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.

Caption It: Face Plant

by , June 21st, 2013

Alton Brown, Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby FlayIt’s no secret that the finalists face a mountain of pressures week after week, cooking against the clock in all-or-nothing challenges, strutting their stuff for a crew of cameras and enduring hours-long evaluations that ultimately determine their futures. But what about the mentors, Alton, Bobby and Giada? They, too, grapple with a series of Star stresses, as it is, after all, up to them to narrow down the crop of contestants before you, the fans, choose your next star. The burden is on them to find each competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, and give them the tools they need to show off the former and improve the latter, all while maintaining the distance and fairness of a judge. Alton, Bobby and Giada handle the job differently depending on the day, but for each of them, when the work becomes particularly trying, sometimes all that’s left to do is laugh.

Take a look at the sneak-peek photo above from Sunday’s all-new episode: Alton, Giada and Bobby have gathered at evaluation, and it seems that for Giada, the moment is simply too much to bear. She’s face-first on the table while Alton offers a well-meaning giggle and Bobby displays a look of apparent confusion. Do you think they’ve just endured a particularly difficult elimination, or have they taken a brief break from deliberation to relax among friends?

Before you tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c to find out what’s going on, we’re challenging you, Star fans, to write your best captions (tastefully appropriate, please) for this moment in the comments below.

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Best 5 Mojitos

by in Drinks, June 20th, 2013

Mojito SlushyTomorrow marks the first day of summer, which means it’s officially time to kick off the season of warm-weather eats and drinks. This weekend, add a little extra chill to your grilling and chilling menu with adults-only mojitos. Cool and refreshing, these easy-to-mix cocktails are go-to summer sippers, classically made with lime, rum and mint, although easily dressed up with fruits, plus a mix of citruses and liquors. Check out Food Network’s top-five mojito recipes below for crave-worthy concoctions from Guy, Giada, Tyler and more Food Network chefs.

5. Double-Apple Mojitos — Guy swaps in vodka for rum in his easy mojito, laced with apple juice and garnished with slices of red and green apples.

4. Orange Mojitos — Pair the fresh taste of lime juice with orange juice to create a sunset-colored sipper, ready to enjoy after just a few seconds in the cocktail shaker.

Get the top three recipes

Did You Miss the Meat? — Chopped After Hours

by in Shows, June 18th, 2013

In most Chopped baskets, it’s the meaty protein or shellfish that trips up competitors, what with these ingredients that tend to be difficult to break down, clean, and cook properly and fully in a hurry. But in tonight’s brand-new episode of Chopped, the contestants found themselves with vegetarian baskets, which meant that when it came time for an After Hours competition, judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Amanda Freitag and Marc Murphy were challenged to create entrees using golden beets, wheatgrass, tempeh and etrog citron.

While Alex and Marc admitted to being unfamiliar with cooking and eating these kinds of ingredients, Amanda told them, “I eat this stuff,” and she later admitted to being “a closet vegetarian.” For all three judges, the challenge was offering dishes that were both bold and hefty enough to be filling. Amanda stuck to a classic preparation of tempeh by featuring it in a spiced stew with curry, while Alex treated the tempeh like rice, turning it into a risotto-style plate with mushrooms and citrus. Marc, however, known for his fondness of meat-and-potatoes classics, made a tempeh-based burger that was anything but vegetarian, thanks to beef broth and bacon. After tasting each of their offerings, guest host Aarón told them: “I’m not crying for meat right now. You made satisfying meals that really sort of constituted a complete dish.”

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VIDEO: Danushka’s Not Impressed

by , June 17th, 2013

One of Food Network Star‘s most-contentious finalists ever, Danushka Lysek provided plenty of camera-worthy drama in her brief three-week run in the competition. She sparked rivalries among finalists, delivered unapologetic smirks, stares and eye rolls, and she even stupefied the Selection Committee with her seeming indifference to the challenges at hand. “My goal with doing this competition was knowing I’m not like anyone that’s on the Food Network,” Danushka said after being eliminated, and indeed she proved to be one of a kind.

Click the play button on the video above to watch Danushka’s best, most-hilarious reactions during her time on Star and see a mashup of some of her now-notorious faces. Do you think Danushka deserved more time to prove her commitment to the competition, or were the mentors justified in sending her home? Tell Star Talk what you think in the comments section below.

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Southwest Quesadilla With Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, June 17th, 2013

Southwest Quesadilla With Cilantro-Lime Sour CreamIf you’re new to vegetarian eating, the key to embracing meat-free recipes is knowing how to prepare a meatless dish that’s every bit as satisfying as one with meat. When you remove something like beef, pork or chicken from a recipe, it’s important to replace it with not just equally hearty ingredients so that you feel full after eating, but also with intense flavors and a mix of textures to keep the dish appealing. This will prevent you from getting bored with the same vegetarian standbys and allow you to experiment with new takes on classically meaty favorites.

