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Alfredo Miccoli, A layered chef & a dash of beet juice

“A restaurateur can weave a perfect palette for a dining experience, but true chivalry is a forever patron.”

-BE Quote

 

I have been a constant at Almar restaurant, located in Dumbo, even before it was named named Almar.

But only recently had I met Alfredo Miccoli, the co partner and Executive chef.

One night, I was locked out of my apartment and my lemon of a time transformed into an evening of old story telling (a realization that I worked on a Food Network show with his GF), coastal Italian dishes, and a web of collaborations that will continue to spin…

His authenticity of self married, with his articulate Puglia- style cuisine, linger with you like an aromatic sauce.

 

 

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1. Your approach to cooking by celebrating the ingredients always wows me. Can you explain a little bit of how you’re so true to that style of cooking?

If you grow up in Puglia (Italy), it’s impossible not to stay true to the flavors. The freshest, cleanest recipes require the best ingredients and finding them here is a challenge. It becomes difficult to replicate these dishes in a different place. So, to recreate the same dishes with ingredients from New York is a challenge. I buy seafood from the best vendor and I inspect produce and meat personally, to make sure it’s at a level that I would want to eat.

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2. As an owner and executive chef to Almar in Dumbo, how do you please your American clientele while still staying true to your southern Italian cooking?

Even though I grew up in Puglia, I moved here when I was 22. I lived here for years, working as a editorial photographer before getting into the restaurant industry. During that time, I came to understand what New Yorkers want. I had a lot of dinner parties and learned that certain dishes don’t work here. Like anywhere though, fresh ingredients work for everyone and everyone can appreciate when ingredients are of high quality.

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3. Who, past or present, is your biggest inspiration?

In the past, my grandmother, Giuseppina, is probably the biggest inspiration, she came from Altamura, from the hills in Puglia. She raised her children during the War (WWII) without her husband around, with very little food available. Giuseppina never got away from using super fresh ingredients that were a testament to the flavors that come from the land and the sea. She made simple dishes that allowed each flavor to speak for itself. That’s something that I continue to practice. And, that’s where I differ with so many modern chefs. They want to add so many different ingredients and flavors. For me it’s overlooking each flavor. It’s about breaking down each ingredient, not piling them one on top of another.

And now, I think of my parents, I think of what would they say about my food. My mother, Nietta followed up with my grandmother’s cuisine, refining her dishes, and my father, Nicola loves food so much. He brought it to an extreme, by requesting certain things for a meal and then giving my mother feedback. Once on vacation in Corfu (Greece), he had a few ‘bad’ meals at the resorts, then he decided to walk for an hour along the cliffs and found this house run by an older couple. They cooked on charcoal, over the ground, a chicken and a whole fish (Orata) from their farm and beachfront. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t have had it save for my father’s stubbornness to get a decent meal.

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4. Where do you see your cooking career in the next five years?

My first step would be to have another restaurant with a better equipped kitchen with a grill because I like the rustic, basic style of cooking. Then, I love the sea, so maybe closer to fresh seafood, like somewhere out on the North Fork where access to fresh fish is easier.

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5. As you told me earlier, you used to be a travel photographer. Has that every influenced your cooking? Do you think you will ever revisit that passion again?

Traveling for commercial photo shoots reinforced my approach to cooking. When you visit the locals in an area, they cook locally and simply. Plus, their food is about sharing an experience. Once when I was shooting in Louisiana in Eunice, I found myself on a Saturday morning in a place where everyone hangs out listening to a live Zydeco band eating sausages, drinking beer and dancing together. It’s the sharing that gets me, it felt like home. As for continuing with photography, I have my iPhone and I like to use Instagram to document my life, food, loves, in a way that’s not for a client, it’s for me any my friends.

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6. When you are not cooking at Almar, and at home, what is your go-to meal that you would cook for your family and your lovely girlfriend Shelley?

