Saturday, May 26, 2012

Grilled Chocolate Cake Recipe

Grilled Chocolate Cake Recipe
By: Chef Cristian Feher

It could be that I’m a caveman at heart, but I love to make chocolate cake on the grill. I suppose it could be an acquired taste for some, and if you think that’s you, start off by using your gas grill which should only impart a hint of smoke (as compared to a very smoky charcoal grill).  This adds a rustic undertone that makes me feel happy.

- 1 3/4 cup of all purpose flour
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of Quik chocolate milk powder mix
- 1 stick of room temp butter
- 16oz of sour cream
- Coconut ice cream
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tbsp of vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp of baking soda
- 1 tsp of salt
- Cooking spray


1. Mix together all ingredients in a bowl. 

2.  Spray a baking tin with cooking spray. Pour the batter into a baking tin (half way up).

3. Grill in the BBQ on low (350-400), lid closed for 20-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

4. Serve hot or warm with a scoop of coconut ice cream on top. Or let it cool to room temp, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night. The cake will become moist and dense, and it's a sugary breakfast of champions with a tall glass of milk!

NOTE: If you can, switch off the gas burner on one side of the grill and put the cake tin on that side. If you can't, just make sure the fire is low. On a charcoal grill, just make sure that there is no flames hitting the tin and that the heat is not too intense.

Tiger Burgers Recipe

Tiger Burger Recipe
By: Chef Cristian Feher

There are a million ways to spice your burgers - this is one of my favs. It's flavorful, tangy and very mildly spicy. But most importantly, this recipe makes for a juicy meat patty thanks to a 50/50 mixture of pork and beef. If you can picture a pig and a cow walking through a sunny field hoof-in-hoof, this is what these burgers taste like - with the addition of a tiger! 

Tiger Sauce can be found in the hot sauce section of your local supermarket. It's a mildly spicy, tangy, and sweet sauce made mostly of tamarind, which is a sour fruit found in Asia and South America.

The side dish pictured above is grilled sweet potatoes. Simply boil some sweet potatoes in salted water until you can stab them with a fork. Drain, run under cold water for 10 minutes, drain again. I like to do this the day before and refrigerate over night. I cut them in thick slices and grill them on the BBQ with some olive oil and dried herbs until nice grill marks form on them (same length of time it takes you to cook the burgers). My favorite dip for these sweet potatoes is mayonnaise mixed with a little curry powder and a drop of dijon mustard!

Yields: 6 burger patties

- 1 Lb of ground beef sirloin
- 1 Lb of ground pork
- 3/4 tbsp of Goya adobo seasoning
- 3 tbsp of Kikkoman Japanese soy sauce
- 2 tbsp of Tiger Sauce
- 1 cup of Italian bread crumbs
- 1 egg


1. Mix all ingredients together. Form into hamburger patties and grill on the BBQ!

2. Enjoy on hamburger buns with your favorite burger fixings!

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Grilled Romaine Lettuce Salad Recipe

Grilled Romaine Lettuce Salad
By: Chef Cristian Feher

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If you’ve taken a personal chef cooking class with me in the past, chances are that you’re experienced the delight of a grilled romaine salad.  You have no idea how much flavor is hidden inside of a lettuce leaf until you put fire to it!

You put many different kinds of dressings and vinaigrettes with this salad, but I will give you a quick, light and refreshing lemon and olive oil vinaigrette below.

Yields: 4 servings

- 2 heads of romaine lettuce
- Olive oil and/or olive oil cooking spray
- The juice of one lemon
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- Bread croutons


1. Get your grill nice and hot.

2. Slice your romaine lettuce in half lengthwise. Spray the cut side with olive oil spray.

3. Put it flat side down on the grill for a couple of minutes until grill marks form on the lettuce, and the under-side is just  bit wilted. 

4. Remove from the grill, chop it up and put it in a bowl. 

5. Mix with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and croutons. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Summer grilling recipe ideas

Summer Grilling Ideas
By: Chef Cristian Feher

 The mercury is rising, the birds are chirping and the sun is out. It’s time to dust off the old grill and do some therapeutic grilling.

