Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year's Eve Appetizer Ideas | Quail Egg Hors D'euvres

Quail Egg and Smoked Salmon Appetizers
By: Chef Cristian Feher

© Cristian Feher 2012 | Quail Egg and Smoked Salmon App
Quail eggs are a lot of fun to cook with. I love to make miniature food every once in a while. It reminds me that it's OK to play your food! 

You can find quail eggs at most Asian grocery stores, specialty food stores, and you can even special order them at your local grocery store. 

These little appetizers are a good conversation piece, as well as a delicious hors d'oeuvre. People love to ooh and ahh at the little tiny eggs! And if you can fry an egg, you are qualified to make this recipe - easy!

- Mini rye or pumpernickel bread
- Norwegian smoked salmon slices
- Chives
- Quail eggs (fresh)


NOTE: For this television segment on Fox 13 I took a serrated bread knife and sawed a straight shallow cut along the surface of the quail eggs, being careful not to go very deep, so that the shells would crack perfectly while still keeping the yolk intact. 

1. Lay your mini-bread slices on a tray

2. Put a slice of smoked salmon on each piece

3. Carefully crack the quail eggs so as not to break the yolk, and fry them on a non-stick pan (sunny-side-up) just like a regular egg.

4. Place cooked quail egg on top of the smoked salmon and garnish with sliced chives.

(OPTIONAL) Sometimes I squirt the smoked salmon with curry mayonnaise for added flavor.

New Year's Eve Appetizer Recipes | Greek Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad

Greek Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad
By: Chef Cristian Feher

© Cristian Feher 2012 | Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad
Fruit and cheese have had a long marriage in the Western culinary world. This salad is just another example of a perfect pairing. 

Watermelon pairs very well with salty cheeses like Havarti, Parmesan and Greek Feta. The addition of fresh herbs, garlic and extra virgin olive oil add to this flavorful and refreshing dish.

- Watermelon Cubes
- Feta cheese slices
- chopped herbs (parsley, oregano)
- Minced garlic (fresh - don't use the jarred stuff)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil


1. Cut the feta cheese into square slices.

2. Using the feta slices as a guide, cut the watermelon cubes the same width and length as the feta slices.

3. Mince the garlic and chop the fresh herbs.

4. Plate the watermelon cubes and put a slice of Feta on each cube. Sprinkle with fresh herbs, garlic and drizzle with olive oil.

5. Season with fresh pepper and salt and enjoy!

New Year's Eve Appetizers | Raw Oysters with Champagne Mignonette

Raw Oysters with Champagne Mignonette
By: Chef Cristian Feher

© Cristian Feher 2012 | Oysters with Champagne Mignonette
Oysters are not for everyone. But to those who have a taste for the ocean, a well-dressed raw oyster hits the spot. 

There are just as many ways to dress an oyster as there are oyster varieties. And while some prefer to eat them with horseradish and Tabasco, or plain lime juice, I enjoy them with a fresh shallot and vinegar mignonette.

A Mignonette is the French classic way to eat raw oysters. Red wine vinegar, is mixed with shallots, sugar, salt and pepper. To this basic mignonette, you can add all sorts of different things like: tarragon, dill, garlic, and diced anise. You can also use many different kinds of vinegars. I enjoy red wine vinegar, and champagne vinegar (both bi-products of the wine making process). 

What oysters are the best? That would be better discussed in an article all of its own. I will say this from personal experience though; I like cold water oysters much better than Gulf oysters.

To open oysters you will need an oyster shucker and a kitchen towel. Using a knife or a screw driver can lead to a badly cut hand. You can find good instructional videos on YouTube on how to properly shuck oysters.

Champagne Mignonette Recipe:

- 1/2 Cup of Champagne Vinegar
- 2oz of Champagne
- 1/4 cup of diced shallots
- Salt and pepper to taste

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Holiday Christmas Appetizers | Festive Chicken Wings Recipe

Festive Holiday Chicken Wings Recipe
By: Chef Cristian Feher

 This appetizer can be as complex, or as easy as you want. You can marinade and deep-fry your own wings, or you can buy pre-cooked chicken wings at your local grocery store - like I did for the Good Day Tampa Bay segment.

I wanted to make these chicken wings “festive” by making them red and green. The red part was easy; most BBQ sauces are red. And you can use any type of BBQ sauce you wish. For really simple “BBQ Sauce”, I like to add a pinch of smoked paprika and Crystal hot sauce to tomato ketchup. Just make sure that the tomato ketchup is made with sugar, and not high-fructose corn syrup. Sugar caramelizes, HFCS does not.

I wanted to make the green sauce stand out, so I chose to make a spinach pesto, as spinach tends to stay bright green a lot longer than basil.

And no matter what flavor, I love to dip my wings in buttermilk ranch dressing - which is what I put in the middle of the platter.

Super-Simple BBQ Sauce Ingredients:
- 2 cups of tomato ketchup (per 16 wings)
- 1/4 tsp of smoked paprika
- A dash of Crystal hot sauce


1. Mix the ketchup, paprika, and hot sauce.

2. Cook, or heat your chicken wings. Put them in a large bowl and toss with the Super-Simple BBQ Sauce. Serve with ranch dressing on the side.

