Wednesday, December 28, 2011


By: Chef Cristian Feher

It's December 28th, 2011. Chunky snow flurries fall in all directions outside the window. It’s the first snowfall of an unusually warm winter. The owner of the restaurant, a small Chinese woman wearing a puffy jacket and knitted cap finds her way to me through a very crowded dining room and greets me, “Oh, I no see you in so long! You like soya chicken?” I am flattered that she remembered me - I haven’t been back in Toronto for over two years. And at the Chicken and Noodle Restaurant nothing seems to have changed. I run my hands over the plastic disposable table cloth, and pick up the oily menu to have a look at the pictures and Chinese characters, but I don’t really need it. I know what I came here for, I knew it before I got on the plane the night before.

I order their specialty - cold soya chicken, chicken rice, and pickled radish. The lady rushes back to the kitchen and yells my order at the cooks. I can see their silhouettes behind the frosted glass wall that separates the kitchen from the dining room. They are blurs of motion. The sounds of fire, heavy woks and clanking metal instruments are soothing to my ears. Oh how I’ve missed this place.

My meal arrives and I find my heart racing. I’m nervous. I don’t know where to begin. Its been so long since I’ve had really good Asian food. The first bite confirms what I expected - nothing’s changed at the Chicken and Noodle Restaurant. The chicken is perfectly cooked - marinated in a salty brine, with white pepper and ginger before it’s steamed just until the meat becomes cooked. It’s then chilled overnight and served cold, chopped up into manageable-sized pieces with a dip of peanut oil, salt, ginger and chopped scallions. The rice is drizzled with subtle - yet incredibly delicious chicken drippings and garlic, and the pickled carrots and radish strips are crisp and perfectly sweet. I’m having one of those moments where all the problems in life recede and I am left in a warm and happy place. For the moment, all that exists is the plate in front of me. My wife is trying to tell me something, but her words can’t quite penetrate the euphoria that surrounds me.

Her words finally reach me and we begin to talk about new years resolutions. The beginning of the year finds most people looking back at the things that went wrong. The missed opportunities. The lack of responsibility. We all look at the new year to wipe the slate clean, to start again. Many focus on losing weight. Crash diets, green smoothies, HGC drops. A week of running on the treadmill, two weeks of knee pain, and back to eating Twinkies in front of the television by February. I think about all the resolutions I’ve ever had. And I wonder if I succeeded in achieving any. Were they even worth achieving in the first place?

My cold soya chicken makes me think. I ask myself what makes it good. It’s simple and healthy. The goodness comes from the skill of the cooks behind the frosted glass. They’ve done this with a thousand other chickens since I've last been back. Each chicken, slightly better than the last. The art polished and honed over time. It’s healthy, it’s good and it’s cheap.

I also look around me and see a very busy and successful restaurant. The tables are too close together, there is cheap plastic sheeting over the tables, there are no knives - just chopsticks and spoons, and the two servers are wearing winter jackets inside because every time someone opens the front doors, a draft of frigid air lets a generous helping of snow into the dining room.

But every table is full, the kitchen is churning out dishes as fast as they can, and there is a line of people waiting to come in. It’s the first place I came after flying in from Florida. People all around me are smiling over their dinners. Friends and family serve each other and share food from the middle of the tables. My kid is eating rice out of a bowl with her hands, and when I pick up my bowl to slurp out the last drop of pork bone soup, no one seems to mind.

This place just feels like home, the food is amazing, and people are happy to be here. For a chef, this is an invaluable lesson - at the heart of every successful restaurant, the food has to be perfect - you can have bad service, a bad location and ugly tables, but if the food knocks your customer’s socks off, you’ll be successful.

My resolution for 2012 - to be more Asian. Which is to say to be practical - why use a spoon, fork and knife when a couple of chopsticks will do? To eat really good, simple, healthy food, to continue to give my customers food that knocks their socks off, and to share life with friends and loved ones across an ugly dinner table more often.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How to throw a perfect holiday dinner party

The Holiday Dinner Party Guide
By: Chef Cristian Feher

It’s that time of year again where friends and family get together to celebrate the spirit of peace, good will, and giving. It can also be a time of spilled drinks, family squabbles, dry turkey and grocery store cheese trays. But I will do my best to provide you with information that will help you avoid unseemly situations, and throw a perfect get-together that everyone will enjoy.

As a personal chef I have done hundreds of dinner parties. And I’m going to share with you some do’s and dont’s.


DO - Provide an assortment of, both, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Even if you don’t drink, there may be someone who does. A small assortment of white wine, red wine, beer and a mixed drink or two, will do for most parties. Don’t forget to have bottled water, as alcohol will dehydrate your guests.

DON’T - Leave out any bottles that you don’t want to serve. After a few drinks, some guests may go rooting through your house looking for more booze. So if your inherited bottle of 200 year-old brandy that belonged to King Louis IV is off limits, be sure to keep it off limits and hide it in your closet.

DO - Remember that white wine is usually served cold, and red wine can be served warm. I remember this by thinking “Red Hot.”

DON’T - Forget to offer your guests a drink when they arrive. Especially for work functions, where some guests may not be familiar with your other guests. It will make them feel more relaxed. And having something to hold in their hands can make people feel more comfortable. Remember that binky you held onto when you were a kid? Nothing much has changed.


DO - Expect to have leftovers. Make more food than you think you will need. Feed your guests until they can’t eat any more. That’s the first sign of a good host. It tells your guests that you really want to take care of them. It doesn’t have to be expensive food - it just has to taste good and there should be lots of it. Send your guests home with leftovers.

DON’T - Foist off your dietary requirements onto your guests. It’s fine that you only eat gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free, organic, vegetarian, vegan, non-soy, non-GMO, albino asparagus that only grows on the eastern side of a mountain in the Andes. But unless your guests are your friends from Whole Foods or yoga class, you should have regular foods that other people enjoy. It’s no fun to be forced into a diet while visiting someone.

DO - Cook your turkey in a roasting bag. It’s the safest and best way to ensure that your turkey will be cooked-through, and deliciously moist - even if you over-cook it. Yes, it’s very tempting to show off with other methods of cooking your turkey, but you want to avoid the embarrassment of serving under-cooked, or dried out turkey. If you want to impress your mother-in-law, don’t tell her that you used a roasting bag.

The Extras

DON’T - Let your pets slaver on, hump, bark at, bite, scratch, or fly at your guests. I’m sure you think 200Lb Smoochy Bear is the cutest thing on Earth, but your guests might disagree. If your pet recognizes your guests as food, a toy, or a potential mate, keep them in a bedroom or take them to the pet sitter.

DO - Avoid awkward beginnings by making guests feel like royalty. Introduce new arrivals to other guests by telling them something positive about the arrival like, “This is Steve and his beautiful wife who is a marathon runner. Steve and Barbara just came back from Hawaii.” or if you can’t find anything nice to say, you can always use geography, “This is my brother Jim. He lives in St. Pete.”

You should also have music and TV on in the background, and it helps to have things for your guests to do like; hot-tubbing, dinner party guessing games, gift exchanges, interactive video gaming (XBOX Kinect is a hit at many parties), photo albums and videos made for or by the group, sushi rolling stations, pasta bars, backyard fire pits, fireworks, etc.