In her 30-minute recipe for a Southwest Quesadilla With Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream (pictured above), Sunny Anderson replaces beefy proteins with hefty black beans, flavorful vegetables and bold spices. After sauteing onions and bell peppers until they’re sweet and tender, she adds fresh seasonal corn and pinches of red pepper flakes and cumin for subtle heat and smoky taste. Tossed with fragrant cilantro, this simple mixture becomes the base of the quesadilla filling, which is rounded out with spreads of refried black beans on the insides of the tortillas, plus a generous sprinkle of pepper Jack cheese. The secret to pulling off Sunny’s quesadilla is using 10-inch flour tortillas — those often reserved for burritos — so you can be sure the stuffing won’t escape when the quesadilla is flipped during cooking. Slice the quesadilla into eat-with-your-hands wedges, and serve each slice with creamy, cool sour cream laced with zesty lime juice and chopped cilantro.

Click the play button the video below to watch Sunny make her top-rated quesadilla.

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Restaurant Revisited: Sink or Swim at Pier West Restaurant

by in Shows, June 16th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleDespite the picturesque view from its waterfront location, Pier West Restaurant in Twin Lakes, Wis., couldn’t escape serious issues indoors, among them considerable debt and drab decor. With just $10,000 and two days to work, Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team relaunched owner Chip Walmsley’s business with a new menu and an updated design, plus gave Chip the support he needed to manage the restaurant and the foundation to mend his relationship with his family. FN Dish checked in with Chip a few months after the renovation to find out how the eatery is doing today.

“Business has been great since the filming [of the show]. We have definitely seen about a 25-percent increase in food sales,” Chip tells us. “We are taking things one week at a time … [and] following the standards Robert set up for us.”

Chip says “not one single customer misses the old look” of Pier West, and in terms of the new space’s features, his favorites are “the lighting and the floor.”

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The Challenge of Prepared Products — Chopped After Hours

by in Shows, June 16th, 2013


In the last After Hours episode, Chopped judges tried their hands at ingredients that collectively proved to be some of the most common ever featured on the show, and their experience with them was a challenge in and of itself. Similarly, on tonight’s all-new battle, judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Aarón Sánchez and Marcus Samuelsson faced a basket with one particularly demanding ingredient: lobster bisque. In the same way that the last group of judges had to transform the familiar, Alex, Aarón and Marcus had to redefine something that was already a finished dish.

“I think that’s the hardest [ingredient] right there,” guest judge Amanda Freitag said of the bisque, “’cause someone made it already. And maybe they made it too creamy, too thick.” Her peers understood what she meant by that, and they each went to great lengths to transform the bisque into something else, instead of simply warming it and serving it as-is. Aarón and Alex treated the bisque as the base of their sauces, guajillo and marinara, respectively, while Marcus used the bisque as the building block of another bisque. He added yogurt and white wine to the basket ingredient in an effort to increase its “sourness,” and cooked it with squid, potatoes and daikon radish. What resulted was a “completely complex” offering, according to Aarón .

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Family Time, German Chocolate Cake and Peanut Butter Balls — Trisha Yearwood Celebrates Father’s Day With Garth Brooks

by in Food Network Chef, Holidays, June 15th, 2013

Trisha YearwoodWhile some families craft extensive plans and elaborate surprises to honor their dads on Father’s Day, the scene at the Yearwood-Brooks home will be far more low-key tomorrow. For Trisha, her husband, Garth, and his three daughters, there will be just one item on the agenda: spend time together enjoying some of Dad’s most-treasured treats.

“As long as his girls are all three in the same place, that’s huge,” Trisha told FN Dish of Garth when we caught up with her last month. “Now we have two [daughters] in college and one in high school, so getting everybody together is harder.” When the family is finally under one roof, especially at a time like this weekend, quality time is of the utmost importance. “Father’s Day really is just whatever Dad wants to do, and it always means he wants to have his girls there, so it’s always just something with them,” Trisha says of how they’ll be celebrating tomorrow.

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Bobby Flay’s Top 5 Tips for Summer Cooking

by in Food Network Chef, June 15th, 2013

Bobby FlayBobby Flay may be one of three no-nonsense judge-mentors on Food Network Star, but he’s also Food Network’s resident grill master, the go-to guy for top burger, side dish and cocktail recipes all summer long. He’s known for his penchant for barbecue and fresh, contemporary takes on classic Southwestern cuisine, so it’s no surprise that when FN Dish caught up with him at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, he was preparing jerk chicken tacos with red cabbage slaw and tangerine margaritas. Fresh off his win at the 2013 Burger Bash competition, Bobby chatted with fans in the standing-room-only crowd, sharing strategies for stress-free summer entertaining and answering questions about hosting the ultimate cookout. Read on to hear from Bobby, and learn his top-five tips for warm-weather eating and drinking.

5. When you’re serving something in a tortilla — like a taco — it’s best to overseason the filling because it will have to work to maintain its flavor within the wrapping.

4. “Taste every single thing,” no matter what you’re cooking or how.

Get Bobby’s top three tips