Spinach Pesto Sauce Ingredients:

- 2 cups of baby spinach leaves
- 1 tsp of dry basil
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1/3 cup of salted roasted peanuts
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup of olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste

1. Put all ingredients into a food processor and process until it’s a smooth paste. If too dry add more olive oil. Test for salt and season accordingly.

2. Cook, or heat your chicken wings. Put them in a large bowl and toss them with some of the pesto. Serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Holiday Christmas Dessert Ideas | Candy Cane Dessert Shooters

Festive Holiday Dessert Shooters Recipe
By: Chef Cristian Feher

I guarantee that your guests will clean you out of these! You can make them with, or without, alcohol. I like to put peach schnapps or peppermint schnapps in mine.
Yields: about 10-14 shots

- 12oz Whipped Cream Cheese
- 3/4 Cup of cane sugar OR 1/2 cup of honey
- 1/3 Cup of milk
- 2 cups of strawberry glaze
- 10-12oz of frozen raspberries, thawed
- Candy canes
- Fresh mint

- Electric mixer
- Immersion blender OR food processor


1. In a bowl, combine the cream cheese with the milk and sugar/honey. Blend together with an electric mixer until very smooth. I like to put them into squeeze bottles or a container from which you can pour easily.

2. In another container, or in the food processor, process the raspberries and strawberry glaze until smooth. You can choose to add 1oz of alcohol if you wish (like peach schnapps). Put this into a squeeze bottle or a easy pour container.

3. In a shotglass, alternate layers of berry sauce and white sauce. Top with a sprig of mint and stick a candy cane in it!

Holiday Christmas Appetizers | Pine Cone Smoked Almond Cheese Ball Recipe

Pine Cone Smoked Almond Cheese Ball Recipe
By: Chef Cristian Feher

This is a really nice looking centerpiece for your next holiday get-together. Serve with mixed crackers and garnish with rosemary sprigs and red berries.

- 16oz cream cheese, softened
- 8oz of shredded cheese of choice (I use shredded manchego)
- 1/4 tsp of smoked paprika
- 2 tsp of Crystal hot sauce
- Smoked almonds
- Red berries
- Rosemary sprigs


1. Mix the cream cheese, shredded cheese, smoked paprika and hot sauce with an electric mixer until it forms into a ball. Put in a ziploc bag and refrigerate for 4 hours.

2. Take the cheese out and shape it like a pinecone onto a plate.

3. Stick almonds into the cheese ball to make it look like the seeds of a pine cone. Garnish by sticking some rosemary sprigs on the back, and a red berry.

Holiday Christmas Appetizers | Chorizo and Bocconcini Pinchos with Red Pepper Chimichurri

Chorizo and Bocconcini Pinchos Platter Recipe
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Pinchos Ingredients:
- 3 chorizo sausages (pre-cooked)
- 2 packages of pearled bocconcini cheese
- 3 large green peppers, large dice
- 4 inch skewers
- watermelon, whole


1. Cut the chorizo into 1/2 inch-thick coins. Cut the peppers into 1 inch diced pieces.

2. Skewer two pieces of bocconcini, followed by a green pepper piece, and a chorizo coin.

3. Cut a watermelon in half, scoop out the red flesh and stuff it with paper towels. Put on a serving tray face down. Cut a hole into the top to put in a small dip bowl.

4. Stick the skewers “pinchos” onto the watermelon, and fill the little bowl with chimichurri dipping sauce (recipe below).

Red Pepper Chimichurri Sauce Recipe
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Ingredients for the chimichurri sauce:

- 1 handful of fresh parsley
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 chopped red pepper
- 1 tbsp of fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp of fresh oregano
- 1 cup of olive oil or more
- Salt and pepper to taste


1. Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend together until smooth. Season properly with salt and pepper.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Easy Thanksgiving dessert recipe

Easy Thanksgiving Dessert: Apple Parfait
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Click HERE to watch the video
I'm driving back home across the Courtney Campbell and I'm talking to my wife on the phone. "Fox 13 asked that I come up with a dessert that is both healthy and good. Any ideas?" I asked.

My wife is not a chef, but when it comes to dessert, watch out! That little lady knows her sweets. Within seconds she came up with this delightfully tasty and healthy treat.

"Why don't you cook some apples with a little honey, cinnamon, glazed walnuts and dried fruit, and then put it in a cup with some fat-free vanilla yogurt!" And so I did! 

Different apples vary in sweetness and acidity, and different honeys have different levels of sweet. So I recommend that this recipe is done with a lot of sampling. Add a little of this or that, and taste as you until you reach a sweetness level and flavor that you like. 

Here is the recipe:

Yields: 4 servings

- 6 apples of your choice (I used red organic apples)
- 1-2 tbsp of honey
- 1/2 to 1 tsp of cinnamon
- 1 tbsp of lemon juice
- 1/2 cup of glazed walnuts with dried berries of your choice (I found these in the salad section at Publix)
- A tub of fat-free, sugar-free vanilla yogurt
- Fresh mint for garnish


1. Core and dice your apples.

2. In a non-stick pan, cook your apples until they begin to get mushy. Then add the rest of the ingredients - minus the yogurt and the mint - and adjust the flavors.

3. Serve warm apple mixture over yogurt in a cup, and garnish with a sprig of mint!

Euro Cuisine Yogurt Maker (Google Affiliate Ad)

Cuisipro Apple Corer (Google Affiliate Ad)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The easiest way to cook a thanksgiving turkey

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes Part 2: Easy Turkey
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Click here to watch video.
This recipe is dedicated to those who love Thanksgiving turkey, but don't have the time, skill, or patience to roast a whole turkey.

