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!