Open Kitchen's Chef Says Fresh, Local Ingredients Can Beat the Summer Heat

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Any decent chef will tell you a meal is only as good as the ingredients used to create the dish. You can drop serious cash to score exotic elements or you can do what the ladies at Open Kitchen are doing. Instead of running scared from the heat like most of us Miamians, Sandra Stefani and Ines Chattas are facing summer head on, creating tasty dishes and homemade ice creams inspired by the lush, in-season squashes, kale and mangos you're seeing at the market this summer.

We spoke to Chattas who told us that along with a strong understanding of fresh ingredients, their ever changing menu sprouts from free form menu planning, exploration of new locales and cuisines, listening to their customers and drawing ideas from magazines and cookbooks.

Chattas also shared what's on her summer reading list: I Love New York, a new cook book that shares insights and recipes from Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, the team behind the Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park.

Instead of looking abroad for inspiration, Humm and Guidara reached into their backyards to explore more than 50 farms in the greater New York area to find the ingredients that inspired the classic dishes that are unique to their city.

"I love the book because it reminds me of the importance of locally sourcing our ingredients, supporting our community and getting creative with what grows in our backyard," Chattas says. "I also love the simplicity and approachability of the recipes, we are all about that at Open Kitchen."

Turning to their "backyards" here in Miami you will see dishes like creamless veggie soups, kale salads and homemade ice creams using seasonal fruits on Open Kitchen's menu. Their breakaway hits this summer are their homemade Nutella ice cream with a hint of espresso ice cream and mango lime tequila sorbet for $12 a pint. Sound good? Diners can stop in Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. to nab a scoop or lunch.

The spot also does a steady prepared foods business creating dinners for six, making feeding half a dozen folks a little easier. Meal options include roasted half chicken with rosemary lemon glaze and caramelized potatoes ($14 single, $70 for six), Balsamic tomato-braised short ribs with "killer mash" ($16 single, $80 for six) and orecchiette pasta with roasted garlic tomato basil sauce ($10 single, $50 for six). Other items on the menu include salad, wraps, sandwiches and soups. Call by noon to place your order and have dinner whipped up and ready for pick up that evening. You can also place an order for pints ($6) and quarts ($10) of their sauces, vinaigrettes and veggie soups.

Open Kitchen also offers cooking classes to those who want to master not only the art of cooking, but the art of entertaining without slaving away in the kitchen all night. During the semi-regular Tuesday night class, Stefani keeps the group laughing, challenging them to participate in the creation of the meal. Students learn what their food should look and sound like when it's cooking and most importantly, how to know when your food's done. The resounding theme throughout her classes is the importance of planning a menu that allows you to prep dishes in advance so you can enjoy your good company and eats.

Between their lunch service, prepared food pick up operation, cooking classes, wine dinners and private dining experiences for up to 14, Open Kitchen is guaranteed to get you excited and inspired by whatever season we're in -- even if that season involves a high of 91 degrees and 100 percent humidity. Keep up with all of Open Kitchen's events by signing up for their newsletter, following them on Facebook or giving them an old fashioned phone call.

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