Last week I showed you how to make healthy stuffing using Ezekiel bread or sprouted grain bread. You will need to make up a small batch of it for this recipe.

The easiest thing - turkey-wise - is to stuff and roast a breast. You can buy boneless turkey breasts at your local grocery store. They are big, and can serve 3 to 4 people on average for a 2-3Lb breast. 

The breast that I prepared for this recipe was even cooked in a toaster oven at 400 for 40 minutes, and took under 5 minutes to prepare. Easy!

Yields: 4 servings

- A 3Lb boneless turkey breast (skin-on)
- 1 to 2 cups of Ezekiel bread stuffing (see recipe)
- Goya brand Adobo seasoning

NOTE: If you're in the habit of cutting down on fat by removing turkey or chicken skin from your breasts, you may want to wait until just before eating it to remove the skin. Taking the skin off before cooking, will cause your meat to become dry in the oven. So you want to leave the skin on during the cooking process so that the meat will retain more moisture.


1. Put the breast skin-side-down on a cutting board. You should see the tenderloin of the turkey breast, which is a big tongue-shaped flopply piece of meat which is connected to the breast on one side. Just flop that over to the side without disconnecting it. Cut a pocket along the other side of the turkey breast (opposite from the tenderloin) so that you create a pouch. 

2. Fill the "pouch" with stuffing. As much as you can fit, without over-doing it. Tuck it in there. Then flop the tenderloin over the stuffing and place the breast skin-side-up on a non-stick baking sheet.

3. Rub the skin with a little olive oil and sprinkle with Adobo seasoning. 

4. Bake at 400 for 30-40 minutes or until internal temperature is 165-170.

5. Let it rest for a few minutes before carving into slices and serving! 

Oxo Good Grips Analog Instant Read Meat Thermometer (Google Affiliate Ad)

Rosle Stainless-Steel Digital Oven and Meat Thermometer (Google Affiliate Ad)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes: Sides, part 1

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Thanksgiving signifies the beginning of the Holidays. That means: social functions, shopping, and family get-togethers. It also means high-calorie holiday foods. 

Although turkey is rather healthy, the accompanying posse of sides for a typical Thanksgiving dinner tends to be high in carbohydrates, sugar and calories.  They say it's the turkey that makes you sleepy - I think it's all the other stuff! I don't know about you, but I enjoy my Thanksgiving dinners and I don't exactly practice portion control. 

If you watched my cooking segment Sunday morning on the Good Day show, you saw me prepare a low-glycemic stuffing along with some healthy sides.  I have taken traditional Thanksgiving sides and leaned them up by lowering their caloric value and taking out sugar and carbohydrates wherever I could - without sacrificing taste. All these recipes have been tested and enjoyed!

A note on artificial sweeteners: When I was planning this segment with Mark, a producer on the Good Day show, we were discussing using artificial sweeteners in some of the recipes to replace the sugar. However, I don't personally feel that artificial sweeteners are "healthy", and I tend to avoid them as much as I would avoid high fructose corn syrup. There are studies out there for, and against, artificial sweeteners. But studies are just that - studies.  I just follow my own common sense on this and surmise that adding highly refined chemicals to food can't be considered healthy.

Here are the healthy Thanksgiving sides recipes.

Savory Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

There is a difference between sweet potatoes and yams. Although they both look the same, and are often mistaken by the produce clerks at the grocery store, there is a difference in nutrition. Yams are a ball of starch and sugar. Sweet potatoes have starches and sugars too, but they also have vitamins, minerals, beta-carotene and have a lower glycemic load than yams (they release sugar more slowly into your blood stream - this is a good thing!). 

In this recipe, I remove half the calories by taking out the sugar, molasses, and whatever other carbohydrate people usually add to sweet potatoes. This makes them a healthy carb and they taste great as a savory (salty) dish.

Use this recipe losely, as your quantities may change according to how many people you have at your party. I'm going to do this recipe for 4 people so it's easy to multiply.

Yields: 4 servings

- 6 sweet potatoes about the size of a large baking potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/2 tbsp of Italian herbs such as oregano thyme and basil, dried
- Sea salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- (optional) a swirl of extra virgin olive oil, or butter flavored spray to taste


1. Boil the chunked and pelled sweet potatoes in a large pot of salted water until the potato chunks break up easily when you mush them up against the side of the pot with a spoon.

2. Drain and let it sit in the strainer for a couple of minutes while a lot of the water evaporates from them Do not run them under cold water. You want to get as much water out of them as possible before you mash them.

3. In the same pot, or a large pan, fry the onions with a little olive oil or cooking spray until they are well cooked (10-15 minutes). Don't burn them.

4. Add the sweet potatoes, garlic, herbs, and parsley and mash with a masher or an electric mixer. 

5. During the mixing process, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!

NOTE: Once cooled, this mixture freezes well in small batches.

Cauliflower Mash Recipe

This is a great substitute for mashed potatoes. Cauliflower is virtually carb-free, and very low in calories. But there is a lot of flavor to it, and it mashes up similar to potatoes. Add a little butter flavored cooking spray to it (or a small amount of real butter) and you may never go back to mashed potatoes again - you will, I know - but it's a good side dish!

