Healthy Cooking in Coconut Grove
Miami is a big, diverse, city with so much to do and eat. Where to go? What to eat? Miami, like many places in the world strives to find locally grown, seasonal ingredients and a knowledgeable chef to cook and explain the healthy properties of these foods. A recent focus on healthy eating led me to discover The Naked Bite.
Nestled in Coconut Grove or "the Grove" as locals would call it, is personal chef and caterer, Amber Antonelli of "The Naked Bite". Amber is a California native who moved to the Grove in 2011. She has been cooking professionally for years honing her skills in restaurants from Arizona to California to Venezuela and working as a personal chef for top sports figures and celebrities. A fun fact is that in 2005 she created Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle Ice Cream that became a flavor for the Haagen Dazs Reserve line.
Amber is not a vegetarian per se but limits dairy, meat etc. She believes healthy eating is a composition of all food groups and therefore does not feel the need to limit oneself with a strict diet. Locally sourced, seasonal food is her standby, purchasing most of her ingredients from nearby farms.
A couple weeks ago, Amber held one of her cooking classes in her home in "The Grove" for about 8-12 of us. The classes are BYOB, a nice touch to the delightful evening vegetarian menu of Shaved Root Veggie Salad with Hazelnuts, Shirred Farm Egg with Garlic Chive Pistou, Braised Swiss Chard with tomatoes and Balsamic, Tomato and Graffiti Eggplant Gratin with Pecorino Cheese and olive oil and Raw Carrot Cake Truffles.
Amber holds her classes either as a demo or hands on, whichever you prefer. We opted to watch her prepare the dishes asking oodles of questions along the way and sipping the wine we brought with us too.
Amber started with the "Shaved Root Vegetable Salad with Hazelnuts". Using a mandolin, which Amber highly recommends along with a special wire mesh glove so that you do not slice your hand along the way, she sliced some watermelon radishes, carrots and fennel bulbs. Amber then mixed olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, honey from her families farm in Petaluma, California, parsley, salt and pepper. She then poured this over the shaved vegetables and then sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts.
While the salad was marinating a bit, Amber started preparing the "Heirloom Tomato and Eggplant Gratin," using pecorino cheese because it is easier to digest. All the while talking about the benefits of using coconut oil to sauté vegetables since it is natures richest source of good cholesterol; Teena's Pride as a source for locally grown vegetables especially the heirloom tomatoes that we were eating; and keeping the leftover odds and ends from our remaining vegetables to make our own vegetable broth!
Sipping our wine still.... we were also drinking Amber's homemade "herb water" stored in glass bottles around the table. What a refreshing change to typical tap water. In our case, we were drinking Rosemary infused water. Yum! We learned that by using four cups of filtered water boiled and then poured over a few springs of Rosemary or other herb of choice you too could serve refreshing drinking water to your guests.
While our Gratin was baking, we moved onto preparing the "Shirred Farm Egg with Scallion Pistou". Amber started by cleaning the leeks, very carefully removing any sand from them and then sautéing them with sherry and spices. Next, she placed this mixture in individual ramekins and then carefully broke an egg into each one. Eggs, we learn, are also a super important ingredient to keep natural. "Pasture raised" are the only ones Amber uses. These eggs are more expensive but worth it for their nutritional value and for the life of the chicken.
Gratin was in the oven and so were the eggs. So we were able to move on to preparing the "Sautéed Chard and Tomatoes with Toasted Walnuts " and finally for dessert, "Raw Carrot Cake Truffles" (See Amber’s recipe below). These truffles are a delicious and nutritious dessert. Stored in the fridge or freezer, while on the run, pop one of these goodies in your mouth for an instant snack as a high-energy treat as well.
Still sipping our wine and herb infused water, we had a chance to sit down to our vegetarian feast! We learned so much, made new friends, and had lively conversation about food and nearby events.
Check www.thenakedbite.com for upcoming information about private parties, personal chef services, cooking parties and classes. And some more amazing recipes!
Raw Carrot Cake Truffles
2 medium carrots
11/4 cups dried shredded coconut (divided)
1 inch fresh Ginger, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup packed pitted dates
3/4 cups walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt
Makes about 20 medium balls
Finely grate carrots. Transfer carrots to a bowl and fit food processor with an "S" blade. Add Ginger and pulse until broken down. Add 3/4 cup coconut, coconut oil, dates, nuts, and pulse until well blended.
Add raisins, spices, salt and carrot mixture. Pulse again until it becomes a ball. Roll the dough into small balls in your hands.
Roll in chopped nuts or raw cocoa powder instead of coconut
Add few tablespoons of cocoa powder if you want chocolate flavor
Store in fridge for a week or in freezer up to a month and eat as high-energy treat.