My family and I like to eat raw oysters, which isn’t doesn’t involve a process other than cleaning and shucking. We love east coast oysters. Again, it’s part of my basic approach to food. Raw oysters are so fresh and natural. They aren’t altered; they taste like the sea from where they come. We always enjoy some sparkling Franciacorta with them. Also, I like to grill: seafood and vegetables whenever I can.
7. When you’re not in the kitchen, what do you do for fun?

I like tasting new wines, watching documentaries. Whenever I can I like to drive to the ocean, go to the beach as the sea is where I am most comfortable.

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Referring to the title, you must try his innovative beet juice cured fluke crostini. Manjar!


Satisfy your senses,
Amanda (follow me on Twitter!)


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Tastemakers: Beyond The Board

I wasn’t sure about spending a month in the Hamptons. I have always leaned forwards the Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard vibe. But, with my new mantra, “Good Energy-No Expectations.”  I absolutely loved it!

I grilled constantly, farm-stand hopped, pitched my rainbow umbrella on the beach with breakfast sandwiches, and wine and cheese for sunsets gazing, and took my daughter on day trips to Montauk and shelter island.

But most of all, I connected, brainstormed and set up the foundation to collaborate with innovative thinkers when the “back to the city” energy explodes after the summer season.

Two mornings I ended up at the Lululemon pop-up house, an outpost haven for the brand to curate summer dinner parties, collaborative events, and complimentary exercise classes. One day, I took a hip hop class with the fierce, Kristin Sudeikis. shaking my tush and jiving, another morning I pushed myself through multiple sets of burpies and planks during a challenging boot camp.

After we completed the final sprint around the gated community, I struck up a conversation with most idyllic family. Two loving parents who set a tone to expose their three millennial children to travel, exploration and entrepreneurialism.

Two of their children, Caroline and Jake Danehy, founded Fair Harbor Clothing, a board short company made from recycled plastic bottles.

Do I need to say anymore…

 

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How did you come up with the concept of using recycled water bottles to make clothing? Why board shorts and what’s the story behind producing them in Guatemala?

 

As a Geography major at Colgate University (’16), my brother and Co-Founder, Jake, learned about over consumption, resource and plastic waste. While finishing up his sophomore year, Jake called me on the phone during the spring of 2014 excited about an idea to start a company that was both environmentally and consumer friendly — I immediately jumped on board. After a brainstorm session and a lot of fabric research, we found a material directly turning plastic bottles into a high performance swimsuit material. Based off our childhood summers spent in Fair Harbor, a small beach town off the coast of Long Island, we were inspired by its simple, summer life. There are no cars, clean beaches, and salt water fills the air. Within a few weeks, Fair Harbor was born.

 

When we were looking at different factories to work with, the language barrier and time difference made it hard to communicate with factories overseas, so we hired a consultant based out of New York City, Diane Walker. She has a factory in Guatemala that she frequently works with so it was a perfect fit! We are proud of our product – especially the fact that each boardshort directly recycles 11 plastic bottles, AND people can’t even tell!

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You and your brother are fairly young, innovative, entrepreneurs. Does this run in the family?

 

Jake and I have always been very passionate about the environment and I have loved fashion since I was a little girl; we are extremely proud of the lifestyle brand that we have created combining these two fields. This passion has fueled us to grow Fair Harbor, and help people see consumption differently: that waste can be turned into stylish, durable products that people don’t even know are plastic. Although we are the only “entrepreneurs” in our family, we were taught as little kids to be the change we want to see in the world – something we are trying to accomplish with Fair Harbor. One of my favorite sayings is: “you miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take”, and we keep that in the back of our minds every day.

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Who would you say is your biggest inspiration?

 

One of our closest mentors is Durand Guion, the men’s fashion director at Macy’s. I met him a few years ago at Men’s Fashion Week and since then I have looked up to him as my inspiration. He is the kindest man, and truly loves the work that he does. It is extremely refreshing to hear him talk about business as an activity of pleasure and excitement, instead of a dreadful obligation in effort to make ends meet.

 

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Where do you see this company in the next five years?

 

Right now we are creating a third line and speaking with a designer to add to our team — taking Fair Harbor to the next level. We are looking to grow our brand and expand into women’s too!

