Bake at 375 degrees until browned. Cool. Gently loosen from pans. Cool thoroughly.
Combine gelatin and orange juice. Let stand 5 minutes. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until gelatin dissolves. Stir in strawberry puree and yogurt. Chill until mixture mounds slightly.
Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar and beat until stiff. Fold into orange-yogurt mixture. Spoon into baked pastry shells. Chill until firm, about 3 hours. Garnish with whole strawberries. Makes 6 servings.
2 pints strawberries
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Puree enough strawberries in blender to make 1 cup. Pour pureed strawberries into small saucepan. Heat to boiling over medium heat and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Cool. Slice remaining strawberries, chill and reserve.