All Posts By Sara Levine

Sara Levine is a Senior Online Editor at FoodNetwork.com and a culinary-school-trained home cook. Several years ago she quit her magazine job to go to Le Cordon Bleu, which led to a stint in Food Network Kitchen. Although cooking professionally wasn’t her thing, she loves frequenting restaurants and putting her own amateur culinary skills to work in her tiny kitchen.

NYWFF: Sunday Brunching with Paula

by in Events, October 11th, 2010

Paula welcomes fans at the Plaza

Hey y’all, Paula was at the festival too! Ms. Deen brought some Southern hospitality to NYC with a Sunday Gospel Brunch at the iconic Plaza Hotel. Naturally, Paula made sure that the spread at this classy affair was still totally over-the-top.

Paula's mac-and-cheese

Guests were treated to a buffet stocked with dozens of sweet and savory dishes, but the crowd favorite seemed to be Paula’s classic mac-and-cheese. We’re not sure which recipe she used, as she has several, but you can’t really go wrong with any of them: Try Paula’s Creamy Macaroni and Cheese or The Lady’s Cheesy Mac.

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NYC Wine & Food Festival: Alton After Dark

by in View All Posts, October 8th, 2010
The crowd at Chelsea Market After Dark is psyched to party with Alton

A star-studded, food-filled weekend of festivities officially kicked off last night with numerous events around New York City. Along with hundreds of fans, we noshed, sipped and chatted with Alton Brown after hours at Chelsea Market—which happens to be Food Network’s headquarters.

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Free Association: Meat and (Lots of) Potatoes

by in View All Posts, September 23rd, 2010
Can you tell this is Rahm Fama's dream job?

Rahm Fama, host of the new Food Network series Meat & Potatoes, is a self-proclaimed meat nerd. “If you’re a car nerd, you know as much as you can about cars, but you’ll never know everything. You’re always willing to learn more,” the enthusiastic carnivore explains. “I am consistently and always excited to learn about new meat.”

On Meat & Potatoes, Rahm travels the country, checking out (and, naturally, tasting) the best and most interesting meat and potatoes America has to offer. It’s a dream job for a guy who grew up working on his family’s cattle ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico and then became an established restaurant chef.

To get everyone in a meaty mood for Friday’s premiere of his new show (10pm/9c), we played a little meat-and-potatoes word association with Rahm. His pairings will undoubtedly induce cravings, so try them out at home with some top Food Network recipes…

Let’s start with a classic. French fries and ________?
You know, I’m actually not going to go with a burger. I’d do steak au poivre with pommes frites.

Braised short ribs and _________?
Short ribs go great with pureed potatoes.

Potato gratin and _________?
I’d do a grilled filet mignon—gotta have those char marks.

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Creamed Corn-Off: Battle of the Southern Cooks

by in View All Posts, August 4th, 2010
Claire's Creamed Corn
Bacon is the secret ingredient in Claire's creamless creamed corn
Summer Fest
We’re teaming up with other food and garden bloggers to host Summer Fest 2010, a season-long garden party. Each week we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market. To join in, check out awaytogarden.com.

Forget those green cans! It’s summertime, and that means creamed corn made from fresh, sweet ears. Though all four of these easy from-scratch creamed corn recipes come from Food Network chefs with Southern roots, they offer very different takes on this classic side dish. Whose is your pick for summer corn season?

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This Farmer’s a Star

by in View All Posts, June 8th, 2010
Farmer Jones is this blogger's newest Facebook friend.

Celebrity chefs are everywhere these days, but I think I’ve just met my first celebrity farmer. Farmer Lee Jones supplies vegetables to top chefs all over the country, but he’s a star in his own right, always decked out in his signature bow tie-and-overalls ensemble. Check him out on Facebook—he’s got 4,832 friends!

If you caught Battle Cauliflower on Iron Chef America a couple of weeks ago, you may recognize Farmer Jones. He provided the secret ingredient straight from the farm, and also joined in on the judges’ panel. Chefs Michael Symon and John Fraser produced some incredible cauliflower creations, using not just the familiar white florets, but also Farmer Jones’s purple, orange and romanesco varieties. Notoriously finicky judge Jeffrey Steingarten called it “the most amazing battle ever.”

