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.

Best 5 Hummus Recipes

by in Recipes, March 14th, 2013

Hummus DipInstead of looking to rich, indulgent dips to pair with chips or vegetables, try making better-for-you hummus, a traditionally no-cook mixture of ground chickpeas and extra-virgin olive oil. This smooth, creamy combination takes just minutes to prepare in a blender or food processor and can be easily featured alongside salty pretzels, crispy pita wedges and fresh crudité alike. Not just for appetizers or simple snacking, however, hummus also transforms everyday sandwiches, salads and pizzas into next-level meals with little effort or time. Spread it onto bread, mix it into dressings or use it in place of sauce on pizza for a creative twist to traditional dishes. Check out Food Network’s top-five hummus recipes below for a varied roundup of classic and inspired versions of this no-fail favorite.

5. Buffalo Wing Hummus — Enjoy the flavors of Buffalo-style chicken wings without the meaty bones in this lookalike dip, boasting a combination of barbecue and hot sauces, plus a pinch of paprika for subtle spice.

4. Edamame Hummus — A key ingredient in Food Network Kitchens’ hummus is tahini, a soft sesame-seed paste that adds unbeatable silkiness to the easy recipe, ready to eat in mere minutes, thanks to timesaving frozen edamame.

Get the top three recipes

Restaurant Revisited: Caseyville Cafe

by in Shows, March 13th, 2013

Robert Irvine at Caseyville CafeAlthough mother-daughter duo Diane Emery and Robin Gordon had no previous experience in the restaurant industry, together they purchased Caseyville Cafe in Caseyville, Ill., more than three years ago. At one point their eatery was making enough money to simply break even with its costs, but it soon turned into a failing venture, with more than $6,000 being lost every month. Just months away from shutting down their business entirely, the ladies looked to Robert Irvine for a complete Restaurant: Impossible overhaul. It soon became clear to Robert that this “dirty, dysfunctional” space was in need of not simply an aesthetic transformation, but also vast changes to its menu and management. In two days and with only $10,000, he worked with Diane and Robin to revamp all aspects of Caseyville Cafe, which ultimately reopened with crowd-pleasing food and a roomful of satisfied customers. We checked in with Robin a few months after Robert left to find out how her business is doing today.

Since its Restaurant: Impossible debut, Caseyville Cafe has had an increase in business. Although they’re still working to manage supply costs, Robin and Diane are slowly minimizing their debt.

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Vote: Which Cake Would You Want at Your Celebration?

by in Shows, March 13th, 2013

Celebration Cakes on Worst Cooks in AmericaIn an attempt to conquer what Chef Bobby Flay deemed “the final frontier for any home cook,” the remaining Worst Cooks in America recruits tackled the sweeter side of the kitchen: baking. Sweet Genius Ron Ben-Israel stopped by Boot Camp to offer them a basic cake-making tutorial, and while some of their hopes for dreamy dessert crumbled, a few recruits rose to the occasion.

After a 90-minute bake-off, the Blue Team‘s Alina and the Red Team‘s Rasheeda were named the most-successful competitors in this week’s Main Dish Challenge, as they managed to pull off cakes that boasted creative design and winning flavor combinations. Both baking with their cakes’ eventual recipients in mind, Alina and Rasheeda utilized age-appropriate ingredients and fitting frosting designs that reflected what Dash and Sawyer, twin 7-year-old birthday boys, and Rita, a recent retiree, respectively, would enjoy at their celebrations. Alina offered the boys a multicolored caked filled with jam and peanut butter cups as a nod to the kid-friendly PB&J sandwich, while Rasheeda took Rita’s like of nuts to the next level by adding pecans to the top of her light pink-tinted ginger cake.

If you were in need of a cake for your celebration, whose would you order? Are you a fan of Alina’s playful flavor approach to the classic dessert, or do you prefer more mature tastes like the ginger in Rasheeda’s cake? Would you opt for over-the-top color like Alina’s orange-and-green creation, or would you keep it simple with subtle hues?

Vote for your favorite cake

Easy Grain Salads — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, March 11th, 2013

Mediterranean Farro SaladWhile rice is perhaps the most traditional starchy side dish, there are indeed other grains to swap in when you’re looking to switch up your usual dinner routine. Just like rice, easy-to-make farro, bulgur and couscous become tender and satisfying when boiled, and they stand up well to bold ingredients and flavorful sauces. Think of these grains as blank slates; use them as a way to put leftover vegetables to work, to experiment with new-to-you herbs and to introduce unfamiliar flavors to your family for the first time. Check out a few of Food Network’s favorite grain salads below, then browse these photos to find more ways to cook with grains.

In her top-rated recipe for Mediterranean Farro Salad (pictured above), Giada pairs these slightly chewy bites with colorful produce like green beans and red pepper, plus black olives and chunks of nutty Parmesan cheese. A key element to her salad is the simple vinaigrette. To prepare it, just mix a splash of sherry vinegar with fruity olive oil and tangy Dijon for a light topping that won’t disappoint. Watch this video to see how Giada makes the salad from start to finish.

Keep reading for more recipes

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.

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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.”

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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?

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