All Posts By Maria Russo

Maria Russo is an associate editor at Food Network, now living in New York City after being born and raised in the great state of Michigan. She likes her eggs runny, her pasta cheesy and has been known to throw back dozens of oysters at a time.

Vegetarian Sides for Thanksgiving — Meatless Monday

by in Holidays, Recipes, November 11th, 2013

Green Bean Casserole with Crispy ShallotsWhether you’re planning to prepare an entire vegetarian menu for Thanksgiving or you’ll be cooking for just a few meatless eaters amid demanding carnivores this year, it can be tricky to keep the entire table happy. After all, the centerpiece of most Turkey Day dinners is the juicy, crispy-skinned bird, and if you remove the turkey, you’ll want to replace it with something equally hearty and comforting. The key to pleasing both meat eaters and vegetarians alike on Thanksgiving is offering an array of satisfying side dishes, as they’re a naturally must-have element of the feast that nearly every guest will crave. Most traditional sides, like mashed potatoes, casseroles and stuffings, are naturally vegetarian, and if they’re not, they can be made meatless simply by swapping in vegetable broth or stock for the chicken variety. Check out a few of Food Network’s favorite vegetarian Thanksgiving sides below to find easy-to-prepare classic recipes worthy of the fall feast.

Combining the freshness of vegetables with the stick-to-your-ribs comfort of the holiday, green bean casserole is a timeless Thanksgiving pick, and Ellie’s lightened-up version — Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Shallots from Food Network Magazine (pictured above) — proves to be light and meatless without sacrificing flavor. She mixes string beans and garlic-thyme mushrooms into a thick sauce with nutty Parmesan cheese, then bakes the casserole with sweet fried shallots until the top is golden brown.

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Robert Irvine

by in Food Network Chef, November 10th, 2013

Robert IrvineWhen it comes to transforming America’s failing restaurants on Restaurant: Impossible and giving them a second chance at future success, fans know that Robert Irvine is all business, dedicated to teaching owners how to turn their eateries into profitable productions. And each week on Restaurant Express, you see him challenging restaurant hopefuls to survive the ultimate seven-week culinary road trip. But just recently, Robert invited fans to get to know him beyond television and divulged insider details about seemingly all aspects of his life. In an #AskIrvine Twitter chat, Robert revealed his favorite meal, deserted island must-have, packing preferences when traveling, secret to achieving bulging biceps and more. Read on below to get caught up on the highlights and learn 10 little-known facts about this longtime chef and professional restaurateur.

1. Even though he’s in tiptop shape, Robert admits, “I believe every meal should end with something sweet.”

2. When asked what single food he would bring with him on a deserted island, he answered: “Water. You can’t live without it.”

3. “I love Stella and Heineken,” Robert admits of his favorite beers.

4. For more than 10 years, Robert was a member of the British Navy.

5. Robert has been cooking since he was 11 years old.

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“The Final Frontier”: Geoffrey Zakarian’s Top 10 Tips for Cooking Risotto

by in Food Network Chef, November 9th, 2013

Geoffrey ZakarianGiven the chilly weather, shorter days and darker nights, comfort food season is at the top of everyone’s mind lately, and while many look to mac ‘n’ cheese or casseroles for hearty satisfaction, most forget that risotto is every bit as rich and decadent as those classic picks. This creamy, cheesy, Italian rice-based dish has been given a bad rap — some claim it’s too tedious to prepare at home — but Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian is on a mission to dispel that culinary rumor once and for all.

Catching up with fans at the 2013 New York City Wine & Food Festival last month, Geoffrey assuaged fears of cooking risotto from scratch — something he’s deemed “the final frontier” — explaining, “It’s nothing more than rice …. It’s not that much work …. It’s just a technique.” He broke down that technique during his live culinary demonstration preparing a mushroom-lobster risotto, and he noted that the payoff promises versatile recipes and can-do results. Read on below to hear from Geoffrey and learn his top tips for mastering risotto at home.

10. If you’re new to cooking risotto, stick with a basic recipe featuring chicken stock, cheese and olive oil.

9. Opt for a pan that offers enough surface area to cook the rice. Whether you use a large skillet or deep pot, just be sure there’s ample space for the rice to meet the heat.