DON’T - Forget to enjoy your own dinner party. I recommend hiring a personal chef who will take care of all the shopping, planning, and cooking so that you have nothing left to do but enjoy the company of your friends and family who will rave about your party for weeks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Florida's New National Dish: Alligator Balls

Florida's New National Dish: Alligator Balls
By: Chef Cristian Feher

There is nothing more telling of a place and its local culture than the food. Regional foods are the culinary map of the world.

Take sushi; everyone knows that sushi is representative of Japan and its people. Pasta (although a Chinese invention) puts Italy on the map. OK, maybe that makes it a bad example. Fried chocolate bars are a Scottish regional specialty. If you’ve ever been to Trinidad and Tobago you wouldn’t go home without eating “Roti” in Trinidad, and “Crab and Dumpling” in Tobago. Every Canadian knows where to get some good Poutine (fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy). And if you should find yourself in Holland, how about “a schmoke and a pancake?”

Finally we arrive in America, jet-lagged and hungry. And although we could say that there is nothing more American than apple pie, the truth is that each state and city can seem like its own little country (some can even seem like third world countries, but we won’t go there, Detroit).

Erie, PA is known for their pepperoni balls, New Yorkers are known for their pizza, Memphis has finger-lickin’ BBQ ribs, Californians made the California sushi roll - lame, but popular, and finally we arrive in America’s pe...- third leg - Florida. And what do we have to show? The grouper sandwich? Which is fed to tourists and can occasionally contain actual grouper. Give me a break! That’s more lame than the California roll.

Due to the current scene, I’ve elected myself to be Florida’s new unofficial PR chef. We need to add some culinary razzle and dazzle to this place, and come up with a regional food we can be proudly known by. So after much deliberation I’ve come up with “Gator Balls”. It’s edgy, it’s fun, and they taste pretty good too!

If you live in Florida it’s easy to get good quality, fresh alligator meat. And if you’ve never tried it, you’re in for a treat. I like to put mine through a meat grinder for this recipe, but chopping it up into small pieces with a knife works just fine. Recipe below.

Gator Balls Recipe:

- 1 quart peanut oil for frying
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup corn meal
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup chopped or ground raw alligator meat
- 1/2 onion finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic finely diced
- 1 stalk of celery finely diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- pinch of yellow curry powder to taste
- pinch of cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

Dipping Sauce:

- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 to 2 tbsp of Tiger Sauce (tamarind sauce)
- 2 tbsp of Tequila (optional)


1. Heat oil in a deep fryer or large pot. It’s much easier with a deep fryer. Make sure it’s at least 365 degrees so that the gator balls don’t soak up too much oil while cooking.

2. In a bowl, mix the flour, egg and milk. Season with salt, pepper, curry and cayenne. Mix in the alligator meat, onion, garlic and celery.

3. Drop small lumps of batter using a spoon into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

4. In another bowl you will mix the dipping sauce by combining the mayo, ketchup, tiger sauce and tequila. Serve dipping sauce on the side of the gator balls. Enjoy!

Friday, November 18, 2011

How to choose the best olive oil

How to choose the best olive oil
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Choosing the right olive oil can be a daunting task. Going to the olive oil section at your local grocery store can seem like shoe shopping at the sporting goods store - an entire wall of goods, all similar looking, and all advertised to be the best. But unlike shoes, you can't usually try out the olive oils before you buy them. And even if you could, what should you look for?

In this article I will provide you with a crash course on olive oil so you can reign supreme in the salad arena, and be an envied oil know-it-all at your next dinner party.

A marketing mistake
Almost all olive oil you find nowadays come in clear plastic or glass bottles. The manufacturers have figured out that the average consumer is more likely to buy their bottle if they can see the product. But those beautiful amber and green lipids can be deceiving.

Let's go back to chemistry class for a moment - assuming that you took chemistry (if you didn't, just smile and nod) - olive oil is liquid vegetable fat from olives. A much closer look would reveal chains of fatty acids, and an even closer look would reveal chains of carbon and hydrogen mollecules.

The problem is, that unlike water, these fat chains break up into smaller chains in the presence of oxygen - they oxidize. So when olive oil (or any oil) is exposed to oxygen, it begins to go bad and eventually becomes rancid.

Another problem is that light can also break it down. So as olive oil sits in a clear bottle, it's slowly breaking going bad. Depending on how long it's been sitting under the lights of the store, it could be bad before you buy it. And even if it's just a little rancid, once you open it and let oxygen into the bottle, the process of decomposition speeds up.

So, even though olive oil looks really nice, you should only buy it in a tin container so light has not broken it down, and unless you use an insane amount of olive oil every day and can go through a large tin quickly, you should buy small tins to lessen the amount of time the oil would have to break down in the presence of oxygen.

How can I tell if olive oil has gone bad
I once went into a fine food store (I won't mention which one) where a guy - let's call him Johnny - was demonstrating a variety of fine olive oils to customers at the store. He soaked a crouton in fine olive oil and passed it to a customer who bit into it and said, "Ooh, it's like, spicy!" To which he replied, "Yes, that little kick is what makes this oil special."

I fixed him with an crooked eye and waved my index finger at him. Don't do what Johnny-don't does. If your olive oil has any bitterness or spicy taste, it's going bad or has gone bad - it's rancid. Olive oil should be pleasant-tasting and have the aroma and taste of olives. It should not be spicy or bitter.

Consuming rancid oil can cause headaches, tiredness and feeling "flushed out". In order for your body to get rid of rancid fats, it has to use a lot of its mineral stores. This may leave you with a temporary deficiency in vitamins and minerals, and that can make you feel like crud after eating it. If you've ever eaten deep-fried foods that were fried in rancid oil, you know what I'm talking about. And bad olive oil can do the same.

What is the best olive oil?
Choosing the best olive oil is like choosing the best wine. And while some may profess a fine knowledge of which ones are the best, I say the right one is the one you like best. We all have different tastes. Some people like mild olive oils, others like strong, flavorful oils. I personally like strong-tasting Spanish and Greek olive oils that come in a tin.

What's the difference between virgin, and extra-virgin olive oil?
This explanation could get complicated, but to put it simply, the more virgin, the purer and higher quality oil you're getting. There are many ways of making olive oil. Some ways make it cheaper for the factory to produce the oil, but make the oil more acidic and less "good". So, the more virgin it is, the better processes were used to make it, and the better quality you're getting. It also has to do with how pure it is. Some olive oils can have other lower-quality oils added to it, and this would affect their overall "virginity". Virgin is supposed to mean that it's only oil from an olive, and no other oil.

If you want to know whether your olive oil is truly extra-virgin. Put some in a little bowl and stick it in your fridge for a couple of days. If it becomes crystalline (crystals form in it) it's a high quality extra-virgin olive oil. If it solidifies into a solid block, then it's a cheap, chemically-refined oil. Extra-virgin olive oil is supposed to be cold pressed (not chemically refined).

Now that you're armed with a knowledge of fine olive oils, go out there and make some salad!

Friday, November 4, 2011

An East Indian Thanksgiving Dinner

An East Indian Thanksgiving Dinner
By: Chef Cristian Feher

It was November of 1620. Nine months prior to this date, a colony of separatists left England in search of a new land to call home. A land where they could practice their religion, raise their children, and enjoy the freedom that Americans know today. But it turns out that the Mayflower’s navigator held the compass backwards, and instead of landing in Cape Cod, they somehow ended up in the bustling city of Thiruvananthapuram on the ardent southern shores of India.