How is grilling therapeutic? Think about it; you’re outdoors breathing in fresh, non-recirculated-unconditioned-air. The sun is turning your skin into a vitamin-D-producing laboratory. That burst of flame that shoots up at your face while you’re in there wondering why it won’t light - that’s exfoliating your skin! The charred bits of flavor leftover from your previous fiery feasts - they make you stronger, because according to the old adage, they haven’t killed you. And if that isn’t enough, your grill will actually burn the fat that drips off your food, so your body doesn’t have to. Grilling is therapy for the face, stomach and soul.

Most people look at a grill as just a grill. But did you realize that it’s also an oven (if it has a lid),  and a stove? Your grill is basically a full outdoor kitchen with which you can do a lot more than burgers and steaks. Below are a few ideas that may tickle your grilling-bone this summer.

Grill Your Lettuce!
If you’ve taken a personal chef cooking class with me in the past, chances are that you’re experienced the delight of a grilled romaine salad.  You have no idea how much flavor is hidden inside of a lettuce leaf until you put fire to it!

Cut the romaine lettuce in half, drizzle the cut side with good quality olive oil, and sear for a minute or three on a really hot grill (cut-side-down) until it begins to wilt and grill marks form. Chop it up, mix it with a garlic anchovy dressing, sprinkle with shaved Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and key lime juice for an unexpectedly flavorful Caesar salad.

Is it Steak or Pizza?
My friend Jorge made this for us in Argentina. It was one of my fondest food memories of that trip and it was insanely good - in fact, everything there was insanely good. The secret to Argentine cuisine is that they have not reinvented the mouse trap. What worked 100 years ago still works the same way today. And that antiquity in agricultural methods, farming, butchering, and cooking just happens to make every dish special, amazing, fresh and revitalizing. It’s real food.

A smoky charcoal fire. A large grass-fed sirloin steak rubbed with kosher salt and black pepper sizzles on the grill. It’s called Steak Pizzaiola. When the steak is a few minutes from perfection, you top it with a simple tomato and oregano sauce, oily sundried tomatoes, roasted red pepper strips, and sliced buffalo mozzarella. Let the cheese bubble and melt, move the steak onto a wooden board and have the lucky participants serve each other slices of this sublime dish. Fresh bread to sop up the juices left on the board? I will cut anyone who gets in my way...

You Make Your Paella in the Oven?
A paella is a traditional dish from Spain. Rice is cooked in a saffron-infused broth with your choice of meats and vegetables - the most popular being seafood, onions, peppers, capers and peas - over a coal fire in a cast iron pan called a Paellera. The unfortunate thing is that few people make it this way in North America. Most cook it on the stovetop or in the oven.

For a real Spanish paella, get a cast iron skillet, put it on a hot grill, cook your ingredients, add the rice and saffron and slowly add the stock while cooking the dish over a smoky charcoal grill, or a gas grill with some wet wood chips inside. Trust me, the smoke and cast iron make a big difference. And if you haven’t quite mastered making a paella, just hire a personal chef to teach you how ;)

Slap Some Hershey’s on the Grill!
It could be that I’m a caveman at heart, but I love to make chocolate cake on the grill. I suppose it could be an acquired taste for some, and if you think that’s you, start off by using your gas grill which should only impart a hint of smoke (as compared to a very smoky charcoal grill).  This adds a rustic undertone that makes me feel happy.

Combine 1-3/4 cups of flour, 1-3/4 cups of sugar, 3/4 cup of Hershey’s cocoa powder, 1-1/2 tsp of baking soda, 1 tsp of salt, 2/3 cup of soft butter, 16oz sour cream, 2 eggs, 1 tsp or vanilla extract. Mix it all together, put in a cake pan and stick it in the grill - if you can turn the burner off underneath the cake, good, if not - turn it down to low and close the lid. Bake for 30-45 mins, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm with a big scoop of chocolate or coconut ice cream!

