Why I Cook and a recipe for Shrimp, Bulgur and Kale Salad

I think many of you understand what I mean when I say that life right now is a little tilted. There is a new normal to many assumptions and expectations we have taken for granted. Some of this is organic: Life changes. Kids grow, parents age, we shift. Some of this is external, a result of the state of the world as we know it, affecting finances, jobs, homes, security – even the weather. We all have our own mix of ingredients that concoct a recipe, a plan, for life. Yet, the only sure thing is that there is no sure thing. And this is why I like to cook.

A while back, I was asked by a writer, cook and friend, Why do I cook? Since then I’ve given that question much thought and come up with numerous answers. If I had to choose one, this would be it: Not only does cooking nourish on a daily basis, stroking the senses and filling the belly, it’s predictable, methodical and intensely personal. While paradigms may shift, and new normals unfold, there is a consistency to cooking, rooted in history, embracing the present, telling a story and binding a family – colored by a sensuality and creative fingerprint that nudges the soul. I might not have a crystal ball, but I can predict my dinner, and I will make it happen. When I cook, I surrender to its principles, meditate on the process, and revel in its artistic shape. The power to create and provide the sustenance that nourishes and connects the people who touch us is a most simple and powerful gift which we can realize for ourselves and loved ones every single day, no matter the turns that life takes. That is why I cook. Why do you like to cook?

Shrimp, Bulgur and Kale Salad

There is something intrinsically satisfying about a grain salad. Hearty, fresh and toothsome, brimming with greens and chopped vegetables, it’s both nutritious and versatile. Feel free to substitute farro, quinoa, wheat berries or couscous for the bulgur, and toss in your favorite seasonal vegetables. Top it with shrimp, chicken, steak, or, for a vegetarian version, sprinkle with feta cheese. Serves 4.

For the bulgur and kale salad:
1 1/2 cups bulgur
1 1/4 cups hot water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Tabasco or hot sauce
6 large Tuscan/Lacinato kale leaves, tough stems removed, chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 large carrot, finely grated
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely diced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
1/4 cup each chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, mint and cilantro

For the shrimp:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 lemon

Prepare the salad:
Place the bulgur in a large bowl. Pour the water over the bulgur and stir to combine. Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin and Tabasco. Stir again. Set aside until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur is tender but chewy, about 20 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Taste for seasoning. If necessary, add more olive oil to moisten the salad.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet or grill pan over medium high heat. (If using a grill, prepare grill for direct cooking over medium heat.) Cook or grill shrimp, turning once, until their color turns pink and they are just cooked through the center, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle with chili flakes, salt and drizzle with juice from half a lemon.

To serve, arrange salad on a platter or divide among serving plates. Top with shrimp. Garnish with extra red chili flakes and chopped parsley.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes:
Warm Steak and Farro Salad with Golden Beets and Chickpeas from TasteFood
Spiced Bulgur Pilaf with Pine Nuts and Currants from Cookin’ Canuck
Red Quinoa and Kale Slaw from TasteFood
Layered Quinoa Salad with Beet Vinaigrette from Family Fresh Cooking

25 responses to “Why I Cook and a recipe for Shrimp, Bulgur and Kale Salad

  1. Lovely, Lynda. I, for one, am glad you cook, and write.

  2. So well-stated. Cooking centers us, doesn’t it? Lovely salad…

  3. I love the relevance of your post…and the recipe. I’ll share on my FB page.

  4. Thank you for sharing with us – your words, recipes and photos all inspire me. I’m happy you cook!

  5. Beautiful photos! Those shrimp look so plump and juicy! Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  6. Beautiful, Lynda.

    And yet even cooking can go by the wayside. My friend Heidi has MS and wrote letters of apology when she unsubscribed from a few favorite food blogs: her disease is progressing, she can no longer cook.

    So for the moment, I think, all this cooking is a good thing … but maybe not forever.

    • Yes, that’s right, Alanna. I am so sorry for your friend – as I wrote the post, I realized that even with cooking, I was making assumptions that can always change…


  7. That is absolutely fantastic, you have a way with words. And what you have written here is so important.. c

  8. I really identify with what you’re saying here, that is definitely one of the reasons I cook as well, to be in the moment, to make something you can shape and predict, to enjoy the senses, to find some serenity in this chaotic life. Thanks so much for writing it so beautifully.

  9. Pingback: Why I Cook and a recipe for Shrimp, Bulgur and Kale Salad … | ClubEvoo

  10. I love this post Lynda. I totally get this, cooking keeps me grounded and it’s why I continue to cook and bake even on holidays….

  11. Wonderful post. Well said. And thank you for saying it.

  12. What a well written post, good recipe and nice photo. Love it.

  13. Pas de Duex Blog

    What a lovely statement! Thank you for articulating the joy of cooking so well.

  14. Very nice and very true. Beautiful shrimp too!

  15. The words of a true artist 🙂

  16. So nicely put, Lynda. I find the more hectic and unpredictable my life gets, the more I enjoy my time in the kitchen- the one place in my world that I truly have control over the chaos.

  17. Beautifully said. Cooking for myself and my family is a great gift- not everyone has this! I am grateful to love cooking and nutrition enough to bestow these gifts on my family every day.

  18. Hi Lynda, that is so wonderful and precisely the reason why I cook. I find it relaxing too, and a great gift that I, at this point in my life, have the stability to share the food I cook with friends, with those in need and to teach our kids to love the world through food too. What a wonderful gift that is. And a delicious looking salad. As always.

  19. Beautifully written, Lynda. I dare say you’ve perfectly encapsulated why many of us don’t just cook, but love to do so. Groovy salad too!

  20. A wonderful combination of ingredients! This is a perfect summer salad.



  21. Lynda, your post is just lovely, and very inspiring to me, too. Thank you for your wonderful recipes and thoughtful words!

  22. This is fantastic! What a great post I am so glad you did this.

  23. Pingback: Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad | TasteFood