Yields: 4 hearty servings

- 2 heads of cauliflower (fresh) OR - 2 frozen bags of cauliflower, cut into florettes
- Water
- Salt
- Pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Butter flavored cooking spray or a little piece of salted butter


1. Boil the pieces of cauliflower in salted water until it's very mushy (20-25 minutes).

2. Drain very well.

3. Add the garlic, butter (spray or piece), salt and pepper to taste and mash it up with a masher or electric mixer. Enjoy!

Thick Low-Carb Gravy

Yields: 4 cups -+

- 4 cups of beef stock, turkey stock or chicken stock (made from bullion, so make it strong and tasty)
- 1 dozen or two cremini, baby bella or white mushrooms
- 2 oz of dried porcini mushrooms
- Kikkoman japanese soy sauce


1. Put the Porcini mushrooms in a little bowl of hot water until they get soft. Discard the water and keep the mushrooms.

2. Bring the stock to a simmer.

3. Cut the raw mushrooms into small pieces and simmer them in the stock for 15 minutes.

4. Add the porcini mushrooms.

5. Puree the sauce with a hand-blender, or put it in a regular blender. The mushrooms should thicken up the sauce. If it's not thick enough, you need to add more mushrooms, cook them and blend them until the sauce is thickened by the mushrooms. 

6. Season with salt, and a little bit of Japanese soy sauce if necessary. Enjoy!

Sprouted Grain Bread Stuffing

Stuffing is usually made with white bread, which packs a lot of calories and carbs, but very little protein, or fiber. It's not that healthy. But bread made with sprouted grains packs a large amount of protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, fiber and it's basically really good for you! Fortunately, it works great for stuffing, you won't miss the white bread at all.

This is a good base recipe which you can add lots of other stuff to, like: almonds, raisins, walnuts, chicken livers, sausage, bacon, etc.

Yields: 4 portions
- Half a loaf of Ezekiel or Sprouted Grain Bread (sold sliced and bagged at your local grocery store)
- 1 cup of diced onion
- 1 cup of diced celery
- 1/2 cup of diced carrots
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- Chicken stock
- Salt and pepper to taste


1. Cube the bread into small cubes. This is easier when the bread is slightly frozen.

2. Begin to fry the vegetables in a pot with a little olive oil until the onions are translucent (7-10 minutes).

3. Add the bread. Toss.

4. Add just enough chicken stock to make the bread slightly moist. Toss. Add a little more. Toss. Do this until you get the bread just soggy enough to resemble stuffing (every one knows what stuffing looks like, right?)

5. Once you do this, season with salt and pepper. Cook for another five minutes at med-low heat and:

a) Stuff your bird with it
b) Put it in a baking dish and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

I hope that you enjoy all these recipes. Please tune in next Sunday on Fox 13 for my easy turkey cooking segment. 

Cuisinart SmartStick Hand Blender CSB-77 (Google Affiliate Ad)


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Is organic food really worth it?

Is organic food really worth it?
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Is organic food really better? Is it all hype? Should I be spending my hard-earned money on it? Is it worth it?

These are the questions people ask when faced with the question of buying organic foods versus conventional foods. These are also the questions people ask when they’re handing over a $50 bill for the three measly organic items in a brittle paper bag at the local health food shop.

We live in a decadent age where yesterday’s “bad” is today’s “good”. And that’s what’s wrong with organic food. 

Not too long ago, when I was a kid, “organic food” was known simply as “food”. You ate it and you were healthy and happy because of it. It was grown by farmers. It was not toxic, poisonous or genetically modified.  The dentist told you to stay away from sugar, and the doctor told you to lower your salt intake to avoid high blood pressure.

Today, salt is good for you in comparison to such things as mono-sodium glutamate (MSG), tri-polyphosphate (the stuff they preserve frozen seafood with), and disodium EDTA (a preservative found in many foods). Common sense tells me that if it sounds like it belongs in a lab or a jet engine, it’s probably not a good idea to eat it.

And what about sugar? It still might rot your teeth out, but it’s nothing compared to high fructose corn syrup. It’s doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that obesity and diabetes increases in relation to the amount of high fructose corn syrup being put in our food supply. Actually, it takes a food scientist to make it happen, a consumer to eat it, and a doctor to treat it.

Cows and other livestock are now on antibiotics, growth hormones, and more than you think may even be on antidepressants. They are fed unnatural diets high in genetically modified grains like corn. And these chemical and genetically-altered meats make up the bulk of the protein in our food supply.  Have you ever wondered what drugs, chemicals, or modified genes lay hidden in that steak you’re eating? And how do they affect the human body?

I’m not going to quote any studies, or findings by scientists. You have been told that scientists know everything and that you know nothing, so you better believe what “scientists” tell you. I say, just look around. Are the people in your neighborhood healthy? How do you feel after you eat? Are you healthy? Are you overweight? Do you feel upbeat and full of energy after you eat? That’s your answer. You are your own scientist. Think and observe for yourself.

So the problem is not that organic food is hype, or fake, or expensive. The problem is that we have to go out of our way to find it. The problem is that there is such a scarcity of real, healthy food, that we have to spend three to five times more money to buy it from specialty shops or specialty sections in our grocery stores.

