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.

Sweet Genius Ron Ben-Israel Visits Worst Cooks in America Boot Camp

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, March 11th, 2013

Chef Ron Ben-Israel on Worst Cooks in AmericaAs one of the most-successful pastry chefs in the country, Sweet Genius Ron Ben-Israel is known for creating sky-high cakes that are as deliciously whimsical as they are stunningly beautiful. On Sunday’s episode of Worst Cooks in America, however, he was forced to abandon the high-quality demands he prides himself on in his professional kitchen and think back to basics. Stopping by Boot Camp to offer the recruits an in-depth cake-baking how-to, he showed them seemingly simple recipes for creating wow-worthy celebration cakes, but for some of the competitors, this challenge ultimately proved to be nothing short of impossible. We checked in with Chef Ron to find out what it was like helping the competitors turn out their best-possible confections and to learn the most-shocking moment he experienced at Boot Camp. Read on below to get the insider scoop on what went down, plus check out Chef Ron’s easy tips for at-home bakers.

How was your time on the show?

RB: I’m a big fan of the show and always learn something valuable by watching Chefs Anne and Bobby. So I was so excited to be asked to come to the kitchen and teach the recruits how to bake a cake. And they were so sweet and excited to see me! Also, the kitchen was very well equipped with every tool and ingredient that a cake designer may wish for. I was so happy to be there and started demonstrating with great enthusiasm.

Read more

Restaurant Revisited: Maniaci’s Italian Bistro

by in Shows, March 10th, 2013

Robert Irvine at Maniaci's Italian BistroAfter their mother passed away five years ago, brothers Geoff, John and Tim Maniaci have struggled with dwindling business at their family’s 18-year-old restaurant, Maniaci’s Italian Bistro, in Mohnton, Pa. Before its Restaurant: Impossible overhaul, the eatery was losing more than $2,000 per month, and for those whose livelihoods depend on profits, the damages were almost too much to bear. Robert Irvine and his team worked with the brothers to revamp the interior of Maniaci’s and rework its menu, as well as to fix the tattered management in the hopes of giving the business a second chance at success. After only two days of renovations, Maniaci’s opened its doors again, this time to a packed dining room and with a menu focused on quality food. We checked in with Geoff, John and Tim a few months after Maniaci’s transformation to find out how the eatery is doing today.

Since Robert left, business at Maniaci’s has indeed increased, and, according to Geoff, the restaurant saw “almost $15,000 in dining room sales for the month of December.” Bar sales are up, as well, nearly $6,000 for the same month.

In terms of management, Geoff is now wholly in charge of the restaurant, and he says that “employees like that we are more structured.”

Keep reading

One-on-One With the Latest Red Team Recruit to Go Home — Worst Cooks in America

by in Shows, March 10th, 2013

Chefs Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay on Worst Cooks in AmericaFor the 14 recruits competing on Worst Cooks in America, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime to learn kitchen basics and culinary how-tos from Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay — two of New York City’s top restaurant chefs and some of Food Network’s most celebrated stars. It’s up to the contestants to use the tools the chefs provide to learn how to master certain skills on their own and demonstrate progress in the kitchen. Despite their best efforts, however, one recruit from Chef Anne’s Red Team and another from Chef Bobby’s Blue Team will ultimately succumb to the challenges of Boot Camp week after week as they compete for $25,000 and bragging rights for their coach.

Check back with FN Dish every Sunday after the episode for the first interviews with the latest eliminated contestants to read their exclusive reflections on the competition, thoughts on difficult challenges, plans for the future and more.

SPOILER ALERT: Find out who went home

One-on-One With the Latest Blue Team Recruit to Go Home — Worst Cooks in America

by in Shows, March 10th, 2013

Carrie Lee Riggins, Carla Johnson and Chet Pourciau on Worst Cooks in AmericaFor the 14 recruits competing on Worst Cooks in America, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime to learn kitchen basics and culinary how-tos from Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay — two of New York City’s top restaurant chefs and some of Food Network’s most celebrated stars. It’s up to the contestants to use the tools the chefs provide to learn how to master certain skills on their own and demonstrate progress in the kitchen. Despite their best efforts, however, one recruit from Chef Anne’s Red Team and another from Chef Bobby’s Blue Team will ultimately succumb to the challenges of Boot Camp week after week as they compete for $25,000 and bragging rights for their coach.

Check back with FN Dish every Sunday after the episode for the first interviews with the latest eliminated contestants to read their exclusive reflections on the competition, thoughts on difficult challenges, plans for the future and more.

SPOILER ALERT: Find out who went home

Dinner in a Hurry: Quick-Fix Recipes for Meals on the Go

by in Family, Recipes, March 9th, 2013

Cheesy Gnocchi Casserole With Ham and PeasWhile there’s a time and a place for indulgent three-course feasts complete with slow-simmered sauces, stuffed meats and warm desserts, busy weekday evenings are not it. Often there’s barely enough time in the day to grocery shop let alone cook any food you may have managed to pick up, and when those days strike, it’s important to have an arsenal full of fuss-free recipes to rescue you from dinnertime stress. Known kid-approved picks and easy-to-make-and-eat classics will help you put a supper on the table that’s both deliciously simple and satisfying. Check out a few of Food Network’s favorite quick recipes below, then tell us in the comments: What tried-and-true meal do you reach for on frenzied weeknights?

Perhaps the ultimate family-friendly meal, casseroles are one of easiest go-to dinners, as they boast the simplicity of an all-in-one supper and can often be made with whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand. Food Network Kitchens’ 30-minute recipe for Cheesy Gnocchi Casserole With Ham and Peas (pictured above) puts the fridge and freezer to work with deli ham and frozen peas. Laced with fresh thyme and rich heavy cream, this Swiss cheese-finished bake is a cinch to prepare thanks to store-bought potato gnocchi.

