Spring Into Herbs, No Green Thumb Required

Anyone can have a do-it-yourself herb garden. Fresh-picked herbs enliven foods with zesty flavors and brilliant shades of green. They’re used more for enhancing taste and pungent aroma than physical substance. Growing an herb garden requires some light, soil, water and pruning. Ongoing care is minimal—no green thumb required. Herbs can grow in partial shade and containers so they can flourish just about anywhere.

“I love having pots of herbs on my patio,” says gardener Christine Gepp. “Maybe it’s not a perfect garden, but they are perfectly delicious.” From volunteer work as Edina Garden Council president and board member of the Minnesota Herb Society, Gepp knows her herbs. “To me, they are good friends.”

Every spring, Gepp plants an assortment of herbs in window boxes and places them around her gazebo. Come summer, a harvest of fresh herbs is within easy reach. Savory fragrance permeates her backyard. Lemon verbena, curly parsley and three kinds of basil (lemon, Thai-licorice, and large-leaf) are some of her favorites.

Growing herbs is a snap. “EGC has lots of plants in the spring—lots and lots of herbs,” says Gepp. “I always buy my plants there.” The EGC’s annual plant sale showcases herbs ideal for the Minnesota gardener. Club members are on hand to share information about plant selection, growing, maintenance and pretty much anything else an aspiring urban herb farmer would want to know. Avid gardeners are eager to share their knowledge. It’s a way of passing on a horticultural legacy. Herb growing is one way to “sow the seeds of a greener Edina.”

Check the Edina Garden Council website for this year’s plant sale dates.

Christine Gepp’s Herb Rubbed chicken:
April is tough for gardeners. Little grows outdoors and the welcome greens of spring can’t surface soon enough. Head to the kitchen cupboard for dried herbs this time of year. Dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh and can work well (or even better) in some recipes. Gepp advises to always use dried for her herb rub. This simple recipe comes together fast, with delicious results. “All those onions steam into a nice mixture of soft onions with herbs in them,” says Gepp.

Rosemary, dried
Thyme, dried
Salt (table or sea)
Olive oil
Chicken, frozen bagged
Onions, sliced

With a mortar and pestle break down rosemary, thyme and salt into a paste. Blend in panko. Use a ratio of one part panko and one part dried herbs. Add a splash of olive oil. Set aside. Place a bed of sliced onions on the bottom of a lightly greased casserole pan. Pat herb mixture on top of chicken. Place rubbed chicken on onions. Cover dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then remove from oven, wrap in foil, and let sit for 15 minutes.

Books in the Kitchen

New Barnes & Noble restaurant creates communal space for foodies and bibliophiles.

It’s easy to work up an appetite while shopping at the Galleria. To recharge, head downstairs to the new location of Barnes & Noble for a snack, lunch or even dinner at Barnes & Noble Kitchen. The prototype restaurant concept is a unique feature for Barnes & Noble, where you’ll discover scrumptious scratch-made food, wine, beer, coffee, and of course, a good read. These days shopping is more than a mere purchase; it’s an experience. And so Barnes & Noble’s combination of enticing cuisine with engaging merchandise seems like the perfect next chapter in the bookstore’s experiential evolution.

An expanse of windows at the back flanks an oversized great room of books, with a full-service restaurant in the front. Sleek surroundings and an upscale menu make the Barnes & Noble Kitchen an ideal respite.

The remodeled store with its contemporary dining space bears little resemblance to its 25-year-old predecessor. Top to bottom, everything gleams with the characteristic sophistication of the Galleria. The dining space, with seating for 100, is warmed by wood accents and a modern Scandinavian-style. Wall art with hidden messages (ask your server for decoder/looking glasses), an old-fashioned periodical rack, tech-friendly docking stations and amazing food harmonize a mix of old and new. Savor a sharable appetizer, dessert or pastry while perusing a new book or periodical. Yes, it’s OK to bring unpurchased books into the dining area. Or just relax with a glass of wine or local craft beer. Leisurely dining lends itself to literary immersion (and most likely the urge to make a book purchase or two).

The impeccably polished three-meal service menu is by executive chef consultant Sheamus Feeley of the Branstetter Group, a third-generation restaurateur with 25 years in the business. The high-quality, seasonally inspired food is reason alone to stop in for a visit. Steamed tender-crisp vegetables for salads and sides, Caesar salad with fresh hot croutons, finely crushed butterscotch candies on the butterscotch pot de crème, a brisket burger fried to seal in juiciness—it’s those extras that take food from ordinary to extraordinary.

Lemon-ricotta pancakes make a memorably sweet day-starter. Dessert and breakfast become one. “Take your favorite cheesecake and favorite pancake and mash together,” says Feeley. Berries and whipped cream make a festive finish.

Even the hummus plate is housemade fresh, using top-quality ingredients in a flavorful recipe that’s heavy on the tahini and light chickpeas. The velvety rich hummus dazzles with a rainbow of color from tender-crisp steamed vegetables. With shades of purple, yellow, orange and white, the dish looks as appealing as it is healthy. Lavash toast has a crisp cracker snap with a boost of fresh flavor.

While the burrata with pistou, tomato confit and toast is an appetizer, it’s substantive enough to be a meal. “People have been putting fresh mozzarella and tomatoes together for years,” says Feeley. “It’s just about how do we do it better.” The toast is masterfully seared on the outside with a moist, delicate crumb on the inside, and is the perfect platform for gooey mozzarella cheese and roasted Roma tomatoes.
Made-to-order entrées radiate freshness. The food has a healthy vibe yet a rib-coating fullness about it. Feeley’s Southern roots and passion for doing things exactly right guide every aspect of the Barnes & Noble Kitchen. “I always like to think of the restaurant as an extension of America’s living room,” says Feeley, “incredibly approachable, casual, hospitable.”

Author Event: April 22, 1:00 pm
Market-to-Table Cookbook Author
Panel Discussion
Join moderator Beth Dooley, Minnesota’s Bounty: The Farmers Market Cookbook and In Winter’s Kitchen, as she leads a panel of cookbook authors to discuss cooking with fresh, locally-sourced food.  You’ll hear from experts Tricia Cornell, Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook; Beatrice Ojakangas, Homemade and Teresa Marrone, Dishing Up Minnesota, about using your fresh farmers market finds in a variety of regional and favorite recipes.