If you have your own creative recipes for the grill, I would love to hear about them! You can email me at Happy grilling everyone!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

how to make tomato sauce from scratch

Making perfect tomato sauce
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Wow, what an ambitious title! I’m sure I’ll be getting mail on this one. I might even get elderly Italians leaving severed fingers in my mailbox - the Sicilian version of a ‘cease and desist’ letter. I can imagine the turf wars such an article could create in Italy. But none the less, I would like to impart what I know about making really good tomato sauce - from the safety of an undisclosed location in America.

I’d also like to mention that I learned how to make tomato sauce from my mentor, Master Chef Pasquale Carpino - who nearly got into a full brawl in a restaurant kitchen with an old Italian guy over which bread was better - Calabrese bread or Sicilian bread!

Every art has its technical aspects. A painter has to know his brushes, a pianist has to be able to read music and push the keys. The rest is the simple joy of creation. I’m going to give you the technicalities of making really good tomato sauce in hopes that you spend the rest of your day creating a thick, red, tomato masterpiece.

First I would like to define what the perfect tomato sauce should taste like - I’m still seeing severed fingers and black Cadillacs driving slowly passed my house. Let’s say this: A good tomato sauce must be thick, aromatic (herbs) and flavorful - it must have a good balance of acidity, saltiness, and sweetness. And to accomplish this we have to understand the ingredients, equipment and techniques that will go into making such a sauce.

Tomatoes.  The first and most important ingredient is the tomato. Is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable? Who cares, right? The most important part of the sauce will be the type and quality of tomato that you will use. This will make or break the sauce. Use an under-ripe, insipid tomato and you get a flavorless sauce. So you want to get really nice, ripe, flavorful tomatoes.

Fresh Tomatoes.  In a perfect world, you would use fresh tomatoes to make a really good batch of sauce. And your regular supermarket tomatoes, just won’t cut it. Those nice, firm, red tomatoes you see in the supermarket have (most likely) been picked green off the plant and put into a chamber of ethylene gas, which turns them red. But for all intents and purposes, they are still flavorless, green tomatoes. They have very little natural sugar and they will make your sauce blah.

If you’re lucky enough to have a big tomato garden in your backyard, great! Just wait until they are super-ripe (squishy, juicy and sweet) and you can make a really delicious sauce. I drive out to Plant City, Florida during tomato season, talk to the farmers, and get them to sell me bins of tomatoes that were picked late and are about to go bad - the really squishy, overly-ripe ones they’re just about to throw out. Sometimes they give them to me for free! These are great for tomato sauce. But if you’re really lucky, you live in Italy, where San Marzano plum tomatoes are grown in rich volcanic soil - these are the best.

I once got a big basket of vine ripened tomatoes from a couple who were heavy cigarette smokers. The tomatoes were grown indoors and were so loaded with cigarette smoke that the sauce turned out smoky in flavor - and if you could ignore where the smokiness came from, it was actually quite delicious!

Canned Tomatoes. Let’s say that you don’t have a garden, don’t live in Italy and don’t have access to tomato farms.  That’s alright. Like most people, you’ll be using canned tomatoes - which are still better than the fresh supermarket tomatoes because they are somewhat concentrated and have more sugar, salt and flavor to them. But there are still rules to picking out canned tomatoes, since they are not all created equal.

Try to find canned San Marzano tomatoes. These are awesome - meaty, dry, and packed with flavor. If you really can’t find these, try to get imported italian plum tomatoes, either diced or whole. Crushed tomatoes just never taste right to me. And canned “tomato sauce”? No. Put it back on the shelf, or I will send you a severed thumb in the mail!

Tomato paste has a use - it’s a thickener. If you don’t have time to commit to cooking a tomato sauce for hours, then you use tomato paste at the end of cooking to thicken the sauce, but this is cheating. And we won’t be using any of that to make our perfect sauce.

