Strawberries and Asparagus: A Delicious Opportunity for Health
The Farmers Markets are almost in full swing. The Rose Park Market began on Wednesday, May 9 (every Wednesday, 3 – 7 p.m. through November), with the two most popular items in season: asparagus and strawberries. And of course, The Dupont Circle Fresh Farm Market is now open on Sundays, 8:30a.m. – 1p.m. This is the time of year to revel in the peak ripeness, flavor and nutrition of these springtime delicacies.
The recipe for curried chicken salad with strawberries comes from my mother and makes a very nice lunch offering. Like any curry dish, its perfect companions are a spicy or sweet chutney (try CHOP Market’s Nature Isle Chutney) and a cool yogurt. You could also top it on a baguette or stuff it into a tomato or avocado half. Serve with pickles, carrot and celery sticks or radishes. You can use any seasonal fruits such as peaches, grapes, oranges, or anything ripe and in season. Have fun with it. The beauty of spring is the wide array of options, and it’s hard to go wrong.
Strawberries are actually members of the Rose family, and there are over 600 different varieties. Choose freshly picked, ripe berries, as they will be the tastiest and will have the most nutrients. “Look for berries fully formed, bright red, without bruising or soft spots and with fresh-looking green caps,” says janie Hibler in her book, The Berry Bible. She continues with a word of caution: “Beware of buying out-of-season strawberries, as sometimes they are picked when they are only 40% ripe. These berries may turn red, but they will never develop sweetness and can be hard as an apple.”
Strawberries are considered a “superfood.” They have one of the highest antioxidant and nutrient contents of all foods, they are also low in calories—you can eat them in unlimited quantities. In fact, for your health, the more the better!
“A serving of eight strawberries contains more vitamin C than an orange,” says David Grotto in 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. “Strawberries are also rich in folate, potassium, and fiber. They’re especially high in cancer- and heart-disease-fighting phytonutrients (beneficial plant compounds) called flavonoids, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin, catechin, and kaempferol.”
Asparagus, meanwhile, is packed with nutrients. Low in calories, it’s an excellent source of folic acid and Vitamin C, Thiamin, and Vitamin B6. Asparagus, like other fruits and vegetables, is sodium-free, and contains no fat or cholesterol. It is an important source of potassium and many nutrients, important for boosting your immune system and preventing heart disease, lowering blood pressure and even preventing cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, Asparagus is the highest tested food containing Glutathione, one of the body's most potent cancer fighters. Additionally, Asparagus is high in Rutin, which is valuable in strengthening the blood vessels. This recipe for chilled asparagus spears in a creamy vinaigrette is a bright, balanced dish that I think brings out the best in asparagus.
Kjerstin’s Curried Chicken Salad with Strawberries and Roasted Almonds
2 cups chicken breast meat, cooked, chopped (about 2 half breasts) 1 pint low sodium, nonfat chicken stock 1/3 cup small mild onion, chopped 1-1/2 cup celery, chopped 1 cup seedless grapes, halved (or other available fruit) ¾ pound strawberries, hulled and quartered 3 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley 1 tsp curry powder, or to taste 1 oz almonds or walnuts, toasted and chopped 1/4 cup low fat ranch-style or cucumber dressing
Poach the chicken breasts in stock until cooked. Let cool, then chop in bite-size pieces. Add the rest of the ingredients and chill. Serve chilled. Per serving: 230 calories, 8 grams fat, 1 grams sat fat, 19 g carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 20 grams protein
Chilled Asparagus in a Creamy Tarragon, Shallot, and Roasted Walnut Vinaigrette
Serves 6 to 8
2 lb asparagus, cleaned, tough ends removed, cut in 1.5 inch pieces 1 Tbsp walnut or canola oil Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 cup roasted, unsalted walnuts, chopped 1 small (4 oz) red bell pepper, finely chopped (roasting optional) 1 bunch (1/4 cup) green onions, finely chopped
Vinaigrette: 2 Tbsp tarragon vinegar 4 Tbsp walnut oil 2 Tbsp low fat Greek yogurt 1 shallot, finely chopped 2 Tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped 1 Tbsp fresh parsely, finely chopped 1 Tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped Salt and pepper to taste
If you are using raw walnuts, toast the walnuts: place in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes until light golden brown. Let cool, then chop.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare the vinaigrette by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl large enough to fit the asparagus, red pepper and green onions. Place the bowl with the vinaigrette in the refrigerator so that it is cool when the asparagus comes out of the oven. If you wish, peel the stalks of the asparagus for a more tender vegetable. Slice the asparagus stalks diagonally into bite-sized or approximately 1.5 inch pieces. In a large bowl or plastic bag, toss the pieces in the walnut or canola oil and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper, until the asparagus is coated lightly with oil. Place on a baking sheet in a single layer and cook for 5 minutes in the middle of the oven. Pour the hot asparagus into the cool vinaigrette to help discontinue the cooking of the asparagus, so that it remains al dente. Do not overcook! Add the red bell pepper, green onions, and nuts. Toss and serve immediately while still warm, or serve chilled. About 1,000 calories for the entire dish.