Keep reading for more easy recipes

Playing Games With the Genius — Worst Cooks in America Caption It

by in Shows, March 8th, 2013

Alina Bolshakova and Chef Ron Ben-IsraelIn the Sweet Genius kitchen, Master Pastry Chef Ron Ben-Israel is all business and no nonsense, challenging top professional bakers to a slew of culinary tasks on the clock. When he’s in charge, only confectionary perfection will suffice; others’ second-best efforts are simply unworthy of the genius title.

All of that is about to change come Sunday night, when Chef Ron drops by Boot Camp to lead the Worst Cooks in America recruits in a simple baking how-to. No longer striving for excellence, the Sweet Genius himself is after mere edibility when it comes to concocting cakes with some contestants who’ve opened their ovens only a handful of times — ever. Will he be able to instill in them a penchant for light, airy batters and smooth, fluffy frostings, or will the teams crumble under the pressures of pastry?

Given the sneak-peek image above from Sunday’s all-new episode, it looks as though it’s Chef Ron who’s taking the brunt of the challenge, as the Blue Team’s Alina Bolshakova dangles a bowlful of frosting over his head. Is her maneuver somehow part of the cake-making process, or do you think this is simply a well-meaning game she’s playing with Chef Ron? Will the Sweet Genius soon be covered with fallen frosting, or does he manage to dodge Alina’s bright-orange spread?

Write your best caption

Best 5 Salmon Recipes

by in Recipes, March 7th, 2013

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti With Lemon, Basil and SalmonKnown for its trademark light-orange hue and heart-healthy proteins, salmon is a naturally flavorful fish, one that even kids and picky seafood challengers enjoy. Salmon can stand up to high heat and pairs well with the taste of charcoal, which is why many recipes prefer to grill the light, flaky fillets. In the winter months, however, instead of standing over a barbecue in the bone-chilling snow, prepare salmon in the warmth of your kitchen using easy cooking techniques like poaching, baking and sauteing. We’ve rounded up Food Network’s top-five salmon dishes, each with stress-free recipes that can be made easily indoors. Check out the classic and creative takes on this family-friendly fish below, then browse our entire collection of salmon recipes.

5. Crispy Salmon Croquettes With Remoulade Sauce — Similar to crab cakes, Sandra’s golden-brown bites are made with prepared salmon and a filling of egg, a splash of hot sauce and fish-fry coating mix for added flavor, then pan-fried until warm and served with a cool mayonnaise-garlic sauce.

4. Salmon and Dill Chowder With Pastry Crust — Rachael remakes the everyday chicken pot pie into a hearty seafood bowl, complete with a creamy combination of poached salmon, celery and potatoes, finished with a pre-baked flaky crust.

Get the top three recipes

Vote: What Toppings Make for the Best Burger?

by in Shows, March 5th, 2013

Chef Anne Burrell and Sue MangognaFlavors were the primary talk of Boot Camp on Sunday’s episode of Worst Cooks in America: which tastes work best together, which ingredients should never be paired and what flavors are most successful in sweet treats and savory picks. The recruits tackled these questions and more as they experimented with signature combinations while crafting from-scratch gelato and handmade hamburgers in an attempt to test their palates.

During the Main Dish Challenge in which contestants from both teams battled for burger glory, the mentors demonstrated that even seemingly unusual ingredients can and often do work well together. In true Bobby Flay form, the Blue Team leader added a topping of potato chips to his beefy creation, “crunchifying” the burger from between the buns. Chef Anne Burrell, too, embraced the untraditional by making for the Red Team a Greek-inspired lamb patty finished with a creamy tzatziki spread. Both of the chefs’ creative additions to the everyday burger proved successful, but many of the recruits’ efforts were simply disappointing, including Sue’s mozzarella-stuffed patties that barely held their shape, Carrie Lee’s chicken burgers that were burned and of course Alex’s overwhelming “burg-dog” and Aadip’s grilled cheese sandwich, which was hardly a burger at all.

When it comes to building your ultimate burger, what toppings do you reach for? Are you a traditionalist who craves nothing else on the patty except a slice of cheese, or do you embrace multiple flavors and textures by adding salty bacon, a runny fried egg or cool lettuce? Have you taken to Chef Bobby’s penchant for “crunchified” burgers? Did Chef Anne inspire you to consider Mediterranean flavors?

Vote for your ultimate burger toppings

Takeout Favorites at Home — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, March 4th, 2013

Buckwheat Noodle SaladAs tempting as it is to resort to a quick delivery dinner after a hectic day, there are surely far healthier and less costly meal options that can be made in a hurry at home without sacrificing flavor or ease. Asian-style takeout in particular often gets a bad rap for being deep-fried and greasy, but if you make some of your favorite white-box picks at home, you’ll be able to ensure that what you’re eating is wholesome and fresh, plus you can tailor the ingredients to your family’s individual tastes.

Bobby’s Buckwheat Noodle Salad (pictured above) is a lighter take on traditional noodle dishes that are often swimming in pools of oil. Here, he combines protein-packed buckwheat noodles with a sweet and tangy sauce of honey, grated ginger and tamari — Japanese soy sauce — that pairs well with cool vegetables like chopped carrots, bell peppers and cucumbers. Ready to eat in just 25 minutes, this top-rated recipe is an almost no-cook classic and makes a simple all-in-one meal. Watch this video to get Bobby’s secrets to making this family-friendly dish.

Keep reading for more recipes