All Posts By Maria Russo

Maria Russo is an 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.

Your Weekend Cooldown: Frozen Peanut Butter Bites

by in Recipes, July 10th, 2015

Frozen Peanut Butter BitesWelcome to the sticky, sweltering dog days of summer. If the season’s heat has you bogged down, take refuge in a chilled treat this weekend: these easy-to-make, eat-with-your-hands Frozen Peanut Butter Bites (pictured above). Made with only four pantry ingredients, the Neelys’ sweet-tooth-satisfying dessert celebrates the perhaps most-beloved of all flavor combos: peanut butter and chocolate. And maybe the best part of this recipe is that there’s no need to turn on the oven.

Get the Recipe: Frozen Peanut Butter Bites

Don’t Make These Burger Mistakes (But If You Do, Here’s How to Fix Them)

by in In Season, Recipes, July 9th, 2015

Don't Make These Burger Mistakes (But If You Do, Here's How to Fix Them)The sun is shining, the grill is hot and you’re looking forward to a meal of juicy meat. Fast-forward 30 minutes and you’re face to face with a dry, overcooked hunk of steak or a tough chicken tender. What went wrong? Getting the grilling game right can be tricky. When it comes to grilling burgers, meat master and Texas restaurateur Chef Tim Love recently told FN Dish, “There are actually two common mistakes I see often, which are a shame, so listen up!” He shared his take on those two problems, plus offered ways for avoiding them next time.

1. Flip Burgers Once and Only Once: Constant turning will toughen and dry out meat, and if you flip too soon, burgers will stick. Cook 2 minutes per side for rare, 3 for medium-rare, 4 for medium and 5 for well-done.

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One-on-One with Master Pastry Chef Ron Ben-Israel

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, July 8th, 2015

Ron Ben-IsraelAt his New York City studio, Ron Ben-Israel imagines, creates and designs towering, expertly adorned cakes for all occasions. But on the all-new series Cake Wars, this master pastry chef won’t be in the kitchen, baking against the clock; rather, he’ll be overseeing the contest as a lead judge. Each week it’s up to him, fellow pastry chef Waylynn Lucas and special guests to dole out themed baking challenges that test the competitors’ time management and on-the-spot ingenuity, as well as their baking prowess.

Recently FN Dish caught up with Ron at a special screening of Cake Wars at Manhattan’s International Culinary Center, where he’s an instructor, to chat with the judge about all things to do with sweet competition. From his favorite cake-frosting flavor combination to what he looks for in a well-designed creation, read on below to hear from Ron in an exclusive interview.

What can fans expect from the season? What are you most looking forward to?
Ron Ben-Israel: It’s a new show, actually. Even though it’s similar to Cupcake Wars, it’s bigger and better. You know, cupcakes look nice and cute, but they are small. Even when we talk about cake — four, five, six, seven tiers. In the main challenge, they get four hours to build a cake, and … the themes are so crazy, from The Simpsons to Hello Kitty to Girl Scouts. So we don’t want to see miniature; we want to see over-the-top.

Your cakes take hours — days, even — to make. Could you imagine having to turn out something spectacular in such a short amount of time?
RBI: The hardship is not so much the four hours; it’s not being able to divide the task to a few days, because normally you bake the cake, then you chill [it] and you make the fillings … Here, everything comes together. But the reality is, if you have [the right] state of mind and organize, you can achieve what you want, and that was the hardest thing for me — not being able to go to the kitchens, because everybody has their own set kitchen, and say “Clean up, guys. It’s a mess.”

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Pack Your Bags, and Don’t Forget the Sabotages: It’s Time for Camp Cutthroat

by in Shows, July 7th, 2015

Alton BrownYou know those sleepy summer camps that encourage community, camaraderie and nighttime kumbayas by the fire? This is not that. Led by none other than the master saboteur himself, Alton Brown‘s Camp Cutthroat takes everything you know and love about classic Cutthroat Kitchen — the over-the-top challenges, demanding judges and tight time constraints — and brings it to the great outdoors for a five-part tournament that shines a (hilarious) light on the most-evilicious sides of summer camp.

Premiering Wednesday, Aug. 12 at 9|8c, Camp Cutthroat takes place not in the cozy confines of the traditional Cutthroat arena but outside in the rural woods, which means that the 12 chef contestants will have to contend not only with each other, but also Mother Nature and, of course, the themed sabotages Alton has up his camp-uniform sleeve. From unforeseen wild animals and pesky fellow campers to a murky lake on the grounds, this adventure will test the competitors in downright diabolical ways before ultimately culminating in a finale that crowns one rival the Camp Cutthroat Champion.

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Arugula Pesto Pizza with Zucchini — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, July 6th, 2015

Arugula Pesto Pizza with ZucchiniSince basil is in season right now, it’s no wonder that it’s often the go-to herb to feature in pesto, but it’s surely not the only something green that can star in this quick-fix sauce. Spinach, parsley, broccoli and even arugula can take its place — arugula, for example, standing in to create the base of the sauce used atop Food Network Magazine’s easy pizza (pictured above).

Thanks to a ready-to-go prebaked pizza crust, this Arugula Pesto Pizza with Zucchini comes together simply and in a hurry. Once you’ve prepped the pesto — the arugula adds a peppery punch, while capers and garlic offer welcome bite — and sliced the mozzarella and zucchini, it all comes down to assembly. Just before baking, sprinkle some nutty Parmesan atop the pie and drizzle on fruity extra virgin olive oil. After only a few minutes in the oven, the cheese will turn gooey and the crust golden.

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“I Would Buy This at Any Fair” — Testing the Cutthroat Kitchen Sabotages

by in Shows, July 5th, 2015

While all rounds of Cutthroat Kitchen are full of hilarious eviliciousness, tonight’s all-new episode took the funny to another level when Alton Brown, ever the sabotage ringleader, revealed that the entire show was dedicated to clowning around. From a ring-of-fire sabotage to themed eats like corn dogs and funnel cake to judge Simon Majumdar‘s over-the-top clown getup —complete with a round red nose, of course — the name of the game was fun at the circus, though perhaps some of the magic of the spectacle was lost on the four chefs who were dealt challenge upon challenge.

In Round 1’s corn dog assignment, Alton auctioned off a tray of concession-stand goodies that one chef had to use in order to make the dish. Corn dogs may seem simple, as they’re made of just two components — the corn-flavored batter and the hot dog — but with ingredients like candy, popcorn and cotton candy, this corn dog test would prove to be anything but ordinary. That’s where the Cutthroat Kitchen culinary crew comes in.

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