Only half of the pilgrims survived that scorching summer. The rest of the pilgrims hooked up with a guy named Raj Sharma who helped them integrate into this ancient culture. He showed them the ways of India - The arts of barter, trade and of course, the Kama Sutra. What, you don’t believe me? Well, I’m the one writing this article, and this is how the story goes.

Where were we? Oh, yes. So when Thanksgiving came around, the menu was a little different.

The pilgrims roasted chickens inside clay ovens. The birds were rubbed with a mixture of cardamom, cloves, garlic and Kelapo virgin coconut oil (actually from Sri Lanka) to crisp up the skin.

A stuffing was prepared using dhal (a type of lentil) with flat bread crumbs, chicken livers, a spicy curry mixture, golden onions and coconut milk.

The pilgrim women showed the Indians how to make fruit pie using millet flour, and they all washed it down with India’s favorite drink - Fenny (liquor made from coconut sap).

By now you’ve guessed that my history lesson is nothing more than fantasy. The menu, however, is fact. This Thanksgiving, why not experiment with a little fusion and add a different twist to your American style turkey dinner?

Happy Thanksgiving! Or as they say in India “Khuśa turkī dina!”

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What to do with Leftover Halloween Candy

What to do with Leftover Halloween Candy
By: Chef Cristian Feher

As I look across my living room where there was once a dining room table, now stands a glistening pile of Halloween candy - Kit-Kats, M&M’s, Jujubees, Snickers bars, and many other brightly colored, crisply wrapped candy treats. My kid just woke up from a sugar coma and things are going to be OK. But what to do with this mountain of candy?

When I was a kid I had a special drawer in my desk. It started out as my secret Halloween candy stash, but by March it became the place where candy goes to die - kind of like a Florida for candy bars. If you’re like me, you probably can’t stand the thought of taking all that candy and throwing it out, right? So what can you do with it?

Last week I dragged an old air conditioning unit out to the curb where it was quickly picked up by an old guy in a pickup truck. He told me that he drives around town pillaging people’s garbage for scrap metal, which he then sells by the pound. He’s turning free stuff into cash. Pretty smart, right? Well, this gave me an idea. Why not take all this free candy, strip the valuables from it and turn it into edible gold?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups - Take all of your peanut butter cups and put them into a food processor with a bit of peanut oil (enough to make the mixture smooth like peanut butter). Then process it into a paste which you can use to spread on sandwiches, or warm croissants. If you think peanut butter is hot stuff, wait till you load your kids up with this in the morning.

M&M’s and Reeses Pieces - These candy-coated chocolate chips are extremely versatile. You can bake them into cup cakes, mix them into pancakes, sprinkle them into your cereal, mix them into popcorn (after popping), use them as ice cream topping, and bake them into cookies.

Kit-Kat Bars - My kid, an experienced candy connoisseur, likes to put them in her pocket for 5 to 7 minutes before eating, for a perfectly warm and soft consistency. Pinkie fingers out.

Solid Hershey’s Chocolate Bars - Can be melted slowly in a metal bowl over a steaming pot of water while stirring with a rubber spatula. The resulting melted chocolate can be used to dip fruits and strawberries into, or it can be cooled and consolidated into a big chocolate brick which can be shaved for cakes, or gnawed at when you’re trying to gain weight in front of the television.

Note that if you get it too hot, it will get grainy and/or separate, and if you get water in it, it might split. But hey, if that happens, you’re not a Swiss chocolatier, and they were free anyways.

Pixie Sticks - You can use the sugary filling to sweeten your coffee in the morning. Or, if you’re an undercover cop about to bust a drug lord, but the drug lord wants you to snort a line to prove that you’re not a cop, just cut a line of pixie dust on a mirror and snort away. Pixie sticks can sweeten coffee, fight crime and keep our streets safe.

Snickers, Musketeers, Milkyway and other chocolate bars - Can be rolled up in puff pastry and baked until golden brown for an amazing, crispy, warm chocolate dessert. You can also do it Scottish style (minus the kilt) by freezing them, dredging them in beer batter, and deep frying them for a red-bearded carnival treat.

If all else fails, just save them for your Christmas gingerbread house where the Lifesavers will turn into roof shingles, Hershey’s bars will turn into front doors, Jujyfruits will line the garden, and Nerds will pave the driveway. You can also awaken your gingerbread men by Frankensteining them to life with Milk Duds, Gobstoppers, Sweet Tarts and a 9-volt battery.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Simple Things

The Simple Things
By: Chef Cristian Feher

People have many sayings. Some say it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. Others say you can’t have your cake and eat it too. And I’ve heard it mentioned that the best things in life are free. And while I don’t agree that the best things in life are always free - worthwhile things usually require a certain amount of sacrifice - I do believe that they can be simple.

The battle between simple and complex has been fought in the kitchen arena for as long as there have been culinary arts.

The idea for writing this article came to me last night as I snacked on fresh green avocados from my neighbor's yard. They were perfectly ripe, warm, and velvety smooth. As I enjoyed them with sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper and red wine vinegar, I realized that many of the best things I’ve eaten have been incredibly simple.

If you’ve ever been on a movie set, you’ve probably heard it said that location is everything. Well it’s certainly true when it comes to my memories of the simple and sublime. I recall the warm air rushing through my hair as we headed up a small branch of the Orinoco river in the Amazon jungle of South America. The water was a silky, black mirror reflecting an image of the sky ahead of us. I remember looking at the jungle on either sides and coming to the conclusion that if our boat broke down or sank, I probably wouldn’t make it through the night - they would never find us. But as most deadly things are, it was overwhelmingly beautiful with it’s bright flowers, dense vegetation, and live orchestra of wildlife sounds.

We arrived at a native indian tribe on the bank of the river, deep inside the jungle. The Indians were very interesting, some wearing nothing but a loin cloth and sticks through their noses, and others donned old Coca-Cola t-shirts. The day was spent learning about their culture and taking in the dramatic surroundings.

Towards the end of the day, an Indian brought us a couple of fresh pineapples that he had chopped down from a nearby patch. It was the juiciest, sweetest thing I have ever tasted. I lost my civility and devoured it with juices running down my face - the Indian looked at me as if thinking, “They call themselves civilized?”. I can still remember that perfect taste of natural fruit sugars, vitamins and minerals, grown on the fertile, virgin soil of the jungle and ripened slowly under the equatorial sun. Simple perfection.

I could write about many other simple things, but I feel they each deserve their own articles.

What are the simple things that you enjoy? You can email me at

Friday, October 21, 2011

How to Make Italian Pressed Panini Sandwiches at Home

How to Make Italian Pressed Panini Sandwiches at Home
By: Chef Cristian Feher

I've had hot pressed Italian sandwiches on my mind lately. For the past few weeks I've been frequenting a local Italian deli here in Clearwater, FL (Cesarina's Italian Deli). She makes a mean Italian sub - fresh baked bread, cold cuts, shredded lettuce, tomato, onions, provolone cheese, and it's finished off with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar. It is then hot-pressed to a perfect crust, and wrapped in foil. The secret to great Italian food is not a secret, it's simplicity.

The only drawback to Cesarina's subs is that, with the dripping oil and melted cheese, they're not a low calorie item. And at the rate I'm consuming them, this could be detrimental. So I've set out to make my own pressed Italian sub with some twists and substitutions to make them low(er) in calories and somewhat healthier (primarily by eliminating any oils used in making them). And best of all, as I found, you don't need to have a sandwich press to make a really authentic pressed sandwich at home. Two frying pans will work just fine.

