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A Moment With . . . Melia Marden

  • October 17th, 2013 | Uncategorized

    Since opening in the storefront of the Shinola shop, just below our office, The Smile Newsstand has become a daily stop for many of our staff, brewing our morning coffee, providing delicious pastries for an afternoon pick-me-up, and occasionally serving as a meeting space when our conference rooms are full. We spoke with The Smile’s executive chef, Melia Marden, about the new venture.

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    Melia at The Smile Newsstand at 177 Franklin St.

    As fans of The Smile and The Smile To Go, we were glad to see the Newsstand open just downstairs from our Tribeca office. Were you always interested in opening a coffee shop?
    Coffee has always been an important part of The Smile — the original location started as more of a coffee shop with food and slowly grew into a full restaurant with coffee. I like that the Newsstand feels like a really classic coffee spot. There’s something so comforting about a friendly, familiar place to start your morning before work that helps ease you into the day.

    Has cooking been a lifelong passion, or something you got into later?
    My mom is a really amazing cook so food was always a big part of my life growing up, but I never thought I would end up cooking professionally. As I was figuring out what I really wanted to do with my life I realized that cooking is something I genuinely enjoy, so that became my focus.

    You’re a born-and-raised New Yorker. What were some of your favorite haunts growing up?
    Because I grew up downtown I always think of Central Park as glamorous and exotic. Every few weeks I’d like to walk through the park and poke around all the fancy uptown apartment buildings. As for restaurants, Mogador in the East Village is still one of my favorite places. It was one of the first places I would go out with friends that wasn’t a diner.

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    You spent many childhood summers on the Greek island of Hydra, where you developed a taste for the local cuisine. Is there a particular dish you first fell in love with?
    I love the classic Greek salad, a simple combination of ripe tomatoes, cucumber, olives, capers and red onion. I’ve recreated it at The Smile but it still tastes a little better when you’re eating it outside in Hydra.

    At a time when many new restaurants were focusing on American comfort food, you chose to go with Mediterranean cuisine for The Smile. How did you approach the menu?
    I wanted something that you could eat again and again but that felt home cooked. I try to keep things clean and light — not too weighed down with lots of ingredients.

    Cooking for just one or two in a tiny New York apartment can be tricky and time-consuming (and then there’s always the clean up) so we often find ourselves opting for takeout. Do you have any tips to make day-to-day cooking more manageable?
    I do a lot of quick, pan-seared dishes for dinner since I don’t usually have time to cook anything in the oven at home. Lately I’ve been cooking pounded boneless skinless chicken breast rubbed with dry herbs. Seared in the pan and then finished with lemon. I cook more than I need and then the next day turn it into a salad so you get two meals out of it . . . just make sure to always have lettuce, avocados, and some good quality vinegar on hand.

    Could you share a favorite, simple fall recipe?

    Rose Colored Apple Sauce (makes 2 1/2 cups)

    Ingredients:
    - 3 pounds firm, mixed apples (about 4-6), such as Empire, Macoun, with some pink or red skin
    - 1 Anjou or Bartlett pear, peeled and roughly chopped
    - 1 quince, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
    - 1/4 cup water
    - 1 tablespoon lemon juice (from about 1/2 a lemon)
    - 1 tablespoon honey
    - 1 cinnamon stick

    1. Peel half of the apples, leaving the skin on the ones with pink or red skin. Core all the apples and chop into about 1-inch pieces.
    2. Combine the apples, pear, quince, water, lemon juice, honey, and cinnamon stick in a deep pot over medium heat.
    3. Cook until everything is thick and broken down, about 40 minutes. Stir often, breaking down the fruit by pressing on it and mashing with a spoon.
    4. You can serve it straight from the stove with seared or roasted meat or cool completely and refrigerate in a clean, sealable container.

    Many thanks to Melia! You can visit the Newsstand at 177 Franklin Street between Hudson and Greenwich, and check out more recipes in her cookbook, Modern Mediterranean.

    - Photos by Nick Steever

    This entry was posted on Thursday, October 17th, 2013 at 1:47 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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