Good Food/Good Health
Week of May 29, 2006

Seasonal Fruits Make Perfect Desserts

from the
American Institute for Cancer Research

As the weather gets warmer, the menu gets lighter. But that doesn’t mean no dessert. Actually, the spring and summer months, with their bountiful fruits, are perfect dessert weather.

The fruits of the season are delicious by themselves as an after-dinner sweet. They can also be the foundation on which to build other desserts.

Two welcome signs of winter’s thaw are rhubarb and strawberries. And they often appear together. Because it is so tart, rhubarb regularly is paired with sweet strawberries in cakes, jams and pies. In Britain, rhubarb is commonly cooked with ginger.

Because of its widespread use in sweets, rhubarb which is also called pieplant is thought of as a fruit. Botanically, however, it is a vegetable a member of the buckwheat family and a close relative of garden sorrel.

Only the stalks of rhubarb, which look like big red celery, are eaten. The leaves, which contain oxalic acid, are toxic.

Rhubarb has been around for about 4,000 years, but only as a food for the last few hundred. Native to Northern Asia, rhubarb was long prized for medicinal purposes.

High in vitamin A, rhubarb is at its peak from April to June. Look for stalks that are crisp and bright colored. Rhubarb is quite perishable. It should be tightly wrapped in plastic and refrigerated. It will hold for up to three days.

The strawberry season perfectly coincides with the rhubarb season, and the two foods seem made for each other. With just a little extra sugar, strawberries give rhubarb the sweetness it needs.

Strawberries vary in size, color and shape. Usually, the smaller berries are sweeter because they are less watery.

When choosing strawberries, pick those that are fat, brightly colored and still have their green caps on. Avoid soft or shriveled berries. Don’t wash strawberries until you’re ready to use them. They can be refrigerated in a moisture-proof container for up to three days.

A rhubarb-strawberry parfait is a perfect, light dessert for the last days of spring and first days of summer.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Parfaits

1 pint strawberries, hulled and thickly sliced
1/2 lb. fresh rhubarb, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/2 cups nonfat plain yogurt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. sugar, preferably superfine (optional)

Combine strawberries, rhubarb, water, orange juice, sugar and vanilla bean in a heavy, medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until fruit is very soft, about 10 minutes. Put mixture in a bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours.

Mix yogurt and vanilla until well combined. Taste and, if desired, stir in superfine sugar (if desired). Chill until serving time.

To serve, layer yogurt mixture and strawberry-rhubarb mixture alternately into wineglasses or parfait glasses, ending with fruit. Parfaits can be prepared a few hours ahead and refrigerated.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 131 calories, less than 1 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat), 30 g. carbohydrate, 5 g. protein, 3 g. dietary fiber, 54 mg. sodium.



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AICR’s Nutrition Hotline is a free service that allows you to ask a registered dietitian questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. Access it on-line at or by phone (1-800-843-8114) 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday-Friday. AICR is the only major cancer charity focused exclusively on the link between diet, nutrition and cancer. It provides education programs that help Americans learn to make changes for lower cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers. It has provided more than $78 million for research in diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR’s Web address is

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