- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How sweet your Easter brunch menu will be if you give strawberries the starring role.

Although the luscious berries are usually relegated to the dessert course, they work their sprightly sweet magic in every part of your holiday brunch.

Here are some ideas.

Start brunch with a drink. Float sliced strawberries on Champagne or orange juice. Alternate small strawberries and orange segments on wooden skewers and use to stir and garnish a screwdriver or mimosa.

Instead of the usual vegetable salad, toss together Bibb lettuce, strawberry slices and walnuts. Drizzle on a combination of honey and orange juice.

If you're opting for traditional ham, top ham slices with fresh strawberry salsa. For the salsa, mix together sliced strawberries, minced shallot, chilies, chopped Italian parsley and a dash of honey. Let the combination sit for 10 minutes for the flavors to blend.

If you'd prefer typical brunch fare such as waffles, stack the waffles, strawberries and sweetened ricotta cheese to create a napoleon.

Strawberries are plentiful during the Easter season, so don't stint. A quart of berries yields enough for sampling as well as the following strawberry waffle napoleon. If you want strawberry shortcake for dessert, you'd better pick up extras.

Strawberry waffle Napoleon

Makes 2 servings.

2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

1 tablespoon orange liqueur, optional

3 to 4 teaspoons sugar, divided

3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 frozen toaster waffles

2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Combine strawberries, orange liqueur and 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar (depending on sweetness of strawberries) in a bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes for flavors to blend. Combine the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar with ricotta cheese in a bowl. Stir in vanilla extract.

You can assemble the dish in a variety of ways.

Here's one method: Toast the waffles. Arrange one waffle on each of 2 plates. Top each with 1/3 cup flavored ricotta cheese. Spoon some of the sliced strawberries and the liqueur over the cheese. Top with the second waffle. Add a dollop of the remaining ricotta cheese and more sliced strawberries. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sliced almonds over each serving.

Each serving (using 4 teaspoons sugar) has: 450 calories; 18 grams total fat; 16.5 grams protein; 60 grams carbohydrates; 28.5 milligrams cholesterol; 530 milligrams sodium and 5 grams dietary fiber.

Bev Bennett is the author of “30-Minute Meals for Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons).

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