 

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What are your passions and other interests when you’re not working on Fair Harbor Clothing?

 

I just finished my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program this past weekend! It has definitely been a balancing-act this summer, but I’ve enjoyed every second of it. I also love food and cooking – especially with all the delicious, fresh produce that is in season right now. When I’m not working on Fair Harbor with Jake I’m either in the yoga studio or the kitchen!

 


Satisfy your senses,
Amanda (follow me on Twitter!)


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Classic Fish and Chips with Homemade Punchy Tartar Sauce

This recipe/video is the third of my Iceland Inspired dishes Series. I am excited to share this tasty recipe because it is perfect for the summer season of easy entertaining.

I just had this conversation with my husband over an early bite before an evening flight at a seafood bar… he said “you always order fish and chips when it’s on the menu and often are disappointed.”

Well, maybe that is the case because often the portions of batter to fish are way off with to much batter and not a lot of fish which causes OR aka “order regret.”

This recipe that I have whipped up will not disappoint. The tempura batter is just enough to satisfy the crispy factor but main attraction is the moist fish.

And never say never, I used to say tartar sauce is one of the few things I dislike. And then I started making my own. It is savory more than the sweet and perfect to dip most anything in.

And salt and vinegar chips might be my favorite salty vice. If I had to have one chip on a long road trip–hands down I would be packing salt and vinegar chips. But these are effortless to make and round the whole dish together.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 pound of cod (3-4 oz. pieces of fish), or a white flaky but firm fish

Vegetable oil, for frying

Batter:

1 cup of All purpose flour

1 teaspoon of cornstarch

1 1/2 seltzer

A pinch of kosher salt

A pinch a smoked paprika

Tartar sauce:

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1/2 cup Capers

1/2 cup Cornichons

1 tbsp dijon Mustard

1/4 cup organic Mayo

Hot sauce, a few dashes

Black finishing salt, optional

A lemon, cut in big chunks

Simple Salt and Vinegar chips:

http://thebourneexplorer.com/2014/12/06/simple-salt-vinegar-chips/

 

NOTE: If you have extra tartar sauce,  mix it into your left over chicken or fish and make a salad for sandwiches. 

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METHOD:

In a large dutch oven or heavy bottom pot, heat oil to 365 degrees. Season the pieces of fish with salt and pepper, on both sides.

In a small bowl combine mayo, dijon mustard, cornichons, paprika, lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper, and a few dashes of hot sauce.

In a separate bowl, combine the all purpose flour, corn starch, remaining paprika, kosher salt, pepper, and pour in seltzer water.

Carefully place the fish into the oil for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. With a spider or a slotted spatula, remove fish and season with black salt.

On a big platter, place the pieces of fish, the chips, a bowl of tartar sauce and chunks of fresh lemon. And serve!

 

Watch this video to see the full process!

 

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A perfect recipe for Memorial Day Weekend. 😉


Satisfy your senses,
Amanda (follow me on Twitter!)


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Mushroom and Barley Arancini

Barley is one of my favorite grains.  I love the wholesome texture and the nuttiness… and I feel healthy just eating it. I spotted mushrooms and barley on the menu a few times in Iceland and I imagined recreating arancini, traditional Italian rice balls with this barley and mushroom combination.

Dill is a popular herb in the Icelandic cuisine so I thought it would add brightness and balance to the decadence of the arancini. I’ve never made arancini with brie, but when I was testing the recipe the week before, I tried it, and it added such a creamy component to this dish. This dish is perfect for a passed hors d’oevre, a make ahead dinner with a side salad, or even just a tasty snack!