Get the top-eight tips

Farm vs. Bar Food: Which Restaurant Divided Concept Did You Like Better?

by in Shows, November 7th, 2013

Restaurant DividedAfter years of unprofitability and a staggering debt of almost $50,000, the three co-owners of Maggie’s Farm in Baltimore faced a crucial crossroads that would ultimately determine if and how the eatery would ever see future success. One owner, Laura Merino, was adamant in her belief that her restaurant needed to stick to its farm-to-table concept to have any chance at future success, while her partners — the chef, Andrew Weinzirl, who’s also her fiancé, and the general manager, Matthew Weaver — maintained that an all-new Southern-skewed concept would be most beneficial in relaunching Maggie’s. Before he could help the owners come together in agreement, Rocco DiSpirito had to first divide them further, and the only way to do so was to begin a Restaurant Divided takeover.

Working with his design team, Rocco split the space at Maggie’s into two eateries and let diners and restaurant critics speak to which restaurant they’d most want to return. Laura ran the made-over, garden-inspired Maggie’s Farm that featured its signature fresh cuisine; Andrew and Matthew opened the speakeasy-bar hybrid Speakgreazy, a red-walled space with plush seating serving Southern favorites. While both concepts proved able to attract guests and dish out quality plates, 25 percent more customers were more willing to return to Laura’s restaurant, Maggie’s, than they were to the guys’ Speakgreazy. Knowing this and having dined at both establishments, Rocco ultimately revealed that the original business, Maggie’s, would afford the group the best chance at lasting viability.

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#TBT: Ina Garten

by in Food Network Chef, November 7th, 2013

Ina GartenIt’s Thursday, and while that means everyone is just one day away from the weekend, it also means it’s time to throw back — to an earlier period in Food Network’s history. Check back on FN Dish every Thursday to find the latest #tbt of your favorite chefs and get a retro look at their earliest days on TV.

Before Ina Garten was known as the Barefoot Contessa, she was working in Washington, D.C., at America’s most famous address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. While at the White House, she focused on nuclear energy policy; it wasn’t until later that she learned she was destined for a life in food. In 1978 Ina and her husband, Jeffrey, bought Barefoot Contessa, a specialty food shop in the Hamptons on Long Island. After years under Ina’s leadership, the once-tiny store had been transformed into a thriving business with dozens of employees and a stellar local reputation. She eventually sold Barefoot Contessa in 1996, but the nickname stuck with her, so much so that her first Food Network show premiered with that title in 2005.

When it comes to cooking, Ina has a passion for creating feasts that are at once familiar and fancy with the best, freshest ingredients available, which is something she’s tried to instill in her fans as well. Each week on Barefoot Contessa, Ina highlights a theme, event or ingredient that’s particularly relevant to her, and she features it in recipes that are not only accessible and easy to prepare but deliciously satisfying as well. Some of her most lauded dishes include Engagement Roast ChickenMac and Cheese and Beatty’s Chocolate Cake, but she’s known to create dressed-up plates as well, like Salmon with Lentils and Croissant Bread Pudding. No matter the cuisine and meal, however, Ina’s sure to incorporate can-do techniques and handy tips to help viewers re-create her recipes with ease.

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Restaurant Revisited: His Way or the Highway at The Windsor 75

by in Shows, November 6th, 2013

Restaurant: Impossible“This might be a lost cause,” Robert Irvine said while working with the Calos family at their seven-year-old restaurant, The Windsor 75. Owners Therese and George and their two sons needed Robert’s help to not only update what he deemed “blah” decor and improve their menu but also ease the tensions and end the bickering between them. With just two days to work and a $10,000 budget, Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible team accomplished their mission to relaunch The Windsor 75 and set up the Caloses with the tools they need for future success. FN Dish checked in with Therese a few months after the renovation to find out how the eatery is doing today.

Since The Windsor 75 reopened, Therese says, business has increased nearly 10 percent, and they tweaked their hours and offerings, now closing on Monday and serving breakfast only on the weekends. To her, perhaps the most-impressive aspect of the transformation is the updated design. “It is open, airy, and filled with life and hope for the future,” Therese tells FN Dish. “Truly words cannot express how we feel about the decor. Our hearts are bursting! There are too many wonderful elements.”