I find it ridiculous that we have to call it “organic food” in the first place. We should call it “food”. And by definition, we should call conventional food, “artificial food”. You should be able to walk into a grocery store and find 80% of it stocked with real “food” at a fair price, and there should be a small section for “artificial food”, or “experimental food”, or “pharmaceutical food” that you can buy at a really cheap price. Because, after all, that’s what it boils down to. Our conventional food supply (artificial food) is cheap to manufacture, returns a high profit, and even promotes business for dentists, doctors, lawyers, insurance companies, the weight loss industry, etc. America runs - financially - on conventional foods and their after-effects.

I’m not an organic food faddist. I still enjoy some conventional foods. But I am aware of the differences, and I know how these foods affect me. And by observing, I am able to make educated choices in my diet.

So, let’s get back to the question. Should you buy organic food? My answer is this: If you eat conventional food and find yourself full of energy, fit, and healthy, then your body has probably adapted to it, and there is no need for you to buy organic food. However, if you’re overweight, tired, or deceased, you may want to give organic food a try - it may be worth the extra money.

The picture is not as bleak as it may look. In the last couple of years I have seen more and more organic foods on store shelves, and it's evident that big food manufacturers are being forced to remove the bad stuff in their products - it's not uncommon to find "no high fructose corn syrup" written on bread bags, for example. At the end of the day, if the consumer won't buy it, they'll stop selling it. And so the way to get our food supply back to where it should be, is education. Pass it on.

Organic Prairie Family Pack Steaks and Burgers - Organic Meat (Google Affiliate Ad)

Monday, September 24, 2012

How to make really good salads

Salads 102: The Fire and Ice Factor
By: Chef Cristian Feher

In a previous article I wrote about what makes a salad healthy and unhealthy. But today’s article deals with aesthetics; texture, taste, and most importantly - a factor that you may never have thought about when it comes to making salads - temperature.

Cooking is an art. One of the first things that an artist learns is balancing out a dichotomy. Big and small, light and dark, bright and dull, sweet and salty, these are all dichotomies. And as I mentioned above, so is the relationship between hot and cold.

Some of the best salads that I make and enjoy have a carefully balanced temperature between the different ingredients that make up the salad.

I really enjoy a salad that has cold, crisp lettuce, chilled avocadoes and cooled onion slices, with a the contrast of room-temperature, ripe tomatoes, and juicy room-temperature cucumbers. The differences in temperature make a great distinction in flavors and textures on your palate and allow you to really experience the different components crisply and clearly.

I rarely make salads with more than five different ingredients together on one plate. Adding too many ingredients tends to confuse the palate, and you end up homogenizing all of the different flavors that would otherwise pop out individually.

Cold vegetables tend to crisp up, have a firmer texture, and seem more dense to the palate. The flavor of cold vegetables becomes subdued, which can be a good thing when serving strong-flavored vegetables that would overpower the salad if served room temperature (anise, carrots, onions, and beets to name a few).

Avocado, being a unique, fatty vegetable, works well both hot and cold, as they provide a different experience in taste and texture at both ends of the temperature spectrum.

Serving vegetables at room temperature creates the opposite effect. The texture becomes softer, lighter and easier on the palate. The true flavor of the vegetable also blossoms as the temperature rises. There is nothing tastier in a salad than field-fresh, ripe tomatoes served slightly warm. Or the refreshing taste of a warm, juicy slice of cucumber.

You can even go a step further by serving some of the vegetables hot. Fire roasted peppers, grilled squashes and seared cherry tomatoes, for example, add a bold, flavorful contrast to a salad of cold greens. Be sure to serve this type of salad right away to keep the cold cold, and the hot hot. Once the temperature equalizes, you end up with a bland, mushy salad. So, time, in this case, is of the essence.

Dressings and vinaigrettes are also affected by temperature.  A cold salty and acidic vinaigrette works great on a hot day. Conversely, a thick dressing like egg yolk and garlic aioli with tarragon is a great example of a dressing best served warm.

The next time you make a salad, keep in mind the balance within hot and cold. You may start to enjoy salads more, and more, by adding a new dimension to your salad-making - temperature.

Collapsible Salad Spinner, 5 qt. (Google Affiliate Ad)

The Real Hell's Kitchen

A Real Hell’s Kitchen
By: Chef Cristian Feher 

The purpose of this article is not to vilify restaurants. For the most part, restaurants are run by good, honest people just like you and me, for the benefit of those around us. In fact, I would say that 95-98% of restaurants are good, legitimate businesses.

But what about that other small percentage? I’d like to give you an interesting look inside the underbelly of the restaurant industry from my point of view.

I remember eating at a certain restaurant in Toronto years ago. It was an Italian take-out and grocery store located in the middle of a somewhat-industrial area of town, and although it wasn’t a very busy place, it was open 24 hours. The food was really good, very plentiful, and best of all, it was dirt cheap! You could buy a 2 pound piece of thick, rich, meat lasagna with garlic bread for about $3. Have you ever eaten at a place like this and wondered how they could afford to serve such generous fare and still make a profit?

It was sort of understood by most people that this was a “Mafia Restaurant”. And whether this was true or not, all signs pointed to money laundering. Criminal organizations around the world have used restaurants to clean their dirty money since restaurants have been around.

To give an example, Big Boss makes $1000 selling drugs on the street, so he sells ten sandwiches at his restaurant and puts down $1000 profit in his accounting books. The sandwiches only cost him $10 to make, and the actual profit was $50. But now he can deposit the $1000 in his bank account, pay taxes on it, and spend that money without fear of attracting attention from the cops. After all, the IRS is not really able to find out if he sold ten sandwiches or two hundred sandwiches that day - especially if the sandwiches were paid for in cash.