- Whole wheat french baguette or Italian loaf
- Reduced fat provolone cheese
- Shredded lettuce
- Thin sliced tomatoes
- Thin sliced white onions
- Fat free bologna
- Low fat ham
- Smoked turkey breast(optional)
- Fat free Italian dressing or balsamic dressing (no high fructose corn syrup)
- Fat free mayonnaise (no high fructose corn syrup)
- Red wine vinegar (optional)
- Salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- Dijon mustard


1. Prep all of your fillings.

2. Place your bread on a cutting board and slice through on one side only, leaving the back side attached so it opens like a book.

3. Place the fillings in the sandwich and close it up tight. This includes the mustard, italian dressing, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, etc.

4. If you do not have a big enough pan, cut the sandwich in half so it will fit.

5. Place the sandwich in a hot pan at medium heat. Have another pan heating on a different burner so it's very hot.

6. Place a piece of aluminum foil on top of the sandwich and then place the second hot pan on top of the aluminum foil.

7. Put on some oven mitts and press the pan down to flatten the sandwich while it cooks. Cook the sandwich until the insides are warm and the cheese starts to melt. You can flip the sandwiches over half-way through cooking so that the bottom doesn't burn. My sandwiches only took about 5 minutes to crust up and heat through.

8. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Mystery of the Orange Underwear

The Mystery of the Orange Underwear
By: Chef Cristian Feher

I was reluctant to write this article, but after realizing that it would be a public service, I decided to do it.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a chef - let’s call him, Daniel. He had some friends over for dinner one night. The beer was golden, the shrimp cocktails had quickly become extinct, the steamed fish was applauded, and dessert was relished. All in all, an excellent dinner was had by all.

The next morning, after running some errands around town and coming back home from the bank, Daniel went to the bathroom. He pulled down his pants and sat on the toilet. He was surprised to see the back of his khaki pants full of orange-colored oil! Had he sat in something? Car seat.... sofa.... nope. “What did I sit in?” He wondered. This was highly irregular. It appeared as if he had sat on a really oily slice of pizza. But there was no pizza around, nor had he recalled sitting on anything.

He threw his laundry in the hamper and changed into a new pair of pants and underwear. Still wondering what he had sat in, he quickly realized that the back of his new pants had become saturated in orange oil again! Was this a joke? This couldn’t be. What was happening?

After consulting WebMd and Google (while sitting on a plastic shopping bag), he came to the conclusion that he was experiencing what medical professionals refer to as “anal leakage”. He furiously Googled the items he had eaten in the past 24 hours, and it wasn’t long before the perpetrator was discovered - Escolar.

Daniel had purchased a few pounds of escolar fillets for the dinner party, and also for some of his customers a few days prior. This was a new fish the seafood market had introduced. It turns out that escolar is a bi-product of the tuna fishery. Against recommendation by the FDA, it is sold in many markets as an edible fish. Escolar has a clean taste and firm, white flesh. But it has one problem.

It contains large amounts of a waxy, oily substance called gempylotoxin. In some people it can be digested with no problems, but in others it can cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and orange oil that will leak out of your butt, onto your pants, unbeknownst to you, for the world to see. If you like to play Russian roulette with your keister, I highly recommend this fish.

A chill hit Daniel when he realized that he had fed this, not only to his dinner guests the night before, but to some of his customers a few days prior. After some hasty emails, he got word from two dinner guests who were less than pleased about their new, albeit temporary, condition and stained pantaloons. But the worst part for Daniel was having to write one of the most embarrassing and awkward emails he had ever written to his customers.

Try writing this in a polite and professional way. “I’m sorry, but I fed you toxic fish. By now you’ve probably realized that orange oil has uncontrolably leaked out of your butt - that’s from the fish. Won’t happen again. My bad!”

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Easiest Way to Roast Turkey

The Easiest Way To Roast Turkey
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Why do you need an excuse to eat turkey? You can have a whole roasted turkey whenever you want. No, I’m not practicing hedonism. I’m just stating a fact - a delicious, crispy, fact. We’re so used to having turkey as a celebratory holiday meal that we forget it’s also a regular every-day food.

Aside from the obvious pleasure of a roast turkey, there are many more practical reasons - it’s delicious, it’s cheaper than chicken (I picked up a 22Lb turkey in the frozen section yesterday for $0.98/Lb), and it provides you with leftovers for the next few days: Turkey noodle soup, turkey sandwiches, turkey salad, turkey stir-fry, pasta with turkey and pesto, turkey Caesar salads, did I mention turkey sandwiches?

You’ve read this far, but you’re still skeptical. If memory serves you right, turkey dinners take a long time to make. So how can that be easy? Well, yes, turkey does take some time to roast. But preparing good turkey is the easy, and with my method, you won’t have to baby-sit it throughout the cooking process. Here’s how:

Thanks to modern science and technology, there is such as thing as a plastic roasting bag. If this is new for you, hold on to your pants because the roasting bag is the greatest thing to come along for turkey since corn on the cobb.

Roasting bags are made of a special plastic that won’t burn or melt in your oven. You simply season your bird, stick it in the roasting bag, tie it up and roast. The bag holds in all the heat and moisture, making for a really juicy and tender roast turkey. The best part is, even if you over-cook it, it will still be juicy - the moisture doesn’t escape from the bag. No basting. No turning. Crispy skin. Great results. You can find these bags at most grocery stores, and they come with instructions for cooking times on the back of the box.

Thaw your turkey, rub it all over with a bunch of corn starch and adobo seasoning (or your favorite all-purpose seasoning), stuff it with a couple of peeled onions and some garlic cloves, stick it in the bag, tie it up, put in a roasting pan and cook in the oven. The instructions on the box tell you cut slits into it, but I find it better not to do that, I just let it puff up. My 22Lb turkey took 4 hours to roast to perfection and during that time I was able to surf the net, clean up the house a little, and get an oil change. No baby-sitting required.

I used the last hour before the turkey was done to make a batch of garlic mashed potatoes, chicken liver, pumpernickel and onion stuffing, gravy, and corn. But if you’re feeling lazy, just toss a couple of foil wrapped potatoes next to the turkey in the oven during the last hour and twenty minutes (to make baked potatoes) and whip together a quick green salad.

All that turkey sure made me sleepy. But I won’t have to do much cooking for the next few days. And I love leftover turkey sandwiches.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What to do with Halloween Pumpkins

What to do with Halloween Pumpkins
By: Chef Cristian Feher

It’s officially November 1st and your kids are in a sugar coma. Pirate capes and princess costumes hang on the edge of the hamper, and you’re still trying to get that fake blood off the carpet. But miraculously, no one stole, blew up, or smashed your pumpkins! And it’s a good thing, because you can now turn them into delicious meals for the rest of the week.

The first thing that comes to your mind is pumpkin pie, right? Well I’d like to expand your repertoire, so I’m going to share with you a few ideas that you’ve probably never tried.

Curry Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Hopefully you kept the seeds. This is a very quick and easy snack. I made these for my kid last year, but she found candy and chocolate much more interesting. My wife and I, however, found them quite delightful.