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Best 5 Thanksgiving Stuffings

by in Holidays, Recipes, November 6th, 2013

Sourdough Bread StuffingSecond perhaps only to the centerpiece turkey on Thanksgiving, stuffings and dressings are some of the most-craved and comforting dishes on your Turkey Day table. Whether you stuff your bird or not, these bread-based casseroles are both simple to prepare and versatile enough that you can suit them to your family’s tastes and whatever ingredients you have on hand. If you’re cooking for a few vegetarians this year, a naturally meatless stuffing will surely please them and your meat-eating guests alike. And if you happen to find yourself with a few extra carrots or celery stalks, put them to good use in a stuffing, as vegetables of all kinds work well with nearly all types of bread bakes. Check out Food Network’s top-five stuffings below to find celebration-worthy recipes that you’ll want to add to your Thanksgiving menu.

5. Homemade Three-Meat Stuffing — Packed with chopped hard-boiled eggs, bell peppers and olives, this pork-, beef- and sausage-based stuffing boasts more meat than it does white bread and will feed up to a whopping 14 people.

4. Holiday Cornbread Stuffing — Follow the Neelys’ lead and take advantage of a deliciously simple shortcut: store-bought cornbread stuffing mix. Pat and Gina combine this ready-to-go good with crispy bacon and crunchy pecans for texture, plus fresh vegetables and herbs to round out the dish.

Get the top-three recipes

Watch the Top 5 Stubborn Owners on Restaurant: Impossible

by in Shows, November 6th, 2013

When Robert Irvine visits a business on Restaurant: Impossible, he has but one goal: Fix the failure. Despite his no-nonsense attitude and often harsh critiques of eateries’ menus and decor, he wants to see the restaurants thrive, and with the help of his team, he will use his years of experience and expertise to give each establishment a second chance at success. While owners accept Robert’s matter-of-fact assessments of their business, no matter how bleak and seemingly unforgiving they may be, others are quick to question his authority and proficiency, believing their ways of running a restaurant to be effective.

These persistent — if, perhaps, naïve — owners stand by their business practices, plus the quality of their food and menu offerings, and they see no fault in their management styles, often despite looming financial disaster or unhappy employees. While Robert’s almost always able to convince these dogged owners of their mistakes and give them opportunities to improve, the most tenacious among them will fight with Robert until the very end to attempt to support their theories.

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Aarón Sánchez’s Dream Tailgating Chopped Basket

by in Food Network Chef, November 5th, 2013

Aaron SanchezYou’ve seen Chopped judges dish out unapologetically honest criticism to chefs and even take their places in the kitchen while cooking on After Hours, but they’ve never before had a say in what mandatory ingredients land in the mystery baskets. While there’s no plans just yet to let the panel exercise this would-be-new power, you can be sure that some judges’ picks would be more ordinary than others, while some would likely be too demanding to ever assign to competitors.

FN Dish caught up with longtime Chopped judge Aarón Sánchez at an event hosted by Ortega, where he was celebrating the start of tailgating season and his partnership with the Mexican food company, and he told FN Dish the four ingredients he’d include in the baskets if there were to be a tailgating-themed episode of Chopped. “I would definitely put some sort of jam, like a marmalade or some sort of preserves, so you could make a barbecue sauce,” he said before adding, “I would do chicken necks for sure,” in a creative twist on the classic chicken wing. “I would do some sort of spicy [ingredient], maybe chipotles in adobo ‘cause … they’d be awesome with the marmalade,” he added. “Then I would do a blue cheese, then I would make a sauce.”

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Quiz: Are You the Ultimate Robert Irvine Fan?

by in Food Network Chef, November 4th, 2013

Robert IrvineYou’ve seen every episode of Restaurant: Impossible and have even ventured to try for yourself some of the overhauled eateries featured on the show. You’re eagerly tuning in to the latest premieres of Robert’s all-new show, Restaurant Express, and you’ve already cast your Fan Vote for the contestant you think should win the final prize. But when it comes to the host of these game-changing series, how much do you know about Robert Irvine? This British-born chef and restaurateur has been cooking since he was a boy, and he is perhaps as famous for his signature muscled physique as he is his no-nonsense attitude and fearless approach to any mission on television. Take the quiz below to test your knowledge of all things Chef Robert, and find out if you’re the ultimate fan.

Are You the Ultimate Robert Irvine Fan?

Are you worthy of the title Robert Irvine Superfan? Answer these questions to find out.
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Tune in to Restaurant: Impossible on Wednesdays at 10pm/9c and Restaurant Express on Sundays at 9pm/8c.