June is national frozen yogurt month. It is also national fruit and vegetables month. This is the time when veggies are the freshest and berries are the juiciest so salads, smoothies and cherry-topped frozen desserts taste the best. It’s a great moment to introduce new healthy dishes into your life, food experts say.
“Berries look like little jewels in the store,” says Robyn Webb, a nutritionist, culinary instructor and the author of several cookbooks. “One could be saying I really would rather have berries than a cupcake.” One shouldn’t start dieting simply because the weather is nice and people are body conscious, but revising your daily menu is easier in summer, because “stuff just tastes so good.”
However, Webb cautions that frozen yogurt can be high in sugar and carbohydrates. “I am not a big fan of frozen yogurt,” she says. “It’s just like ice cream.”
Luckily, Chris Follari, director of culinary services at Sodexo, the global food services firm, has a perfect solution: mix the yogurt with ice, add your favorite fruit, a pinch of spice, whip it in a blender – and you have a frozen yogurt drink sans sugar or with a substitute of your choice.
Follari devised an easy healthy menu for summer: a thick and creamy lassi for breakfast, a delicious garden salad for lunch, and a low-calorie salmon dinner complemented with an eclectic marinated strawberries desert.
It takes Follari less than five minutes to combine yogurt, mango, lemon juice and ice in a blender – and the chilled beverage is ready, setting a cool mood for a hot day. Once a traditional drink in India and Pakistan, mango lassi is now a worldwide favorite. Mango is high in vitamin A, Webb says. It’s an antioxidant and helps maintain healthy skin.
Click here for the mango lassi recipe.
Webb also says that planning is key for healthy eating. There’s no need to buy a lot of food and spend a lot of money. The same ingredients, especially when in season, can be used in more than one dish. There are ways to serve yogurt for breakfast and lunch while using greens and strawberries for lunch and dinner.
For a quick lunch, Follari fixes a Strawberry Fields Forever salad in which the ripe crimson berries join crispy greens, crunchy walnuts and sharp blue cheese. “Right now is the strawberry season,” he says as he combines the ingredients. “Right now they are at their best.” Webb seconds him. “I would concentrate on the berries,” she says, adding that nuts are also very healthy and are a good source of monounsaturated fats.
Click here for the Strawberry Fields Forever recipe
Follari uses Berkshire blue cheese from Western Massachusetts, but Gorgonzola and Maytag Blue would do just as well, he says. He cuts the rinds off the cheese and tosses them in the bowl too – they are chewy. The salad’s most unusual component is a black-and-white dressing of yogurt, honey and poppy seeds. “Poppy seeds give you flavor, texture and color,” Follari explains.
“Always build your meals around vegetables,” Webb suggests. Follari’s dinner preparation begins with exactly that: a tomato cucumber relish. He combines sliced English cucumbers and grape tomatoes in a bowl and then makes mint and basil chiffonade using a French technique to cut leafy greens into thin strips. He rolls up mint leaves into green tubes that look like tiny cigars and slices them.
“You don’t want to just chop up the mint because it starts to turn black,” he explains. “Now it will come out as nice little ribbons.” He also suggests carefully mixing the relish rather than tossing it. “There’s really no reason to mash it up. You start to lose all the centers out of the tomatoes and it just starts to fall apart.” Then he shaves a bit of the yellow zest off a lemon – just a few golden twirls to sharpen the taste. As a final touch he adds basil, cracked black pepper and olive oil.
When it comes to salmon, Follari cooks it thoroughly on one side and only sears it on the other.“That way it will be cooked all the way through and still have a little bit of pink in the middle, but not overdone.” When the fish is ready, he places it over a heap of brown rice, drapes it with the relish and tops it with arugula.
Click here for the seared salmon recipe.
Now it’s time for dessert and Follari is back to berries, soaking strawberries in balsamic vinegar and black pepper.
“It’s certainly something different, but not uncommon,” he says. “Black pepper works in desserts.” He doles out strawberries into glasses, tops them with yogurt and sprinkles a pinch of black pepper on top. A few strawberry slices serve as décor – and the treat it ready.
Click here for the balsamic strawberries and black pepper recipe.
“There’s a lot of delicious food available in summer,” says Webb. “Treats can be healthy too.”