Simply toss the seeds with a little bit of curry powder and salt in a bowl, place them on a non-stick baking sheet, brush with a little Kelapo virgin coconut oil and bake at 325 for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown. The light combination of curry powder (just a little sprinkle) with the aroma of coconut from the coconut oil will make you a batch of roasted pumpkin seeds like you’ve never had before!

As for the rest of the pumpkins: I like to cut off the hard rind and dice or mince the flesh in a food processor. Now you should have a bowl of minced pumpkin flesh, and a bowl of diced pumpkin flesh. I have two great recipes below.

Pumpkin and Ginger Soup

Cook about 4 cups of pumpkin flesh with two garlic cloves, a tbsp of fresh minced ginger, two diced carrots, one diced onion, sea salt, and fresh pepper to taste. Cook this mixture with a tbsp of Kelapo virgin coconut oil for 15 minutes. Add just enough chicken stock to cover the veggies and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. When all the veggies are well cooked, puree the soup with a hand blender, or a regular blender. Adjust the salt and serve with warm Naan or pita bread.

You can experiment with different flavors by adding a pinch of curry powder, cinnamon, cumin, or nutmeg.

Peach and Pumpkin Ice Cream

Cook the remaining diced pumpkin flesh in a skillet with a little bit of Kelapo virgin coconut oil, and a teaspoon of cinnamon just until the pumpkin gets soft. Take off the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Once the pumpkin is cooled to room temp, you want to spread the pumpkin out on a cookie sheet and freeze it over night. But make sure to spread the chunks so that they freezes in small separate lumps no bigger than a grape without really touching each other too much. You also want to get a bag of frozen peaches and make sure that the pieces are easy to separate. The smaller the better. The next day, you can add 5oz of frozen pumpkin, 5oz of frozen peaches, 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, ¼ tsp of salt, and ½ cup of sugar to a food processor. Turn it on and let it run until you have ice cream - it took me less than 90 seconds to make a batch. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cooking With Squash: Recipe Ideas For Fall

Cooking with squash: Recipe ideas for fall
By: Chef Cristian Feher

It’s that time of year again - Fall. A time just after summer, and just before the holidays. So we, in the culinary field have developed the odd tradition of celebrating and marketing the heck out of squash. Why squash? I’m not sure. I must have missed the meeting. However, I did get the memo, and will hold true to my profession by giving you some interesting ideas of what you can do with that ingredient that is supposed to be the quintessence of the north American fall season - the squash.

Before I get into the fun, let’s first define what we mean by “squash”. There are many varieties of squashes throughout the world. But in this article I’ll be discussing the most popular varieties. Namely, zuccini (yellow and green), pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash, and spaghetti squash.

Zuccini Squash. The zuccini is a soft squash that usually comes in green and yellow varieties.

Zuccinis can be roasted on the grill, rubbed with a little olive oil to help them cook faster. What you’re looking for are grill marks on the skin and that the flesh becomes soft. I like to cook slices of zuccini in a skillet with fresh herbs (like dill), sea salt, fresh ground pepper and garlic until it breaks down to a sort of “mush”. It’s a really tasty side dish despite it’s low visual appeal.

Spaghetti squash. I have been holding a grudge with spaghetti squash since the time I went on a low carb diet many years ago. I found people online touting spaghetti squash as a good zero-carb substitute for pasta. They had recipes, photos and videos on YouTube. So I thought I’d give it a try. They lied. How someone can eat spaghetti squash and think that it comes anywhere close to resembling the taste or texture of pasta must have been born without a mouth or bodily senses. If spaghetti squash resembles pasta, then so do soap shavings, green beans, and wheat grass. To those people who attempted to fool me, I only have this to say: You deserve to eat spaghetti squash.

Acorn Squash and Butternut Squash. These two squashes are great for soups. You can peel the hard skin of the butternut squash, scrape out the seeds and membrane, boil the flesh in chicken stock and make a great pureed soup flavored with curry or ginger. I used acorn squash cut into quarters for my world-famous “Possibly the healthiest soup in the world” (Google it). You can also roast acorn squash by splitting it into quarters and roasting them in the oven with some olive oil, salt and honey. I’ve also cubed these two squashes into small pieces and incorporated them into risotto with different cheeses (like Boursin, and Manchego).

Pumpkins. These squashes are not only great for carving scary faces on them and stuffing them with candles, but they are also the ideal bait to put in the middle of a bear trap if you want to catch some teenage neighborhood vandals on Halloween.

Pumpkins are also great for soups and can be used the same as the acorn and butternut squash above. The seeds can be roasted in the oven with Cajun spice for a great snack while you interrogate the kid with droopy pants and ridiculous hair who tried to steal your pumpkin.

My favorite way to use pumpkin is to simmer the flesh in chicken stock until soft. I then puree the mixture and thicken it with a roux (oil and flour). To this sauce, I now add a small amount of chipotle peppers, cumin, soy sauce, a couple of drops of liquid smoke, salt and pepper to taste. I use this sauce to blanket shredded beef and chicken burritos which I bake with white cheddar over top. This makes a delicious Mexican dinner with saffron rice, and sour cream on the side.

There you have it! Squash. It’s what’s for dinner. Hurry up and get your fix before the end of November. This message has been approved by the Culinary Professionals of North America.

The less popular meat cuts: A guide to butchers favorites

Unfamiliar Meat Cuts: A Guide to Butcher Favorites
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Chef Cristian's Sunday BBQ © Cristian Feher 2011

Like Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, we’re all familiar with the popular cuts. New York strip steak, T-Bone steaks, rack of lamb, and baby back ribs have all had their names displayed in bright lights. And it’s very likely that they’ve headlined a show on your kitchen table more than once.

But what about the less popular cuts? Don’t they deserve some publicity? I figured if anyone would know, it would be a butcher. And that’s just what I set out to find.

My good friend Dave Bowman grew up in Mount Airy, NC (known fictitiously as Mayberry, where the Andy Griffith Show was filmed). His family owned a grocery store where Dave began working as a butcher since the age of 12. With 30 years of experience under his cleaver, it’s no surprise that he is my “go to” guy for anything meat-related. I paid him a visit at the Fresh Market butcher shop in Clearwater, Florida to get some insight into a butcher’s favorite cuts of meat.

As it turns out, Dave likes them all! But after much deliberation, we managed to narrow the list down to his five favorite cuts.

#5 Top Sirloin Beef Steaks

The top sirloin cut is something many people pass over on the way to the rib eyes, strip steaks and tenderloin. “At first glance” says Dave, “most people notice that the sirloin has very little fat. It’s a lean steak. They’re also quite large compared to strips and rib eyes.” For these reasons, people assume that top sirloin would cook up tough and be too much. “However,” explains Dave, “top sirloin is a muscle that the cow does not use very much, and because of this, it’s actually quite tender.” The top sirloin is a close neighbor to the softest muscle on the cow - the tenderloin. In fact, it resides right underneath of the tenderloin in the rear part of the cow.

Top sirloin steaks may be large, but can easily feed a family of four for less than the price of one premium steak. They are also great on the grill. And because they are lean, they cook faster and have less calories than fattier steaks. It’s often been described as “poor man’s tenderloin”.

#4 Beef Skirt Steak

At first glance, the skirt steak just looks like a long band of stringy meat and it may not impress you.

