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
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