- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Light and refreshing, not robust and satisfying, are the words you probably associate with salads.

Start with a whole-grain base, and you can have an entree salad that’s as filling as it is healthful.

Although you can choose from a wide range of grains, including barley and brown rice, some grains will be more appealing because they’re easier to prepare in smaller amounts.

Bulgur and whole-wheat couscous are two of my favorite whole grains for flavor and Two’s Company cooking convenience. Because I’m a lazy cook, I enjoy the ease with which both grains can be prepared.

These are less-common grains, and you may find them in bulk bins instead of in boxes in supermarkets. That’s an advantage: Buy only what you need for one dish, without extras taking up cupboard space.

If you’re not familiar with either bulgur or whole-wheat couscous, you’re in for a treat.

Bulgur, which is kernels of steamed, dried and crushed wheat, has a nutty taste and chewy texture. You don’t have to cook the grain at home, but let it soak in boiling hot water so it softens and expands.

Whole-wheat couscous, like the refined-grain couscous, is a granular form of coarse durum wheat. In a Middle Eastern store, you may find the ready-to-steam version; your supermarket is more likely to sell precooked couscous. Opt for the latter, which is ready in minutes.

In the following Mediterranean-inspired recipe, bulgur is mixed with baby shrimp, olives and tomatoes. It’s important to drain off as much liquid as possible from the shrimp so the salad isn’t soggy. To do so, place the thawed shrimp in a wire mesh sieve over a bowl and gently press shrimp to get rid of excess liquid.

Shrimp and bulgur salad

Makes 2 servings.

1/2 cup bulgur

1 cup frozen, thawed, cooked baby shrimp, well-drained (about 4 ounces)

2 tablespoons sliced pitted green olives

4 large grape tomatoes, sliced

1 scallion, trimmed and chopped

2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring 1/2 cup water to boiling in a small pot. Stir in the bulgur. Cover, remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and bulgur is chewy, not hard. Spoon into a large salad bowl and set aside to cool. Add the shrimp, olives, tomatoes, scallion and parsley to bulgur. Stir well.

Combine the vinegar, oil and cumin in a small cup. Pour over salad. Toss gently but well. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside 10 minutes for flavors to blend.

Each serving (without salt and pepper to taste) has: 260 calories; 6 grams total fat; 18 grams protein; 30 grams carbohydrates; 111 milligrams cholesterol; 210 milligrams sodium and 7.5 grams dietary fiber.

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