It comes from the under-side of the cow. It’s cut from the plate along the cow’s diaphragm. The skirt steak is similar to the brisket and flank in that it’s made up of long strands of meat. Dave explained, “This is possibly the tastiest piece of beef on the cow. The flavor is amazing. And if you cut it right, it’s very soft”

The skirt steak has been used in Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisine for as long as there have been cattle. It was once considered scrap, and although it’s now considered marketable, it’s still rather affordable.

Skirt steak is the choice most fajita enthusiasts go for. It is often marinated with lime or lemon juice (as the acidity breaks down the toughness of the muscle fibers) and a blend of cumin, black pepper, hot sauce, and soy sauce. It is quickly seared and cut thinly across the grain. If you’re looking for the ultimate in beefy flavor, give skirt steak a try.

#3 Lamb Shoulder Steaks

“Lamb shoulder is probably the best part on the Lamb.” Explains Dave, “it comes from the chuck [the front legs of the animal] and since the animal doesn’t use those muscles very much, they are fatty, meaty, juicy, and tender.”

Lamb shoulder steaks have since become a regular menu item on my traditional Sunday barbecues. And I would take them over rack of lamb any day.

I like to marinade them with fresh garlic, red wine, olive oil and lots of fresh oregano for a couple of hours before I grill them. They are cheap and delicious. The fat gets crispy very quickly, and the meat can be enjoyed medium rare (as all read meats should be).

If you’ve never tried lamb, or have only had the prime cuts, I would highly suggest you give lamb shoulder steaks a try.

#2 Boston Butt Roast

The last time I roasted a Boston butt roast I commented to my wife, “I don’t know why we ever spend money on standing rib roasts [beef]. This pork is sublime. And it cost $0.97/lb.” Dave agrees.

A properly seasoned and roasted butt roast is arguably better than any beef roast you can make. The sheer volume of fat stacked in between the layers of tender muscles, melt and trickle through the meat during the roasting process. This creates one of the most tender and juicy roasts you will ever savor.

The butt roast comes from the pig’s front shoulder - so why do they call it a butt roast? Dave shrugged his shoulders. But I can tell you that the best way to flavor it before cooking, is to stab deep holes into the meat with a knife and then stuff the holes with your own combination of garlic, herbs and spices. Soak it in beer or wine overnight to let the flavors seep into the meat, and you will have a world-class roast after cooking it the next day.

You can also make amazing pulled pork and smoked meat with this versatile cut.

#1 Beef Shanks

“Beef shanks are the whole package” explained Dave, “you’ve got a good amount of fat and connective tissue spread evenly throughout the meat. You have soft fat on the outside, and you’ve got a bone with marrow in the middle. What more can you ask for?”

If you’ve ever had Osso Bucco or any such slow cooked shank dish, you know what Dave is talking about. Let me take you on a tour of what happens when you slow cook shanks.

That connective tissue in the meat starts to melt and separates into collagen and oils. The collagen is a jelly-like substance that gives the sauce and the meat a fatty, and wonderfully unctuous texture. It also helps to break down and lubricate the meat. The bone heats up hotter than the meat and helps to cook the shank from the inside out. Finally, the marrow inside the bone softens and releases all that beefy flavor into the the sauce.

After two or three hours of slow-cooking beef shanks in an oven with red wine, herbs and garlic, you will end up with sumptuous fork-tender meat, and an incredibly flavorful, satisfying sauce made from the beef juices and red wine. Dave is right, when it comes to beef, the shanks are the whole package.

Wild Turkey Sandwich Recipe

Wild Turkey Sandwich Recipe
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Wild Turkey Sandwich © Cristian Feher 2011

If you’re looking for healthy, low-fat, high-protein recipe loaded with flavor, then look no further. This wild turkey sandwich is sure to please.

If you don’t have wild turkey, you can easily substitute it with regular ground turkey breast or ground chicken breast.

Wild turkey, like a lot of game birds, can be tough. A way to get around this is to grind the meat and form it into patties, loaves, or incorporate it into stews, chili and sauces.

This recipe makes 4 sandwiches.


• 1 Lb of Ground Wild Turkey (ground chicken or ground turkey will work)
• 5 minced garlic cloves
• 2 tbsp of Cajun seasoning
• 1 tbsp of dried Italian herbs (rosemary, basil and oregano)
• ¼ cup of fresh chopped basil
• ½ cup of bread crumbs
• 2 tbsp of soy sauce
• 1 tsp of sea salt
• 1 ripe tomato
• 1 head of romaine lettuce
• 1 red onion
• Spicy brown mustard
• Alfalfa sprouts
• Whole wheat multi-grain bread


In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground turkey meat, minced garlic cloves, Cajun seasoning, dried Italian herbs, fresh chopped basil, soy sauce, sea salt, and bread crumbs. Mix well with wet hands until the mixture is incorporated.

Make a large meat ball in the palm of your hand with a quarter of the mixture, and flatten into a non-stick skillet to no more than ½ inch thick. Cook the turkey patty on either side for 5 minutes or until cooked through. Depending on your appetite, you can make the patties bigger, or smaller.

Place the cooked patty on a slice of whole wheat multi-grain bread and top with lettuce, tomato slices, red onion slices, spicy brown mustard, alfalfa sprouts and another piece of bread.

Game Meats for Beginners

The Health Benefits of Game Meats
By: Chef Cristian Feher

In this day and age, more and more people are adopting healthy lifestyles. And as part of a healthy lifestyle, we’re always in search for new and better ways to eat.

For some people, the mere mention of healthy food can have a negative connotation. They sneer, berate and avoid. They turn the idea down, like a child refusing a piece of broccoli. And although I feel that eating habits during childhood are an important factor, that would be better addressed in a different article.
We simply get bored. And healthy food can be boring. But since variety seems to be the spice of life, I would like to suggest some ways to make healthy eating adventurous and exciting again.

As a health-conscious eater, you’ve probably tried every vegetable, fruit, grain, and variety of rice out there. You’ve been there, eaten bean thread noodles, and done that. But I bet your protein sources have not changed much. You’ve probably gone on safari through the jungles of fruit and vegetables with the same ol’ trusty companions - chicken, beef, pork and fish. It might be time to get new friends.

To avoid a lengthy dissertation - this is my philosophy on food: you’re at the top of the food chain. Anything under you is fair game (pun intended). Game meats offer us a whole new world of healthy protein to explore.

Game animals like deer (venison), elk, buffalo, bison, quail, emu, ostrich, pheasant, rabbit, and several others are more readily available than you might think. You can purchase them online through e-retailers such as They may also be available locally at specialty stores and even your local grocery store (my grocery store carries venison and ground buffalo throughout the year).

What’s so healthy about game? For one, most game meat comes from the wild, or are farmed without growth hormones, antibiotics, and synthetic chemicals. Since they live more active lifestyles than domesticated animals, game tends to have less fat. And their natural diet produces meat that is more nutritious with higher levels of minerals and good amino acids.

In the mood for chili? Ground buffalo meat is lean, flavorful and satisfying. Cook it with onions, peppers, carrots, garlic, chipotle peppers, canned tomato and kidney beans for a healthier version of the every-day beef chili. I like to top it off with a scoop of fat free yogurt and eat it with warm naan bread (Indian flat bread similar to pita).

Alligator has become one of my favorite white meats since moving to Florida. It’s low in fat, has excellent texture (it’s between chicken and pork) and is most often organic. I like to grill it, stew it, and I even make my kid alligator salad sandwiches - a quick way to make friends at school, “Woah! You’re eating alligator? Cool!”

