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Eat Well By Eating Better

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 The warm weather last week has really had me longing for fresh herbs from the farmers market.  Walking down the aisles dotted with specs of greens, reds and purples, each plant carefully tended to as if they were prize roses.  Have you ever tasted fresh basil?  I’m sure we would all agree there is nothing like the real thing, but we will just have to wait a few more months.  

I have no Idea how I ever survived the winter without Spice Merchants on Wealthy St.  I have used dried spices in my recipes before but there really is a difference in the quality of spice you get here.  They make a special effort to use only the highest quality spices and to my surprise for not much more money than the grocery store spices.  The thing I like most is you can purchase your spices by the ounce so its ok to try out that chana masala or chicken paprikash recipe you have been dying to try out.  I will never buy grocery store spices again.
All those rows of spices and teas can be intimidating, but Bill Galligan the stores manager, was very helpful in assisting customers find the perfect spice for their needs as well as introduce them to some they might not have tried.  Who knew chocolate tasted so good with cayenne.  You really have to try it!  
For those who want to explore exotic spices and really have no idea where to start, Spice Merchants has made it easy for us by offering spice blends.  If that is not easy enough they printed recipe suggestion right on the label.  Many spices are blended right in the store and if you have an old family favorite that you have not been able to find, Spice Merchants will duplicate that spice for you too.
As I scanned the shelves I noticed products from other local producers.  On Friday you can get fresh bread from Salt of the Earth.  This collaboration is not only great on a level of freshness but when local companies support each other they are keeping our food dollars in our community.  This little store did not seem to be effected by the recession at all.  During the hour I was in the store, there was a steady stream of customers purchasing spices, tea bread, and gifts.  Galligan said ”more people are spending time cooking at home these days “, this is the perfect place to spice up an old recipe or take a culinary trip to an exotic destination and not spend a lot of money.
This is one recipe Bill shared with me.  Try it, you will love it!
Cherry Tomatoes with Herbs De Province
In a lg. Saute pan over medium heat, warm 2 – 3 tbsp. Olive oil
Sprinkle in ½ tsp. granulated garlic stir and continue warming
Using your fingertips to grind, add 1 to 2 tbsp herbs de province 
Continue warming until quite warm but not hot
Gently add 2 pts. Cherry or grape tomatoes
Using a wooden spoon gently turn tomatoes to coat with herb/oil mix
Continue to heat gently stirring occasionally until tomatoes are warmed through and slightly softened.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Try it with potatoes and carrots in the oven at 375 until vegetables are soft.

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