Eat Well – A Club Med Couscous Salad from TMC Executive Chef Jason Ricciardelli

On a really hot summer afternoon around dinner time, do you find yourself in the kitchen not in the mood for anything, or at least nothing heavy? Me either!

Here is a great summer salad recipe that can be easily turned into a quick, full meal. I’ve never been to a Club Med, but if I did, I’d be eating this! It’s perfect also as a side for your July 4th celebrations.

Chef Jason Ricciardelli

Club Med Couscous Salad

Serves  4 as main, 8 as side.


1 cup dry couscous

1 cup water

1 ½ cup diced cucumber (seeding optional)

1 ½ cup  tomato (seeded and diced)

1/3 cup minced red onion (optional)

1 cup garbanzo bean (drained and rinsed)

1 cup diced red or yellow pepper

¼  cup minced fresh Italian flat leaf parsley

1 tbsp minced fresh mint (optional)

3 tbsp good olive oil (or bad olive oil if that’s what you’ve got)

3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 ½  tsp salt


Make couscous: In small sauce pan add water, 1 tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp salt and bring to a boil. Stir in couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Make sure it’s 1:1 ratio of water to couscous. Wait 8-10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and cool.

Place diced vegetables and beans in large mixing bowl.  Add mint and parsley and incorporate.

Add olive oil, lemon juice and salt and toss until well coated.

Fold in couscous.

You can serve at immediately or chilled. This is a vegan base recipe.

Feel free to add feta cheese or additional protein (chicken, salmon) for an even more complete meal.


TMC executive chef shares can’t-fail rib recipe for grill-ready days

Cooking Tutorial YouTube ThumbnailI’d love to grill and BBQ every day – especially at this time of year – but with our busy lives, it’s just not realistic. On my days off, I always prepare several items that my family can enjoy later in the week, when the prospect of cooking after a long day of work has lost its luster.

One of them is BBQ Ribs. The fact is that I like mine smoked several hours over hickory;  but most weekends, that’s not happening.

The following recipe is a fool proof way to get solid BBQ Ribs, with just an oven (and a grill if you’d like.) There’s also an option to do the first step on the weekend, and finish them in 30 minutes on any night of the week.

BBQ Ribs without a smoker

2   2 ½ – 3 ½ lb  rack pork rib (baby back)

2 tbsp salt

2 tbsp coarse ground pepper

1 cup dry rub (Recipe to follow)

1 cup of any BBQ sauce you’d like

½ cup apple cider vinegar

1 lager beer or 1 cup water

Dry Rub Recipe

1/2 cup chili powder

2 tbsp  granulated garlic

2 tbsp  cumin

2 tbsp paprika

½ tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

The ratios are about right, so you can double or triple the recipe and store in a sealed container.


Pull the ribs out of the fridge and place them on a cutting board. Cut each rack in half. This will make it easier to arrange on a sheet or roasting pan.

Salt and pepper both sides of the ribs.

Then liberally massage in the dry rub. If you’re dirty and are making a mess, you’re doing it right.

Set ribs on sheet pan or shallow roasting pan. (1 Layer)

In corner of roasting pan , pour in apple cider vinegar. Not over the pork, under the pork.

Open the beer and pour in half the same way. The rest is for you. (My wife just loves when I make ribs at 10 a.m. on a Saturday. All downhill from there.) Or use water.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil. They need to steam.


Preheat oven to 325F. Roast for 2 hours 15 minutes.

Remove and let sit 15 minutes, then uncover.


Now, you can continue the cooking process, or you can let cool to touch,  wrap tightly and place in the refrigerator for later use. The ribs are thin, so they will cool quickly enough in a standard refrigerator. They can be stored up to 5 days.

To continue cooking, either preheat a grill to high, or your oven broiler. Slather sauce on meat side of ribs. Grill for 5 minutes or broil 2 minutes meat side up. Flip and do the other side. Make sure the sauce bubbles up off the meat. The sugars in the sauce are caramelizing. Remove. Try not to eat them all.

If you’re reheating the next day or later, preheat oven to 350F. Wrap ribs tightly in foil, and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. Then follow the above step.

You see? Tuesday night all of a sudden looks like Rib Night – and all in half an hour.

Chef Jason Ricciardelli


Editor’s note: Sometimes, mere mortals may be skeptical when a chef calls a recipe “foolproof” so, dear readers, we can attest that members of the TMC Communications team, who have no particular culinary expertise to speak of, were able to successfully make these for a dinner party. They turned out fabulous. No one knows what happened to that other half of a beer. 

Hospital Week spotlight: Meet Jenn Johnson

Jenn Johnson TMC Food and Nutrition Supervisor

Jenn Johnson
TMC Food and Nutrition Supervisor

Feeding some 400 patients, along with thousands of employees, family members and visitors – breakfast, lunch and dinner – 365 days a year, is not an easy task. While Jenn Johnson has it down to a science, the Food and Nutrition Services Supervisor is always trying to do better. “As supervisor, I ensure that our patients receive the right food at the right time, and that all non-patients have healthy, nutritious options available at all times. I also strive to create a good customer service experience between patients and their food service representative,” she said.

Johnson has been at TMC for a year, and supervises all areas of TMC’s Food and Nutrition Department, including the three retail outlets: the TMC Cafeteria, Peppers Café, and Higher Grounds located in the Orthopaedic and Surgical Tower.