Other ingredients. If you had the right tomatoes, really all you would need to add would be a bunch of sea salt. You would get a simple, delicious sauce. But you can get a seriously tasty sauce with the addition of fresh black pepper, fresh garlic, fresh onions, carrots (to add a little sweetness to the sauce) and fresh basil added at the end to add a rich aroma.  Notice these are all “fresh”. It makes a big difference.

Salt. It deserves a paragraph all by itself. The second most important ingredient in your tomato sauce is salt. It brings out the flavor of the tomato. Use a lot of it. If you’re afraid of salt, you’re not going to make good tomato sauce. Period. It doesn’t even really matter what type of salt you use - it’s all water soluble (it melts in water) and it all came from an ocean at some point (so it’s all sea salt).

Oils. I will be dodging bullets for saying this, but I’ll still say it. You don’t have to use oil to make tomato sauce. It can be a fat-free food and still taste great! However (a big, bullet-dodging however), a very flavorful olive oil will add to the aroma of the sauce. Phew! That was close. Was that a black Cadillac that just drove by?

Equipment. You don’t need to buy a whole new kitchen. Two things will make your life easy though; a very large pot with a thick metal and ceramic plate stamped on the bottom, and an immersion blender or hand blender. Once you get your tomato sauce recipe just right, you’ll want to make big batches to make the long cooking time worth your while. The thick bottom on the pot will lessen the chances that your sauce will burn - a definite sauce killer. Thin-bottomed pots will almost always burn your food - throw them in the garbage, or use them only for boiling water.

Technique. Onions have a lot of sulfur. When sulfur gets in your eyes, it mixes with salty tears. Salt and sulfur make sulfuric acid. That’s why onions make your eyes hurt. But when you’re cooking with sulfur onions, don’t add salt to them until they are fully cooked and broken down, as you may be making a batch of sulfuric acid and it may make your dish a little bitter.

Having said that, the first step is to cook a bunch of diced onions in your pot with some olive oil - don’t be shy. If you want to keep this fat-free, use water instead of oil and get the steam to break the onions down. In both cases you will cook the onion down until they’re well-cooked, only then will you add the chopped garlic, black pepper, and minced carrot. Stir for a minute or so and add the tomatoes with some salt (fresh tomatoes cut in chunks, or canned tomatoes any way they came).

From this point, you bring your tomatoes to a simmer, and then turn the heat down to a low simmer. You will spend the next few hours slowly evaporating the water, leaving behind a thick tomato sauce full of flavor. When the sauce is as thick as you want it, get a hand blender and puree the tomato sauce - if you like it chunky, you don’t have to use the hand blender.

Finish the tomato sauce with plenty of salt (more than most of you would think) by adding a little at a time, stirring and tasting until a really nice savory flavor is achieved. Fresh basil is added to the sauce once you have turned off the heat. You do not need to cook basil, it will lose flavor the more you cook it, so it’s added at the end.

Package the sauce into glass mason jars, or plastic containers and freeze or give away to your friends.

I want you to experiment with your own quantities of salt, onion, garlic, etc, until you have achieved your perfect sauce. Make sure you write down each ingredient carefully, including where you got them, etc.This will ensure that you can follow the recipe almost exactly every time. And yes, you can do small test batches and multiply the recipe when you think you’ve struck gold!

Bon apetito!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

how to become a chef

My advice to budding chefs
By: Chef Cristian Feher

You want to know how to become a chef. Maybe you’re already a chef and you want to be better.

You probably found this article after asking Google that same question. Maybe you’re not even a chef, and have no interest in being one, but you’re asking that Shakespearean question - “To be”. How to be, what to be. 

Whether you know what you’re doing in life, or not, that fortunately is not a mystery - the fact that you’re being (something, someone).  So you want to be a...

I’m going to ask you to do something. I’m going to ask you to put your hands out and grab the world. Go it? Ok, now shift it slightly and look again. Same world - different view. I’m going to present a little paradigm shift. I actually had to look that word up in a dictionary today.

Paradigm: A typical example or pattern of something; a model. (what most of us agree to be true).

