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Our garden harvest is in a bit of a lull these days.  The profusion of kale and broccoli that feed us through the winter is done.  While artichokes are beginning to  grace our table, the peas and fresh greens of spring have not quite matured.  The herbs however, jubilant in the rain-chasing sun, are thriving!  We have piles of oregano, mint, parsley, and chives.  I love adding combinations of them to just about any dish.

Lentil Bulgur Salad with Feta and Mint  is similar to a tabouli, though heartier.  The lentils and bulgur combine to form a complete protein.  It is incredibly nourishing and satisfying.  The mint, parsley, and lemon add bright flavors and beautiful color.  The feta contributes a creamy, tangy element.  In summertime, I would make this dish with fresh tomatoes.  In springtime, why ruin a perfectly seasonal salad with mediocre tomatoes?  I used up some dried tomatoes from last summer, but you could easily skip them altogether as well.  Make this dish ahead for a nice light dinner or bring it along to a picnic or potluck.  It travels well.

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One winter while living in Eugene, Oregon, my roommates and I joined a local farm’s CSA (community-supported agriculture) for the winter.  We wanted to support a family that was growing organic vegetables through the winter in the soggy Northwest.  As it turned out, that winter was extremely harsh.  Most above ground crops froze.  Our weekly box from the farm consisted of only vegetables that could be stored in the cellar or the ground.

There was an abundance of potatoes, parsnips, burdock root, sunchokes, and beets.  There really was not much else aside from a scant amount of winter squashes that were harvested in the late fall.  Since we had spent the bulk of our food budget for the season on our CSA share, we were fully committed to making our meals from the food on hand.  It was an education.  We ate the roots boiled, pureed, and roasted with just about any flavor combinations you can imagine.  Still as the months wore on, our creativity began to wane.  It has taken me years to regain my affection for beets.  I am still working on burdock…

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Santa gave me my first lesson in eating with the season.  Each year, nestled deep in the toe of my gargantuan knit stocking, I would find an orange.  First I would be disappointed- all that valuable stocking space used up by something destined for the communal fruit basket!  Then I would be perplexed.  Why an orange?  Sure, I liked oranges, but they were nowhere near my favorite.  Why not a juicy peach?  Strawberries?  Papaya?  Sweet watermelon?  OK, I understand why Santa couldn’t put a watermelon in my stocking.  Still, it never occurred to me that he was simply offering the sweetest treat that winter had to offer.  Though we had an orange tree in our backyard, it had not fully dawned on me that oranges are a winter fruit.   Vibrant, sweet, and juicy citrus is ripe for the offering right at the time when Santa swings through town.

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I know it is too early in the winter to feel this way and I am going to suffer when the wet and cold months roll on, but I have spring fever.  We had a couple of warmish days around here and all I can think about is firing up the grill and bringing dinner outside.  Alas, this cannot be done as it is still dark long before dinnertime and truly not all that warm.  A girl can dream though, can’t she?  We did manage to grill up some chicken burgers before the sun set and then rush inside to warm our bones while eating the burgers with a side of Chipotle Black Bean and Butternut Squash Salad.

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