Impress yourself with easy alligator curry by cooking the alligator with onions, garlic, carrots, celery, potato, chickpeas, a little chicken bullion and curry powder. Add coconut milk when the onions are mushy, and simmer until the potatoes are soft. Serve over warm basmati rice. I guarantee you’ll go back for seconds.

In the mood for a BBQ this weekend? Why not invite your friends over for a “safari on the grill”?
Thanks to fast shipping, and large variety of game meats available on the internet ( you can grill up some yak burgers, antelope sausages, ostrich fillets and alligator ribs. Your friends and family will be astounded at how delicious, and healthy, game meats can be. And best of all, it’s just plain fun to try new, exotic foods.

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring. You can expand your meat repertoire and add some excitement back into dinner time. Give game a try.

The Garbage Can Chicken Shack: Street Food in Playa Del Carmen

The Garbage Can Chicken Shack: Street Food in Playa Del Carmen
By: Chef Cristian Feher

For some it’s about the people. For others it’s about the architecture or about finding themselves - which makes little sense, since you can’t help be anywhere but where you stand.

For me, traveling is about the food. I’ve always said that you can tell much from a culture by it’s food - the arrogant portions of French cuisine, the proud dishes of Spain, and the simply divine meats of Argentina which show decades of unyielding tradition are but a few examples of this.

I’ve been fortunate to have done a lot of travel in my life - not enough - but more than most. Until our technology advances, the next best thing to space exploration is to sit inside a flying bus, and burn fossil fuel through the clouds of Earth. It’s relaxing, exciting, dangerous and new, all at the same time.

I like the unique smell each country has. I enjoy watching locals walking through a place, that I find intriguing, with complete indifference; I live vicariously through them for a moment, imagining what it would be like to have a life there - my family, problems, and bills, all against a different background. I enjoy the temporary detachment from society as you wait in an airport terminal far beyond customs and security.

With each country, city and place, I can always think back to a great meal.

Playa del Carmen is a seaside city in Mexico, south of Cancun. Off the main strips, away from the tourists and wealthy Mexicans visiting from Mexico City, there are busy taco restaurants lining the streets. The locals congregate. Mothers wipe avocado off their children’s faces. Roasted meats hang on the windows. Busy cooks chop away at their greasy cutting boards and pump out plastic plates of corn tortillas filled with various meaty delicacies. But as delicious as these local hang outs were, they were no match compared to, what I dubbed, “The garbage can chicken shack.”

During an afternoon stroll, I was ambushed by an intoxicating aroma. It seemed to be coming from around the corner. The smell carried me, like a cartoon Pepe LePew to the edge of a burnt-down restaurant. A Mexican family had built a rudimentary shack on the corner of the abandoned lot. Four posts, barely sturdy enough to hold up a rectangular piece of zinc roof, surrounded by four short walls made of cinder blocks. Under the roof was a picnic table, and several metal barrels roaring with wood fires inside. A sweaty man with a torn shirt smiled at me. His family moved about industriously behind him. The smell was unbelievable. Chickens, skewered through metal bars, roasted to perfection over the barrel fires. In the background, bubbling pots sputtered with steam. I decided to give this place a try. So I handed over my $4 (I would happily hand over $500 to have this meal again).

The whole chicken was split into six pieces by the expert chop of a heavy cleaver. It came efficiently packaged inside of a large plastic bag - no frills. The steam made the bag puff out like a balloon. Hot tamales and corn on the cob joined the chicken in another Ziploc bag, both passed to me inside a plastic shopping bag with a small containers of salsa verde (green tomato sauce), chipotle vinegar sauce, tomato salsa, paper plates, napkins and plastic cutlery. A picnic in a bag.

I intended to eat this on the beach, but as I recall, the farthest I made it was a park bench just a half block from the shack. It was insanely delicious. The world around me faded away. There were no sounds that I could recall. I began to wonder where these street chickens had been caught, but all I could focus on was the perfectly roasted skin - it tasted like limes, garlic and cilantro had a wild orgie on the chicken, giving birth to a whole new, perfectly delicious flavor. The meat, marinated in a salty brine, was so juicy and tasty that I wanted to cry. The tamales, warm and moist, peeled out of a yellow corn husk, were the perfect vessel for the sublime sauces (which were a masterpiece in themselves). I’m quite sure the recipe for that salsa verde had been made before; passed down with the strictness of a Vedic priest from mother to child.

The entire meal was out of this world. It was an event I can’t forget. “I didn’t know you could do that with chicken.” I mumbled to myself incoherently with pieces of chicken falling out of my mouth.

I have yet to have anything that even compared to that chicken. Had I not been so drugged up on chicken fat and hot sauce, I would have offered him money for the recipe. Hindsight is 20/20, they say. But I will never forget this happy moment in time, on a park bench in Playa del Carmen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Easy Ways to Lower Fat in your Diet

Easy Ways to Lower Fat in your Diet
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Most doctors, nutritionists and fitness experts agree that lowering your intake of fats and oils can go a long way towards achieving a healthier weight and lowering your risk of heart disease and other annoying body complications. For those with a sedentary lifestyle, taking in too many calories can be detrimental. And fats (and oils) contain way more calories than carbohydrates or protein.

I look at it like this; When I eat too much fat, I get too fat. And this prevents me from performing vital tasks like running for more than 100 feet without losing my lunch (as in the case of a zombie outbreak or escaping from a flash mob at the mall). My graceful David-Hasselhoff-run on the beach becomes more like a sweaty scene from Biggest Loser, and it now takes three YMCA employees to hoist my rotund behind up the rock climbing wall as children look on in dismay.

If you don’t share my concerns, maybe you can agree with the fact that there are virtually no old people over the age of 70 that are fat. Have you noticed that? Really old people are all skinny.  Being a Florida resident, you can trust my observation.

The choice is yours. You can go out like Elvis with a peanut butter and bacon sandwich, or you can tweak your diet and live a longer, albeit less glamorous, life.

Cutting fat out of your diet does not mean checking your happiness at the door and conceding to an insipid life of celery sticks, yoga and canned tuna. You can still enjoy most of the foods you eat by making low fat substitutions. Let me show you a few tricks to cut the fat and keep the taste.

Oils and Fats. Yes, many oils are “healthy” for you. But we’re talking about pure mathematics here - too many calories. A little bit of oil goes a long way. Oils, cheeses and fats are very high in calories. Even a little tablespoon of olive oil packs a whopping 120 calories (that’s the same as two slices of white bread). So the first and most effective thing you can do if you’re packing too much fat, is to stop eating it. Just stop using oils.

Instead of frying with oils, butter or fat, just use a non-stick pan. For mashed potatoes, just add skim milk, garlic and herbs. For salads just use herbs, garlic, sea salt, pepper and red wine vinegar. Steamed rice goes great with a little soy sauce instead of butter. You can thicken sauces with corn starch and water (called a “slurry”) instead of oil and flour. And instead of mayonnaise in your sandwich, use Dijon mustard, or ketchup. And keep the cheese to a minimum.

Meats. We all love a nice fatty steak, pork chop, meat sauce, chili, fajitas, sausages, etc. But the next time you grill, use a lean beef tenderloin steak. Use pork tenderloin instead of pork chops on the grill, or season it with soy sauce, cumin and fresh pepper for low-fat fajitas. Grilled chicken breasts are fat-free and juicy if you don’t overcook them. Fat-free hot dogs still taste great. And I use lean ground turkey in most recipes that call for ground beef (I add a little bit of egg whites to the mixture for added moisture in the case of burgers or meatloaf).