Joe wants to be a chef. He wants to be the greatest chef in the world. Instead of putting on a hat and throwing down a hot pan of crepes, he steps out of the door and there are no trumpets blaring. He walks into a local restaurant and no one ushers him into the kitchen. His parents frown and ask him to be “reasonable”. After all, he should be a lawyer or a doctor, or an accountant. Even the restaurants he applies to want him to start by washing dishes. He faces the daunting task of having to find the time and money to put himself through culinary arts school. If he still wants to be a chef at this point, I give him credit for his perseverance!

The point is that society is made to try to dissuade you from being what you want to be. You set out to do something in life, and you find yourself having to ask for permission to be. You have to make excuses for why you want to be. You have to explain to people what you want to be. You have to prove that you are. And you end up having to pay money to an establishment (like a university or authority) so they can finally tell people that you are something.

Before you get the wrong idea, I want to clearly state that I am not some hippie that wants to occupy a park, or tear down any establishment. I’m not against learning, or schools. I myself went through the gauntlet of schools, restaurant kitchens, apprenticeships, certifications, etc. I have brass on my jacket! But my best advise to you, is this:

It’s all in your mind. Anything you’ve ever done, you thought it up first. Before you opened the door, you thought of opening the door. Before you told someone who you were, you thought of telling them who you were. If you really want to be something, just pretend that you’re it and keep pretending that you’re it until you’re it, man. If you can pretend to be something, you’re already it. I’m not talking half-pretend. I’m not talking “try”. I’m talking about going all out. Be it. Own it. You have to believe it.

Pretend: To cause (what is not so) to seem so.

I’m not talking about being a fraud. That’s a completely different understanding of the word “pretend”. You, or someone that reads this article may find what I’m saying to be ridiculous. But that’s because they probably have never tried it, and wouldn’t have the guts to. The world is full of people that tell you things can’t be done, simply because they can’t do them. And you can’t even blame those people - they’ve been told what they can and cannot do all their lives.

Whether you’re good at something, or bad at something, or great at something, is up to your natural talent and ability to learn. You can be a good chef, or you can be a crappy chef. But my point is that if you really convinced yourself that you are a really good chef, you’re probably going to come up with some pretty tasty dishes. Anything I do in life I approach this way. I become it, and I do it. This also includes educating myself, all the time, constantly. I very rarely ask for permission to be something once I’ve decided to be it. Do not underestimate the power of your mind.

Yes, you may have to go to school and get certifications, etc. But know that you’re not doing these things to become a chef, you’re doing them to become a better chef and to establish an agreement with the society that you live in. You were a chef way back, the moment you decided to be a chef - and if someone that day had put you in charge of a kitchen, I guarantee you that you would have done good job, and you would have kept on getting better from that day forward.

How often have you looked at someone driving a fancy car, or in a big office, and said to yourself “Man, I could do that guys’ job.” Well you know what? It’s true. If you really decided so, and were given the guys’ job, you actually, probably could (with a little orientation) do it, and do it well! So remember, that it’s these strange paradigms in society you’re up against, not your natural ability and decision to be something.

You can’t practice medicine or law without a license - not because you couldn’t, but because it would put you in jail. Just know that the only thing stopping you would be a law. You could very well become a good doctor or lawyer if you decided you wanted to be one (if that was really your passion). Luckily, there is a lot more freedom in the arts. You can be an artist, an actor, a sculptor, a painter, a musician, a chef, etc - and just get better by doing. It’s just a decision.

Do not seek to work your way up to becoming something some day. Decide to be it today, totally, 100%, and then do what you have to do in order to communicate it to the society in a way that it can understand. This is the correct order of things - That’s the actual picture of the world. You’ll be much happier, better at what you do, and more successful in anything that you choose to be if you look at it this way.

You want to be something? Start doing it now in whatever capacity you can, as often as you can - don't read about it, or start asking for permission - do, do, do, and you'll soon realize that you became it the moment you started doing it. Prove me wrong.