Take another place we will call Don Jose’s in California. The place is open 24-hours, accepts cash only, and you can get a really good burrito the size of a baby with all sides for $2.50. It also happens to be close to the border between US and Mexico. Is the owner really just a philanthropist who wants to spread happiness around the world one giant burrito at a time? Probably not.

And what about the uber-cheap Chinese buffet with fifty items on the menu? Kitchen has twenty or more “employees” (smuggled immigrants paying off their debt by working for pennies in the kitchen), owners look like a walking advertisement for Gucci, Prada and Versace. Cash only, and a couple of really expensive Mercedes parked out back? Probably a money laundering operation.

Yes, it’s true. Maybe watching too many crime dramas prompted me to write this article. But when I was a young chef, I got a job at an Italian restaurant. The boss was a cocaine-addicted rich kid, and his dad was the owner of a couple of food manufacturing factories in town. Every week I would notice some guys walk through the restaurant - one swarthy little guy in a suit with his two big apes dressed in Puma deck shoes, Adidas running suits and gold chains to match (You can’t make this stuff up!). They would meet for a while in a back room, and then spend some time at the “Italian Social Club” next door. The apes would walk the little man into his fancy Cadillac and chauffeur him to his next destination.

One day I was sitting in the dining room on my dinner break enjoying a plate of pasta when the doors were smashed in by the ETF (the Canadian version of the SWAT team). A piece of pasta dangled from my fork as I froze at the sight of a pump-action shotgun wielded in front of my face by one of the agents. “Stay right there.” He said to me. I had no argument.

A while later some casino slot machines were wheeled out from the back of the restaurant and the doors were put back on the frames. I was let off early that night. And I quit shortly after without asking any questions. It felt like working for The Sopranos.

Money laundering aside, have you ever wondered who cooks your food? It’s no secret that your average kitchen staff often resembles a pirate crew rather than a group of clean, upstanding citizens. And that’s OK. I’ve known several “pirate crews” whom I’ve been very happy to work with. But if you live in a state like Florida, you may not be aware that the guy who flipped your burger might have also robbed a bank, or kidnapped some kids.

Businesses in Florida get big tax breaks for hiring ex-felons. In fact, a restaurant owner can get up to $8500 per year in tax credits for each ex-felon on his payroll. Something to think about the next time you send back your sandwich for not having the crusts cut off!

Do you have a dubious restaurant story of your own? I would love to read about it. You can email me at

Thursday, September 6, 2012

How to get rid of chlorine smell and taste in my tap water

The Kenmore Elite Hybrid Water Softener Review Part II
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Does your tap water smell and taste like chlorine? Here in Florida, our water supply gets a yearly treatment of the stuff in order to control the growth of bacteria, algae and other foreign bodies that could contaminate our drinking supply. The result, essentially, is pool water coming out of the taps for what seems to be a couple of months. 

As a chef, this is a problem. Because water is used one way or another in nearly every dish that I make. I end up having to use bottled water to cook during this time. Which is a pain in the butt! However, this year I found a solution.

You may have read an article I wrote in July where I mention having installed a Kenmore Elite Hybrid Water Softener unit in my home. Actually, Kenmore was nice enough to provide this unit for me to see how it would affect the water quality in my home. This unit not only made my water soft, but has the capability of filtering the taste and smell of chlorine out of the water - and not just a little - it completely eliminated any trace of chlorine from my water supply. This means that I have soft, odorless water all year round for cooking, drinking, bathing and ironically enough, even to fill my pool with!

I give the Kenmore Elite Hybrid Water Softener two thumbs up!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How do I cook chicken breasts?

What To Do With Chicken Breasts
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Grilled Chicken Breasts © Cristian Feher 2012
You’re rolling by the meat department and that beacon goes off in your head, beep-beep-beep, “must... get... chicken... breasts.... healthy.” And you put them in your cart. So far you feel good. You’re being healthy, right?  But then you take them home and two things are likely to happen; They go funky in the fridge and end up in the garbage, or you overcook them and no one wants to eat them. In either case, they are likely to end up going to waste.

I’m going to give you some ideas and pointers that will make your chicken breasts soar to the top of your weekly menu.

Not all chicken breasts are created equal.  If I asked you to pick out the healthiest thing in the meat department, you would probably come up with a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. And while you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, there are some differences that you may want to pay attention to.

You are likely to find chicken breasts from different manufacturers. Some are organic, others are air-chilled, some are all-natural, and the rest are from what I call “lab-chickens”. If your primary reason for eating chicken breast is health, then read on.

Lab Chickens, and ordinary chicken meat products come from chickens raised in factory-like farms. They are genetically manipulated and have likely been fed a diet high in antibiotics, and growth hormones. It takes a natural chicken about 80 days to reach full size, but major chicken growers have got it down to about 45 days to reach 5 pounds! Just think, if your newborn baby grew this fast, he’d be 350 pounds by the age of 2. And if you don’t think these hormones affect humans, just take a look around. I try not to feed my family or my customers chicken that was grown with antibiotics, hormones or genetic manipulation (what they call selective breeding).

