This month's holiday soirées and festive outings mean less healthy cooking and more eating out. Want to indulge in some comfort food, but without all the calories? A bevy of Miami restaurants are cooking up healthful spins on the seasonal dishes we can't resist.
The only thing more comforting than soup—for Miami’s sultry weather—is cold soup. At NIU Kitchen, chef Demetrio Lomas proffers an inspired take on the traditional Spanish gazpacho and a wholesome alternative to the creamy American rendition. Light and zesty tomato broth is poured over a dollop of Dijon mustard ice cream and Manchego and basil gel. 134 N.E. Second Ave., Miami, 786-542-5070
While Michael Pirolo’s rustic Italian eatery Macchialina is known for its impeccable pasta and risotto, neither will help you be good this holiday season. Instead, reach for the octopus; the tantalizing tentacle is poached with caramelized shallots and thyme before it’s seared and tossed with concentrated tomatoes. Served on a bed of potato crema, the dish fulfills your evening carb quota without overdoing it. 820 Alton Road, Miami Beach, 305-534-2124
Stone crab is Miami’s quintessential salubrious comfort food—for seven months out of the year anyway— and at Michael Schwartz’s ode to fine dining, Cypress Room, chef de cuisine Roel Alcudia trades meat for crustacean in his roulade appetizer fit for the Magic City. Six large claws are mixed and rolled with shallots, chives, celery, apples, and cucumbers; then the roulade is served with kumquats, shaved vegetables, and edible flowers. It’s like eating a serving of veggies, but with a bit of decadence. 3620 N.E. Second Ave., Miami, 305-520-5197
There are plenty of ways to get a dose of nourishment at Makoto Okuwa’s Bal Harbour Japanese outpost, even putting his sushi menu aside (though we're not against going that route). You could start with some warm edamame or chicken noodle ramen, but don't fill up before you get the whole-roasted branzino with wasabi chimichurri, grilled lemons, and shiso-leaf chiffonade; this is Makoto’s delectable take on traditional comfort food. 9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, 305-864-8600
Chances are you turned your head away when your parents served you Brussel sprouts as a child, but now? You can't get enough. And while there’s no lack of the trendy vegetable on menus around town, most variations are laden with bacon, a fried egg, or some other fatty accompaniment. At Proof, the appetizing greens are shredded and tossed with Gorgonzola, pecans, dried cranberries, and apple cider vinaigrette for some gusto. 3328 N. Miami Ave., Miami, 786-536-9562
PHOTOGRAPHY VIA NIU KITCHEN; FACEBOOK.COM/MACCHIALINA; CYPRESS ROOM; MAKOTO; CARLA TORRES (PROOF)