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Sampling an Iron Chef’s Burger

by in View All Posts, May 7th, 2010

Jose Garces makes a mean burger

Jose Garces has a big Iron Chef America battle coming up Sunday night, but he’s already a winner in my book. Our newest Iron Chef hails from Philadelphia—a city I love dearly (I went to college there). Garces opened his first restaurant, Amada, in Old City just a few months before I graduated, but it quickly became one of my favorite spots. His mini-empire has proliferated since, with restaurants all over Philly and one in Chicago.

Just a couple of months ago, he opened up a new gourmet market/cafe called Garces Trading Company, and he’s got more ventures in the works. You may have seen him this week on Nightline, talking about Cinco de Mayo and his Latin roots. With all this plus his Next Iron Chef win last fall, I’d say Garces has experienced a pretty successful five years.

On a recent trip back to Philly, I was psyched to lunch at one of his latest ventures, Village Whiskey. While all of Garces’s other restaurants are Latin-inspired (Amada does tapas, Distrito is Mexican, Chifa has Peruvian influences…), Village Whiskey is unapologetically American. Think burgers. Pulled pork sandwiches. Lobster rolls. Chicken-fried steak.

Inside, the narrow space has a speakeasy feel, with white-tiled walls, dark leather banquettes and wooden fans spinning overhead. Obviously, there’s a long list of bourbon and Scotch. But we came for the food. Specifically, for the burger—the Philadelphia Inquirer has called it the city’s best.

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20 Questions for the New Spice Girl

by in View All Posts, April 23rd, 2010
Janet Johnston cooks spiced-up dishes on her new show, Spice & Easy

Janet Johnston’s road to Food Network started two years ago, when Pat and Gina Neely headed to Denver for an episode of Road Tasted with the Neelys. They stopped in at Savory Spice Shop, which Janet owns with her husband, Mike.

The Johnstons and the Neelys hit it off right away, and since then Janet and Mike have guest-cheffed on episodes of Down Home with the Neelys and Paula’s Best Dishes. It soon became clear that Janet’s delicious spice-inspired food deserved a show of its own, and the idea for Spice & Easy was born. The new show premieres tomorrow morning at 9:30am/8:30c.

The Colorado shop owner and home cook films in her home kitchen as well as in the nearby Denver outpost of Savory Spice Shop. Janet couldn’t be more excited to share her love of spices and cooking with Food Network fans: “We’re having a little viewing party with our employees…It was my husband’s excuse to buy a 55-inch TV!”

To get to know FN’s newest star, read our 20 Questions for Janet Johnston.

1. What are five spices everyone needs in their pantry?

Can we eliminate salt and pepper? That just has to be a given; they are such important ingredients! Okay, then I’d start with a really good fresh ground cinnamon. I don’t know if this is cheating, but seasonings and blends are really important—I’d do an Italian herb blend and a paprika-based barbecue blend. A really good vanilla extract. Lastly, a good seafood blend like some kind of a citrus pepper or garlic pepper—a pepper-based blend. Those are some great basics that will get you there. I carry almost 500 products so this is really hard for me!

2. What did you have for dinner last night?

I made leftovers with my carrot risotto. Wow, I’m glad I made a good dinner last night…if that was my frozen pizza night I would have been embarrassed! I made the risotto two nights ago for dinner, so with the leftovers I made patties that I folded around mozzarella cheese. I floured and panko-breaded them and gave them a light fry. Mike had three of them and they were the size of burgers!

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Hometown Showdown: Southern Comfort

by in View All Posts, April 22nd, 2010
Competitor Cory Anthony's Catfish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Slaw and Chipotle Cream

Sunday night’s Hometown Favorites round marked the finale of Ultimate Recipe Showdown‘s third season. Contestants put their spins on recipes inspired by their towns and regions, and there was clearly a lot of pride in the kitchens. Southern food dominated this year—competitors hailed from Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Kentucky—but the diversity of dishes showed that there’s a lot more to it than biscuits and gravy.

