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In early summer, when much of the fresh produce (think summer squash, melons, and lettuces) is water-heavy, it's a challenge to build a grain salad that holds up well enough to make ahead. Smart choices with your components make the difference between sad sogginess and a vibrant, flavor-packed salad.

Think of both texture and taste: English cucumbers and fresh blueberries will maintain their crunch and pop in a make-ahead salad. A quick soak in water keeps raw onion crisp but tames the pungency so it won't dominate flavors over time.

Cracked bulgur wheat is incredibly easy to prepare and boasts a satisfying chew. It also absorbs flavor well, which brings us to the all-important dressing: Pureeing herbs right into the vinaigrette keeps the delicate leaves from wilting and infuses bright, fresh taste into the grains and throughout the salad, making it even better as it sits.

Keith's Recipe Breakdown

You can make this fresh, summery picnic dish up to two days ahead. If you'd like a fresh herb garnish (as shown in the top picture), pack the leaves separately, and sprinkle onto the salad shortly before serving.

Follow These Steps:

• Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan.

• Combine the boiling water and bulgur in a mixing bowl. Let mixture stand, covered, 25 minutes or until all water is absorbed.

• Place the mint, oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a blender; process until pureed.

• Use a fork to fluff the bulgur. Add the dressing, cucumber, blueberries, onion, and feta to the grains; toss to combine.

Sub basil for the mint, halved cherry tomatoes for the cucumber, fresh corn kernels for the blueberries, and ¼ cup toasted pine nuts for the feta. Sprinkle with 2 cooked and crumbled bacon slices.

SERVES 8 (serving size: ¾ cup)CALORIES 212; FAT 13.4g (sat 1.9g, mono 7.9g, poly 2.7g); PROTEIN 5g; CARB 21g; FIBER 4g; CHOL 2mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 205mg; CALC 17mg

For more cooking tips and kitchen science secrets, check out James Beard Award-Winning MAD DELICIOUS: The Science of Making Healthy Food Taste Amazing!