All Natural doesn’t really mean anything. Like I’ve said before in several other articles, “natural” is a marketing word to make you feel that you’re buying something that is good for you.  Snake venom, cyanide, opium, and cow manure are all natural too. You can ignore the “natural” and read the package to make sure the chicken was not fed drugs, hormones or antibiotics.

Organic, free-range, and chemical-free chicken is the way to go, in my opinion. Aside from the chemical factor, I find the meat to be softer, tastier, and more moist than that of regular chicken. And you don’t have to spend exorbitant amounts for good meat. I buy Murray’s brand chicken which is priced pretty competitively with regular chicken. But most important to me is the quality of the meat, which I am very happy with.

How to buy it. Chicken breasts come with skin-on, skin-off, and skin-on with bone. Don’t buy the ones with the bone, unless you want to practice your butchery skills and throw out half the package weight in skin and bone. Your choice comes down to skin on, or skin off. Just keep in mind that the reason chicken breast meat tends to dry out is because it has no fat. The skin has fat. So when you’re cooking it, the fat from the skin will baste the breast, add some flavor and lubricate the meat. And you can always discard the skin before serving, unless you’re like me and prize crispy chicken skin as a superlative snack! But you can still take skinless chicken breasts and make them juicy too.

How to cook it without burning or drying it out? Yes, the reason you started to read this article! Below are five quick ways to cook chicken breasts like a champ! But before I get to that, let me give you two quick tips on cooking:

1) Thick breasts don’t always cook evenly, and so you end up overcooking them or serving them raw-ish. To avoid this, you want to make the meat thinner by butterflying them with a chef knife. Cut the breast in half horizontally, opening it up like a book, or cutting it into two thinner pieces.

2) Almost everyone of my cooking class students asks me, “How do I know if the chicken is done.” My answer - The color is opaque, and if you poke the meat, it burns your finger. If the meat is hot enough to burn your finger, it’s done. Also, the juices run clear, not red or pink. But this only works if you butterfly it, pound it, or get it thin before you start cooking it (about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thin).

Quick Chicken Breast Recipes

1. (GRILL) Sprinkle the breasts with Adobo seasoning. Grill on both sides. Brush them heavily with chimichurri towards the end and before serving. Chimichurri - stick the following in a food processor and blend - 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 a chopped red bell pepper, salt, pepper, a little thyme, parsley and oregano (fresh is best, but dry if you don’t have fresh).

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2. (SKILLET)  Cook a diced onion with a dozen sliced mushrooms and a little olive oil until the onion is translucent (7-10 mins). Add 1 tsp of dijon mustard, salt, pepper, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 tsp of curry powder and 1/2 cup of chicken stock. Add 4 chicken breast. Put lid over skillet and simmer/steam until chicken is cooked through. Serve over rice, potatoes or steamed cauliflower.

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3. (OVEN)  Oven-frying is easy and healthy! Sprinkle the meat with Adobo seasoning, dredge your breast in flour, then dredge through a bowl with a couple of scrambled raw eggs, then dredge through a bowl of Italian bread crumbs. Put them on a baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil. Spray both sides with some cooking spray and bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes. When in doubt, make a little slice into the chicken and stick your finger in it. If it’s opaque, clear juices and burns your finger, it’s done!

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4. (SKILLET)  This one goes great over angel-hair pasta! Dice an onion, cook it until translucent with a little olive oil. Add two diced tomatoes, 3 cloves of minced garlic, a few olives of your choices, 6 capers, a little oregano and fresh basil (fresh or dry), salt and pepper. Add 2 chicken breasts and cook until the chicken is done.

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5. (OVEN)  (SKILLET) Oven-fry the chicken as per instructions above. While you’re doing that, put a little olive oil in a non-stick skillet and sautee two dozen cherry tomatoes, fresh chopped basil, and a handful of salted roasted cashews just until the cherry tomatoes and hot and the skins are seared. Serve on top of chicken with  salt and pepper and sprinkle with clumps of goat cheese.

Do you have your own really good chicken breast recipes? If so, you can email me at Don’t forget to check out my Facebook page at

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Easy standing rib eye roast recipe

How to Cook a Perfect Standing Rib Roast
By: Chef Cristian Feher

There are some things that you can make at home, and there are some things you simply have to go to restaurants for. Really succulent prime rib might be one of them.

It might seem like a scary thing to spend over $100 on a cut of meat and have to haul the thing home. After all, what if you screw it up?

With this recipe for prime rib, you will not only make perfect beef every time, but you may never go back to the restaurant again. And now you can be a star at your next family get-together! This recipe has been passed down to me by the extraordinary legion of chefs, and I’m going to pass it on to you, so that you can make a perfect standing rib roast - with no guessing, and no maybes. This recipe comes out perfect every time!

Rib Roast 101: What is a standing rib roast? And is it different from a rib eye? All you have to know is that a ribeye with the rib bones still attached is called a “standing rib roast” - probably because you can stand it up on the ribs. If you get it without the rib bones it’s just called a ribeye roast.

For this recipe you want to get a rib roast that has the rib bones still attached to it. It will not work without the bones, since you will be using a mathematical formula that takes the bones into the equation. If this is too difficult to understand, here it the “for dummies” version: Get the one with the bones attached!

How much meat should I buy? Easy. Calculate 2 servings per bone. If you’re serving 6 people, get a standing rib roast with 3 bones.

