S’mores Brulée

In my latest episode of the Starving Artist I break out my kitchen torch – I got it as a Christmas present a few years ago from my Aunt Judy. I highly recommend getting one – you’d be amazed all the things you can find to torch. But I think when most people think of a kitchen torch they think of creme brûlée. You know, creamy cold custard served in a ramekin, topped with sugar, and torched for a crunchy caramelized top. Delicious? Yes. But I’m the starving artist. I don’t have time or money to make custard – please. So the question is: what DO I have time and money for? What creative and affordable thing could possibly fit into a ramekin?

S’mores. What could be better? Watch the video to see how it’s done.

Here’s the recipe in PDF form: S’mores Brulee – Recipe PDF

One thing I discovered after we shot the video is that using marshmallow fluff instead of mini marshmallows actually makes it a lot easier to eat. And I realize that not every starving artist has a torch, so if you want to do this recipe without one, just place the ramekins on a sheet pan and stick it under your broiler for a minute or two until the top gets your desired black. Yum! ,

Fudging Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter PieOne of my favorite starving artist past times is taking recipes that are perhaps a bit…. over-involved or over priced or just plain obnoxious and making a starving artist version that is just as tasty for a fraction of the cost and time. Many weeks ago, long before bootcamp and certainly at a time where I was not at all concerned with what I was eating, I got a random craving for a peanut butter pie. Now the responsible thing to do when a craving like this hits is to recognize that it is born of misplaced desires and emotions and simply ignore it. Or you can behave completely irrationally and immediately leave your house to purchase ingredients. At this stage I went with option 2.

But before I could run to the grocery store in a fit of hysteria, I needed a pie. My go to for most things is Alton Brown – I adore the man and am a huge long time follower of Good Eats. Through some bizarre stroke of serendipity (or perhaps a cruel joke from the universe), his peanut butter episode was on Food Network that morning, which includes a peanut butter pie. You can view the recipe here. Now, as much as I love Alton, sometimes his recipes are just what I described above: over the top. Take this peanut pie for example: homemade chocolate crust, homemade peanut butter, chopped bittersweet chocolate… I get it, I do. This is what Alton does, he takes a recipe and makes it at the highest culinary level possible. And sometimes I’m in the mood for that. For peanut butter pie? Not to so much. Here is what I swapped out:

  1. Crust: do you know how expensive those chocolate wafer cookies are? Like over $5 for a pack. No. I bought a pre-made crust on sale for $2.99. They didn’t have chocolate, so I used granola. Perfect. 
  2. Peanut butter: I’m sure Alton’s homemade version is fantastic, but I’m not buying and roasting peanuts. Please. 1.5 cups from a $3 jar of Jif. Done.
  3. Bittersweet chocolate: I always have bulk semisweet chocolate chips in my kitchen. Those worked just fine.

Using all these substitutions I followed the recipe as it’s written and I have to say, I had a perfectly splendid peanut butter pie. Sorry, Alton!

A Bright Spot for Brunch

Brite Spot French Toast

Perhaps my two favorite things on earth are diners and breakfast. So you can imagine that having breakfast on Saturday at a diner I’d never been to before is my idea of a party. The Brite Spot in Echo Park is a delightful, hipster-y dive that boasts old school booths, friendly alternative staff, and a dessert case that would make Mariah Carey elbow Jenny Craig in the stomach. Now, being in bootcamp working towards a weight loss goal, I was unable to fully indulge in the majesty of their breakfast creations like the brussells sprouts and bacon hash or the house-made buttermilk biscuits with eggs and sausage gravy or the chicken fried steak with same said gravy…. however, the date I was with could. He opted to keep it simple and went with French toast and eggs, which were perfectly executed, rich and fluffy, and smelled divine. I opted for a bowl of oatmeal, which was perfectly thick, just the way I like it, served with brown sugar, walnuts, and raisins. A delightful way to fortify my Saturday. Our waitress was totally precious and indulged our questions about her new skeleton dolphin tattoo, which was apparently meant to be a tasteful nod to animal rights. Well done.

Despite being fully packed for Saturday brunch time, our food came out almost alarmingly fast. Our waitress never missed a beat – totally on the ball, very attentive. That damn dessert case was calling my name, HAUNTING ME the entire time, but I managed to run screaming from the restaurant before I could indulge. Next time, Brite Spot…. next time.

But I think what I loved most about this place is the atmosphere. You can tell it’s a community spot – people wandering in barely dressed and hungover, groups of friends laughing, locals stopping in to grab take out – it has that air, that feel that you can’t buy or force. It just has to be there; it has to be brought in by the food and the clientele. For me, this is exactly the characteristic that warrants a five-star score on Yelp.

In short, this is starving artist heaven. Affordable, relaxed, full of life, outstanding home made food. Can’t wait to come back and try all those baked goodies!

The Brite Spot
1918 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
www.britespotdiner.com

Click here to read my review on YELP

Old Fashioned Gingerbread with Egg Nog Icing

Old Fashioned Gingerbread with Egg Nog IcingSo I know the holidays are over, but come on, there is still plenty of time for gingerbread. This year I started a new Christmas morning tradition with my parents by baking my favorite gingerbread recipe. Not overly crunchy decorated cookies, not a house, but a warm, spicy, moist, real old fashioned gingerbread. This is a recipe I love to make at the very beginning of a party. As it bakes it fills your house with the most incredible aroma – warm, inviting, unmistakable. It wafts down the hallways and turns heads. My favorite thing is when people enter my hallway in my building and immediately ask (in reference to the aroma), “is that you?” Oh yes, that is me. As long as you’re talking about the gingerbread and not the poorly ventilated trash chute…

This recipe that I speak so highly about is actually not my own, but one I came upon some years ago on a quest for really good gingerbread. Amongst all the recipes I found, it was one from Emeril Lagasse that I decided to try and I certainly picked a winner. What makes it special is the use of Guiness – a whole cup. What more needs to be said? I also love that it calls for Turbinado Sugar (aka raw sugar – the big brown crystals). The combination gives it such a warm and earthy depth. I promise you’ll love it.

Now you’ll notice that Emeril gives instructions for a spiced creme anglaise to serve with the bread. The starving artist says eff that – isn’t it enough that I’m baking a cake? Truth be told, it *does* need something to put on top of it as the cake itself is not that sweet (another reason it’s so fantastic). I came up with a very easy and festive alternative: egg nog icing. Need I say more?

Gingerbread Recipe

Egg Nog Icing:

1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup Egg Nog
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch grated nutmeg
2 tsp Brandy (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together. Done. I like the icing to be a little loose for this recipe – if you want it thicker, reduce the amount of egg no.

A Solution for Your Extra Candy

Surely you have a ton of leftover candy bars lying around your house that you’re dying to get rid of if only to retain your self respect. Solution: candy bar pie!! Enjoy!