Fish and Seafood. You can make tasty, gourmet dishes using white fish, fresh tuna, shrimp, scallop, and clams. Sushi (if not eaten with mayonnaise-based sauces) is actually a really low-fat and tasty food that you can enjoy often.

Starches and Pastas. I’m sure the low-carb junkies are squirming. Don’t worry, pasta is actually very low in fat, and has way less calories than oils or fats. If you skip the fatty ground beef, cream sauces (made with cream, butter and oil) and skip the olive oil in the tomato sauce, pasta can be enjoyed daily. And if you’re still worried, you can use low-carb and whole wheat pastas to combine the benefits of low-carb and low-fat eating. Whole wheat breads are also good to eat.

Potatoes, sweet potato, and all types of rice are also virtually free of fats.

Basically,  if you are carrying with you a supply of body fat, you don’t need to eat any more of it. Let your body use the fat it already has. And if you use the tips and ideas above, you can still enjoy your meals.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A bomb best diffused with your mouth: Venezuelan Street Food

A bomb best diffused with your mouth: The Venezuelan Bomba
By: Chef Cristian Feher

View of Caracas, Venezuela at night.

Have you ever had a meal that burned itself into your memory? Can you recall the taste, the texture, the conversation? Can you feel the breeze caress your skin? Does the mention of that meal transport you back in time to that moment?

I have had several of these life-altering moments. Each of these meals were a meaningful event. A pinnacle of culinary discovery and sensation. A moment in time so thoroughly enjoyable that I snatched it from the universe and locked it away in my mind to be kept, admired, savored and remembered forever. Mine, all mine.

For some it’s the art. For others it’s the architecture or the culture. For me, it’s the food. And rightly so - food is art, and much could be known about a culture simply by its food.

We sped along a winding freeway weaving our way through the heart of Caracas. Warm air rushing into the car. The raspy sound of night traffic as people made their way to clubs, restaurants and parties was somehow soothing to my ears. The bright lights of a city that stretches out through a great valley light up the dark sky. In spite of the car exhaust and sewage, the smells of perfume, tropical plants and mountain soil all mix together to create an aroma that makes me happy. I like Caracas. I miss it.

My heart raced as we began to climb up a steep, winding road. We drove higher and higher into the hills. The air growing more cool and fresh with every turn. At last we arrived. “Calle de hambre” is literally translated to mean “Hunger street.” Rudimentary outdoor restaurants, food trucks and stands. Where Caraqueños would swarm in the late hours of the night to satiate their ravenous hunger and sober up after a long night of festivities, partying and having fun. It was 11:30pm when we arrived, the “early-bird” hour. We had all the stands to ourselves. The proprietors were busy cooking and prepping, having opened their shops only two hours ago.

Standing next to a picnic table with my friends, overlooking a city of lights below, and the stars above, is where I had my first Bomba.

A Bomba “Bomb” is not for the faint of heart. It is a marvel of engineering and a culinary feat of prowess and strength. A soft-steamed over sized hamburger bun filled with a fresh ground beef patty, fried ham steak, grilled pork shoulder, Swiss cheese, coleslaw, alfalfa sprouts, shredded lettuce, sliced ripe tomato, pickles, thinly sliced crispy onions and avocado with a fried egg thrown in there for good luck. Eating it is just as complex. As you consume this culinary juggernaut, you continuously squirt it with a combination of garlic sauce, ketchup, mustard and tahini mayo.

As I stood there looking out onto an ocean of shining lights, cradling my paper-wrapped Bomba, I distinctly recall a tear streaming down my face - a tear of joy. “This is life.” I thought to myself. If you have ever wondered how people can put up with a fascist president, communism, capitalism, inflation, rampant crime and poverty, it’s because of this sandwich - the $4 Bomba. This sandwich makes life worth living. When you’re sharing a Bomba on a breezy hill under a tropical sky, the problems of life dissipate into trivial murmurs. I doubt rapid gun fire could rip your attention away from a proper Bomba once you’ve embarked on the intricate journey of devouring it with all four sauces.

I have no recollection of how I got home that night.

This is the closest I can get to reproducing a Bomba here in America. It’s not the same without the city lights, the mountain air, the car exhaust, distant gun shots, and the company of my good friends. But it comes pretty close.

Venezuelan Bomba Recipe:

Yields: 1 big F*#@ beauty of a sandwich!

Ingredients for the Bomba:
- An over sized hamburger bun (I sometimes make bread-dough and custom bake them extra big)
- ¼ Lb of ground beef (seasoned with salt, pepper, soy sauce, and liquid smoke)
- 1 ham steak
- ⅓ cup of thin-sliced roast pork shoulder (for faster recipe, use pork tenderloin and grill with Cajun seasoning)
- Alfalfa Sprouts
- Shredded Lettuce
- Swiss Cheese
- Tomato
- Kelapo Virgin Coconut Oil
- Kosher pickle slices
- Fried Onion slices
- Coleslaw
- Avocado


1. If you’re baking your bun, you can use pizza dough or bread dough. These sandwiches turn out even better when the bun is warm and fresh-baked.

2. Have all your ingredients diced, sliced, and prepped.

3. Take a deep breath. Do some P90X. Buy your wife something nice.

4. Put a tbsp of Kelapo Virgin Coconut Oil on a skillet and fry your burger patty (flatten it), fry the ham steak and throw in the pre-cooked slices of roast pork.

5. Begin to assemble your sandwich and finish it off with a fried egg.

The Sauces:

This is my rendition of the sauces

Garlic Sauce: Mayonnaise with a tonne of fresh minced garlic and parsley.

Mustard: Yellow mustard.

Ketchup: Ketchup (made with sugar - don’t use the stuff made with high fructose corn syrup)

Tahini Mayo: Mayonnaise mixed with a little bit of tahini (sesame seed paste) and black pepper to taste.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Beef or chicken fajitas recipe

Beef or Chicken Fajitas
By: Chef Cristian Feher

With this recipe you can make delicious beef or chicken fajitas, Tex-Mex style. You will be pleasantly surprised how the use of Asian soy sauce blends these south-of-the-border flavours so well!

You can cut a lot of fat in this recipe by using a non-stick skillet, using lean meats, and omitting any oils.

Yields: 4 to 6 servings

- 1 Lb of beef (Sirloin, Tenderloin, or New York Strip)
- 1 Lb of boneless, skinless chicken breast.

- ¼ cup of soy sauce
- ½ tbsp of cumin powder
- ½ tbsp of minced garlic
- ½ tsp of liquid smoke
- 1 tbsp of chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 large red onion
- Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- Tortilla shells
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Fresh guacamole
- Low fat sour cream


1. Flatten out the steaks (or butterfly the chicken breast)  to no more than a ½ inch thick and coat with the soy sauce, cumin, garlic, liquid smoke, cilantro, sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Rub the spices into the meat and let them sit in your fridge for 1 to 3 hours.

2. Julinenne the onion and pepper into slices and fry on a non-stick skillet until soft and cooked through (about 20 minutes). Remove and set aside.

3. Add the meat to the non-stick skillet and cook until done. As for the steak, it can be cooked medium, rare or well, as you prefer.