 

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Ingredients:

1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

1 cup of mixed wild mushrooms, finely chopped (I used gemini and shiitakes)

1 cup of cooked barley

1/4 cup of fresh dill and parsley, finely chopped

1 organic egg

1/4 cup of Fontina, shredded

1/4 cup of Brie, 1/4 inch cubes

1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated

1 cup of Panko

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper for seasoning

Vegetable oil for frying

Finishing salt, optional

 

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Method:

-In a medium pan, heat oil and add mushrooms

-Sauté for 5-7 min., season with salt or pepper and set aside

-In a large bowl, combine barley, herbs, mushrooms, egg, and season with salt and pepper

-Fold in cheeses

-Form golf size balls of the rice mixture and place on a parchment paper lined sheet tray

-While forming the balls, heat 3 inches of vegetable oil in a large pot or  dutch oven to 365 degrees

-Roll each ball into the Panko

-Carefully drop three to four Arancini in the oil for a few minutes or until golden brown

-Remove with a spider or mesh spatula on a paper towel lined plate

-Immediately season with finishing salt or kosher salt

-Repeat in batches

Serve Immediately…Mangia

Click here to see the video!

 

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Satisfy your senses,
Amanda (follow me on Twitter!)


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Golden Door: A wholesome food line…Heartfelt cause

Golden Door Spa Food line

Golden Door balances its luxury and zen aura making it one of the most elite spa sanctuaries in the world, focused on the trifecta of mind, body, spirit, located in southern California amongst some other wellness heavy hitters. I was introduced to their food line curated by the Executive chef, Greg Frey Jr. and I decided to whip up a meal based around the rice medley.

It is fun for me to try different products especially when I don’t often use “pre-packaged” mixtures. Chef Frey is dedicated to sourcing the finest ingredients…and conveniently combining textures and flavors so you, the home cook can easily prepare a nutritious meal.

Scallops and rice medley rice

“My culinary background has been focused on providing a healthy mindful presentation and building a strong food sourcing base with relationships with local farmers, fisherman and ranches. The focus is on sustenance rather than deprivation.” says Chef Greg Frey Jr.

 

The rice medley I used was the Zazen Rice with Shiitake Mushrooms and silvered almonds. I cooked the rice as directed on the packet with organic broth. I seasoned it with salt and pepper, folded in some vegetables and added some brightness with the fresh lime juice and cilantro.  I topped the rice with curry crusted scallops and a quick pickling of red onion. The earthiness of the mushrooms and almonds in the rice medley married well with the pop from the citrus and herbs… and of course the tang of the vinegar from the pickled onions (I love all things pickled).

Easy healthy recipes

The best news I haven’t even mentioned yet is that all the profits from the Golden Door artisan food line go to charitable causes which makes purchasing the Golden Door products extremely rewarding and a “Feel Good”–all around. Bon Appetite!

 

RECIPE: Curry crusted Wild Scallops with Cantor and Lime Zazen Rice Medley

 

Curry crusted scallops with Rice medley

Ingredients:

1 packet of Zazen Rice Medley
2 cups of organic low sodium broth
1/2 colored bell pepper, thin 1/2 inch strips
1/2 pound of wild fresh scallops
2 tablespoons of curry powder
Juice of 1 lime
1 jalapeno, small chop

For Pickling:
small red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup of white vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon, of peppercorns

small bunch of cilantro leaves
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, for seasoning

 

Method:

In a pot, bring two cups of broth to a simmer and add the rice medley. Cook as directed on package. Take off heat, season for taste and fold in the peppers, lime juice, and cilantro.

While rice is cooking, in a small pot bring white vinegar to a boil with bay leaf and peppercorns, and a pinch of salt.  Lower to a simmer, add onions and let cook for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit in the vinegar mixture for another 7-10 minutes. Drain the onions from the liquid and set aside.

Dry scallops with a paper towel and season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Dust them with curry powder on both sides. Heat a large skillet, make sure it is hot and add oil. Cook scallops 1-2 minutes on each side without moving the scallops so you get some nice charred color.

To plate, add rice mixture, top with scallops and finish with pickled onions and cilantro leaves.

Packing party

I served this dish at a packing party for our lunch break and I received raved reviews. Order your Golden Door products and please share your creative dishes you whip up in your kitchens!

Healthy Scallops dish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Satisfy your senses,
Amanda (follow me on Twitter!)


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