She describes the most challenging part of her job as trying to keep up with what patients, staff and visitors want. In the year Johnson has been with TMC, Food and Nutrition Services has rolled out two new services that should translate to a better patient experience. They now offer a gluten free menu in which food is bought, stored and prepared in a specially designated part of the kitchen to prevent any cross-contamination. Also, TMC’s new On Demand Room Service allows patients more freedom of choice when it comes to selecting what they want to eat, and at what time.

“Jenn is approachable, professional and courteous,” said TMC Executive Chef Jason Ricciardelli. “She has great instincts as a leader and a manager. She is also willing and eager to learn and develop new skills vital to TMC’s True North goals for the future.”

The man behind the meals: TMC’s new Executive Chef Jason Ricciardelli


Jason Ricciardelli
TMC Executive Chef

“In the Italian culture, food is a source of passion, and represents love, fun and happy times.  That’s what food should be – whether you’re making food for two people or 2,000 people,” said TMC Executive Chef Jason Ricciardelli.

He carries this philosophy with him into every kitchen – whether he’s at home, or at work.

Ricciardelli is even surprised looking back at the path that brought him to TMC.  The Queens, New York native went to Boston University to become a mechanical engineer.  “I took an engineering class three times, and failed it twice,” he said.  “The third time I’m convinced my professor gave me a ‘D’ simply because he felt bad for me.  I can’t change the oil in my car and my wife doesn’t trust me enough to change a tire,” he laughed.

The self-proclaimed “foodie” has an extensive background in the food and beverage industry.  Ricciardelli spent about 15 years in Boston doing everything from driving a taxi to managing a fine wine bar.  He eventually got a business degree from the University of Massachusetts, but food has always been where his heart is.  “I’m not classically trained.  I didn’t go to a culinary institute, but I paid my dues and learned a lot from working at night in a hotel with 24-hour room service.  If there are only two cooks, and one of them calls in sick, guess what?  That night manager had better put on a chef coat and hat and get ready to rock.  People are going to want food, and you’d better figure out how to handle yourself in the kitchen.  I learned a lot there.”

His job with Hilton Hotels brought him to Arizona in 2004 where he managed four Italian restaurants in the Phoenix area.  He was hired as a Food Services Supervisor at TMC in April 2012.  It didn’t take long for Ricciardelli to be promoted to the Catering Supervisor.  “I was very hands on.  I would make between 40 and 60 percent of all meals.  People had an opportunity to taste some of what I cooked,” he explained.  When there was talk about creating an Executive Chef position, Ricciardelli’s reputation in the kitchen and his managerial experience made the decision an easy one for upper management.

We spent a few minutes with the man who cooks dinner every night for his wife of 10 years, loves to travel, and eats the local food whenever possible.  “We went to Barbados, and I had curried goat the second I landed!”  No, he’s not kidding.  Read on to discover what else he has planned for TMC Food Services.

What food gets you most excited to cook? 

I love cooking Italian dishes with different sauces.  It’s what I’m comfortable cooking and it’s easy to make big quantities of it.  If you can make pasta for eight, you can make it for 80.  Or 180.  You’ll start to see more Italian and Mediterranean style items on the menu because that’s what I’m familiar with, and that’s what I know I can do well.  I’m a big believer in managing your strengths.  If you’re good at cooking ‘x,’ then why are you cooking ‘y?’

What is your least favorite thing to cook?

I’m not a very good baker.  I enjoy eating baked goods, but I’m not very good at making them.  We have a lot of corn bread and polenta on our menu now.  Those choices are going to go away because I’m not going to create a menu I can’t cook well.

What changes can we expect from Food Services with you as the new Executive Chef?

My goal going forward is to simplify the menu and add freshness.  By the middle of the summer, we will have a completely new menu in place.  We’ll roll it out in the cafeteria first before implementing the changes in other parts of the hospital.  For patients with dietary restrictions, we’re also exploring the possibility of changing portion sizes instead of changing the quality of the food.  Can we give patients the same flavor profile, while still fulfilling their nutritional needs with a smaller portion rather than drastically change the recipe and taste of a particular dish?  We’re working with our Registered Dietitians on this.

How would you describe your leadership style?

We have a bunch of fantastic people working in the kitchen.  They work hard every single day and I know that deep down inside they are proud about what they do.  I’m a big believer that if they didn’t love it, they wouldn’t do it.  It’s not an easy job.  It’s hot in the kitchen.  You get sweaty.  It’s not a glamorous position and to be honest with you it’s pretty thankless.  I want them to take pride in what they cook, and hold themselves accountable.  One of the things I’m trying to instill in my workers is ‘if you make it, you own it.’  I encourage them to taste the food they’re making.  We’re not just slopping some food on a tray to say that we got it done quickly.

What do you love most about TMC?

Without a doubt – the people.  The folks here are the easiest and most flexible people I’ve ever worked with.  They made me comfortable my first week here.  As a food production team, we’ve been successful, and we will continue going forward.  This job is about having fun, enjoying the camaraderie, and enjoying the fact that you’re having something good to eat.  People should be happy when they’re eating.  That’s what food service should be.  Don’t just eat to live, but live to eat.

Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461