Lest you think my family and I survive on berries and chocolate alone, I thought it was time to share an actual meal with you hungry readers.  Sure I know “people” who might on occasion settle in over a pile of brownies and call it dinner, but really, it is time to talk about real food, with protein and vegetables included.  This is the kind of food we should eat most of the time to make the indulgences of jam-piled pancakes and syrup-coated ice cream well deserved.

In truth, most of our summer meals resemble this one.   We have some lean grilled meat, seasoned up to our whim.  One the side is a pile of some kind of beautiful warm season veggie.  There may be some focaccia bread or rice, but more and more I find that we do not miss the starch when we leave it out.  In its place, I make a double portion of vegetables.  Yes, even the kids do not seem to notice this omission (I just make sure they get their piles of pasta on another night during the week).

Armenian Lamb Kebabs are very simple to prepare, yet just different enough to pass for something special if need arises.  They are perfectly seasoned to compliment the lamb without overpowering it. The Greek Salad is a fabulous side to the lamb, but it could be paired with any number of other meats.

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Some dishes seem to create themselves.  The ingredients radiate with pure excitement when they enter into each others’ proximity.  This was the case when the loads of astonishingly fragrant strawberries pushed into the log of chevre in the fridge the other night. They called to me in their sweet seductive voices to please toss them with fresh spinach and roasted almonds, I was powerless to resist. Luckily, this force is pure good.  This dish is  full of vibrant seasonal nutritional powerhouses, so the guilt factor is nearly nil.

While strawberries are often restricted to  dessert or breakfast dishes, they make an excellent salad.  Feel free to adapt this at will.  The spinach can be replaced with arugula or butter lettuce, the chevre with feta, and the almonds with walnuts or pinenuts, but do not leave out the STRAWBERRIES!  They are too good right now to miss.

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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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