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    Saturday, May 25, 2024

    A little sugar won’t ruin healthful eating, as this ricotta dip shows

    You would think this simple dessert of fresh strawberries with a gently sweet ricotta dip wouldn’t generate controversy and confusion, but whenever I put the tiniest bit of sweetener in a recipe, I get emails asking how I can possibly claim a dish is healthful when it contains sugar.

    I’d like to offer some perspective on that here: When it comes to sugar — or white flour, or bacon or butter, for that matter — while it’s best kept to a minimum, that doesn’t mean a little will ruin the healthfulness of a recipe, or your diet overall. Having such an extreme view of what qualifies as good-for-you is unnecessary, and can ultimately backfire.

    Rather, taking a more flexible approach, eating mostly nutrient-rich foods but feeling free to incorporate less-healthful ingredients in small amounts, using them strategically to maximize the pleasure of eating well, is a more sustainable path to well-being in the long run.

    That is exactly what I am going for with this recipe, this column, and frankly, my own life. Yes, eating fresh strawberries on their own is a joy in itself, and you could certainly stick to that. But sometimes you crave a bite that has more pizazz and feels more like dessert. If the 1-1/2 teaspoons of confectioners’ sugar per serving in this recipe can get you there (a fraction of the daily limit recommended by the American Heart Association which is 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men), why not?

    The look of enthusiasm on everyone’s face when I set this platter of berries and creamy dip in front of them is all the convincing I need. The cannoli-filling-like dip is made simply by whipping ricotta cheese until it is smooth, then adding the sugar and some lemon zest, and serving it topped with chopped pistachios. (Mini chocolate chips are a fun alternative.)

    Then there is pure pleasure of eating it, dunking a juicy berry into the sweet cream, popping it into your mouth and relishing the contrasting textures and the satisfying sweetness. It’s an everyday, easy treat that can make an ordinary weekday feel special, just as it can delight at a Sunday brunch spread.

    Strawberries With Cannoli Cream

    Total time: 10 minutes

    6 servings

    This dish of fresh strawberries with a cannoli filling-like dip is an everyday, easy treat that can make an ordinary weekday feel as special as Sunday brunch. The dip is made by simply whipping ricotta cheese until smooth and then stirring in a little sugar and lemon zest. Serve the dip topped with chopped pistachios, or for a fun alternative, mini chocolate chips.Make ahead: The cannoli cream may be made and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


    1 cup ricotta cheese (part skim or whole milk)

    3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

    1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

    1 tablespoon finely chopped roasted, unsalted pistachios

    1 pound fresh whole strawberries


    Step 1

    In a medium small bowl and using a handheld mixer, beat the ricotta on medium speed until fairly smooth and creamy, 3 minutes. Add the sugar and continue to beat until integrated and the mixture is glossy, 2 minutes more. Using a spatula, stir in the lemon zest.

    Step 2

    To serve, place the cannoli cream into a serving bowl. Top with the pistachios and serve with the strawberries alongside for dipping.

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