Salad days No pallid salads here Low-Fat Ways to Cook Salads and Side Dishes (Oxmoor House, $18.95, 0848722108) is bursting with vibrant veggies, fresh fruit, and good-for-you grains, all offering the bounty of nature's nifty nutrients, and all offered in the foolproof, step-by-step recipes, and sound advice on selection, storage, and preparation we've come to expect from the reliable folks at Oxmoor House. Though the basic ingredients are low in fat, they're high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and sky-high in flavor. Salads from the garden are especially flavorful this time of year and their fresh tastes pair perfectly with goodies from the grill. Combine a Spinach Salad with shavings of Asiago Cheese and garlic, herb croutons, or Roasted Red Pepper and Asparagus Salad with a lean, sizzled steak and you've got a super supper. Rice, barley, bulgur, and pasta feature in savory salads such as a tangy combo of Barley and Black Beans or Cold Couscous and Cucumbers with yogurt dressing. New ideas for main dish salads, Lobster and Mango, Shrimp and Orzo, and the tried and true Grilled Chicken Caesar and Salade Nicoise, clamor for star billing as one-dish wonders. Fruit, varied and versatile, can serve in salads and sides or as appetizers and desserts Peppered Pears with Jarlsberg can start a meal or slip to the side, Cinnamon-Crusted Baked Apples can start as a side, finish as a dessert, or show up as a warming winter breakfast treat. Low-fat versions of classic dressings, innovative vinaigrettes, and satisfying salsas wind up this welcome tribute to plentiful produce and healthy eating.

Sybil Pratt is an avid cook.

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