The perfect cooking method:  This recipe will only turn out perfect if you do exactly what the instructions say to do.

Don’t do what Donny-Don’t Does! Here are some ways to screw this recipe up. So don’t do them:  Not following the mathematical formula, using cold meat, removing the bones from the rib roast, using meat that is partially frozen, using an oven that doesn’t get hot enough (use an oven thermometer to see if your oven is actually as hot as it says), and opening the oven during the cooking process (you’ll ruin Christmas, trust me). Don’t trim the fat from it either. If you see your butcher starting to get all fancy with his knife like he’s a stylist about to cut Madonna's hair, just stop him right there and tell him to leave the fat on.

How to make perfect, juicy, medium-rare, melt-in-your-mouth, crusty-on-the-outside, crispy-fatted, baby-tender, emotion-inducing, tongue-thrilling, visually-entrancing, super-gastronomically-(#*$$#-happy-joy-joy-you-just-won-$500-on-a-culinary-scratch-n-win-made-of-meat-that-came-out-of-your-oven standing rib roast. It goes great with mashed potatoes, by the way.

Step 1: Leave your meat out on the counter for 4 to 6 hours until the meat comes up to room temperature. This is crucial. Don’t worry about stupid things like “What about bacteria? Eek!” Listen, I and everyone else that has made this recipe has survived unscathed. In fact, after a meal like this you won’t get sick for two years from the sheer pleasure of it, I guarantee it (not an actual guarantee).

Step 2: Spread soft butter all over the meat. Sprinkle with adobo seasoning and sprinkle with lots of truffle salt. You can find truffle salt online at, or you can buy it at William Sonoma - it’s as good as it sounds.

Step 3: Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. Make sure the oven has reached 500 F before you put the beef inside.

Step 4: Put your beef, ribs-down, in a baking pan. I like to use a rack in my pan, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Step 5: Here is the math. Find out how many pounds your rib roast weighs. Multiply each pound X 5. This number will be the minutes that you will cook it at 500 degrees in the oven. Example. If your roast weighs 7 Lbs. 7 X 5 = 35. Therefore, you will cook your beef in the oven at 500 degrees for 35 minutes. If you are not good at math and do not understand this formula, go to your nearest neighbor for help. Choose the one with the most expensive car, they probably have a good grasp of mathematics. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR ONCE YOU HAVE STARTED COOKING.

Step 6: When you’ve reached the end of the cooking minutes, turn the oven off and let the beef sit in there for 2 more hours. Do not open the door - not even once throughout this process. If you get nervous, go get a massage, or mow your lawn a few times. Just don’t open the door, or you will let the heat out and ruin your beef.

Step 7: Once the two hours have elapsed, it’s time to break your beef out of solitary and carve it up. You will not need to let it rest since, technically, it’s been resting for two hours. Just slice off the bones from the bottom, and carve your beef to your heart’s content - actually, to your stomach’s content. Your heart would probably prefer a lean chicken breast, but who wants that?

I hope this recipe will brighten your day. You can visit my facebook page for more photos, recipes, and and stuff at

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kenmore elite hybrid water softener

Soft Water in the Kitchen
By: Chef Cristian Feher

As a chef I spend a lot of time choosing the right vegetables, picking the right meats and carefully combining herbs, spices and seasonings to make the best foods I possibly can. I’m always working towards making better food. And I have realized that I’ve been overlooking the most important and most abundant ingredient, common in all food - water.

Water could be described as a clear, odorless, non-reactive liquid (unless you drop an electric toaster into it). So, how could water make such a difference as an ingredient? Because not all water is created the same - better put, not all water contains the same stuff.

The combination of contents in your water varies largely depending on which part of the world you live in. You may find anything ranging from dissolved rocks (calcium and magnesium), to traces of pharmaceutical drugs, and birth control hormones, to radioactive barium particles, to chlorine and other smelly additives. The combinations are endless, and the realization that these things are in my water make me a little hesitant to bathe in it, let alone cook with it. I also wonder how these contents could actually affect my dishes. Could they alter the consistency and taste? Common sense tells me, yes.

Today I embarked on a very exciting experiment. I installed a Kenmore elite hybrid water softener in my house. This is an appliance that attaches to the main water line of your home and turns “hard water” into “soft water” by removing dissolved solids like calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Because it is hybrid, this particular unit also works to reduce potentially radioactive particles (barium and radium), and dramatically lessens smells and tastes in the tap water caused by chlorine and similarly added chemicals.

Here in Clearwater, Florida, they have a habit of adding large amounts of chlorine to disinfect the county water system. And for several weeks during the year I am forced to cook with what smells and tastes like pool water! We also have a high amount of dissolved rock in the water, making a crusty mess of sinks, shower heads, and faucets.

Unfortunately, water softeners are not install-it-yourself appliances (unless you’re good at plumbing). It took a professional plumber several hours to connect this system to my main water line and run a drain pipe from the softener to my drain line. The unit will expel a salty brine of all the stuff it removes from my tap water several times per week, leaving me with fresh, soft water.

I am very excited to have this appliance in my home and am looking forward to seeing how this affects my household water usage and most importantly, my cooking.  Removing dissolved rocks, chlorine and radiation from my soups, sauces, and foods makes me hopeful that I can improve my cooking on a very basic level. I will update you in a few weeks and let you know the results of the Kenmore elite water softener.

Until then, I wish you happy cooking!