Katherine Alford, Vice President of Food Network Test Kitchens and a fixture on the URS judges’ panel, loves this round: “It incorporates great American regional foods and each cook’s personal food story. I think it’s great when the contestants put their spin on a regional classic.”

If you missed Hometown Favorites or any of the other Showdowns this season, you can still catch them on Food Network—check our schedule for dates and times. Today, Katherine chats with us about the very personal food prepared in the Hometown Favorites round and reflects on this season.

FN Dish: If you were to enter this round as a competitor, what would you make?
Katherine Alford: Oh my. That’s a good one. My hometown now is New York, but I grew up all over from Cape Cod, Washington DC, Florida to California. So given all that coastal living, it’s got to be a fish or shellfish dish. I’d say my take on a clam bake or crab boil. But maybe  grilled oysters, lobster rolls or something with beach plums. There are too many choices!

FN Dish: After sampling all the food in this round, which hometown region were you most inspired to visit?
KA: I think they all had a Southern flavor to them, which I love. I think there is nothing better than driving the back roads of the American South and eating at small local restaurants. But what is great is about this round is, we get to see what folks are cooking in their homes.

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$25K Dessert? Sweet! The Showdown

by in View All Posts, April 15th, 2010
Competitor Andrea Gaskins's Apple Crisp Bread Pudding

After four weeks of savory showdowns, bakers finally took the spotlight on Ultimate Recipe Showdown last Sunday. The Cakes and Desserts competition was a sweet tooth’s fantasy: Layer cakes, cupcakes, crisps and cobblers, brownies (topped with cookie dough!) and more.

Food Network Kitchens’ Katherine Alford, our in-house URS judge, is back this week to share some tips for baking perfection. And for those days when there’s barely enough time to preheat the oven, she gives her favorite quick and simple dessert ideas.

FN Dish: This round can be tough timing-wise, since most of the cakes have to bake and then cool down enough to be frosted. Any tips for speeding up this process when you’re in a time crunch and need to get the frosted cake to a party?
Katherine Alford: Cakes really do need time to ripen. Not just for icing, but also for flavor. Smaller is better obviously, like a cupcake—they cool down quicker. But always cool a cake on a rack out of the pan, and cool the layers separately. Pop it in the fridge first to cool it down and then move it to the freezer.

FN Dish: Cupcakes are huge right now. Can you make any cake recipe into cupcakes, or are there some that don’t work as well? What should you keep in mind when using a cake recipe to make cupcakes?
KA: Simple cakes often work as cupcakes, but not always. I think chocolate works better. Don’t over-fill the molds and bake for less time. Sarah Copeland, one of our recipe developers and a cupcake expert, suggests, too, that dense cakes (like carrot cake) make better cupcakes. The airy sponge cakes just get flat and tend to leak over the sides. Thick cake batters (dense cakes) hold their shape better and sometimes even dome a touch in muffin tins.

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25K Burger Showdown: Family Feud!

by in View All Posts, April 7th, 2010
Competitor Michael Cohen's Northern Italian Trattoria Burger

Any food-lover knows that burgers are all the rage these days, showing up on menus everywhere from dives to fancy four-star restaurants. Food Network chefs are all about them—Bobby Flay just opened up his fifth Bobby’s Burger Palace, this one in Philadelphia, where fellow Iron Chef Jose Garces also has a terrific burger joint. On Ultimate Recipe Showdown this week, the competitors showed that home cooks can also make some killer burgers.

The burger episode was even more intense thanks to a heated battle-within-a-battle: Father versus Son. Michael Cohen went up against his dad, Harold, the reigning champ of last season’s burger showdown.

The eight burgers presented were diverse in their toppings and flavors, and the judges pronounced many of them excellent. Today Katherine Alford, Vice President of Food Network Test Kitchen and URS judge, shares her expert insight on how to achieve burger perfection at home.

FN Dish: Many of the burgers in this competition had a lot going on, from salsas to dressings to herb butter to grilled lettuce. For you, what are the key components of a great burger?
Katherine Alford: For a classic, it’s all about perfectly cooked, juicy, full-flavored quality meat. You need a bun that contrasts with the meat’s texture but doesn’t get in the way and holds up to a mess of personalized toppings.

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