Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Strawberries

Like asparagus, strawberries are abundant this time of year.  Also like asparagus, they are a nutritional powerhouse, packing a lot of nutrients into a small, low-calorie package.  Strawberries are one of the best sources of antioxidants, which protect against cell damage and illness.  They contain high amounts of potent antioxidants called polyphenols and are also packed with vitamin C.  Additionally, strawberries are good sources of potassium (which can help lower blood pressure), manganese, and fiber.  The best strawberries are deep red, plump, firm, and free of bruises or white spots.  They are also available in your supermarket’s freezer section so they can be enjoyed all year round (make sure your bag of frozen strawberries contains just strawberries – some frozen varieties are sold pre-sweetened in a sugary syrup).

When I think of strawberries, I think of them as a fresh and healthy addition to dessert.  However, strawberries are just as tasty when featured in savory dishes, like the two below from Martha Stewart.

Arugula Salad with Strawberries

Ingredients
1/2 pint strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and quartered
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 bunches arugula, washed, dried, and trimmed
1/2 cup toasted pecan halves

Instructions
1.  In a large bowl, toss strawberries with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar; let sit 5 to 10 minutes.
2.  In a small bowl, whisk together remaining tablespoon balsamic vinegar with the olive oil and salt and pepper.
3.  To the strawberries, add vinaigrette, arugula, and toasted pecan halves. Toss to combine, and serve.

Strawberry Gazpacho

Ingredients
2 pounds strawberries, hulled and lightly crushed
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 (5-ounce) English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup fresh tarragon leaves
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions
1.  In a large bowl, mix together strawberries, onion, bell pepper, cucumber, garlic, tarragon, vinegar, and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, gently crush mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator. Let chill overnight.
2.  Transfer strawberry mixture to the jar of a blender; blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. If mixture seems too thick, add a little water to thin out. Transfer to refrigerator to chill.  
3.  Serve cold.  Serves 6.

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