Early in our relationship, TD and I established the sanctity of Sunday Supper.  I don’t recall us ever doing this with intention.  I suspect it was the product of a cross-town relationship (code for we rarely saw each other during the week) and really good Sunday night television (Sex and the City, The Sopranos etc.). Twelves years later and Monday dinner may be a scrounged peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but Sunday supper is always special.  It’s never elaborate and cooking with fire is usually involved.

One of our favorite Sunday Supper dishes has kind of evolved into being over the years.  The ingredients change depending on the season and what happens to look good a the market.  Sometimes it leans toward the Italian pursuasion.  Others more Greek.  And still others it just does its own thing. It’s an easygoing dish with little in the way of rule following.  We call it panzanella-ish.

Every culture seems to have its way of economizing resources and utilizing leftover starch products in interesting ways.  Panzanella is Tuscany’s.

Let’s start with the tomatoes.  In the heat of summer when it seems like the markets are giving away tomatoes, I like to use beautifully colored heirlooms.  During the off-season, I stick to smaller varieties like grape, cupid or cherry because they pack a little more punch in the way of flavor than the larger, anemic, hothouse varieties.  For panzanella, you want some juice (I don’t seed), but not a ton.  To get to the optimum tomato juice ratio, I cut the tomatoes into bit-sized chunks, set them in a strainer and salt them. Then, I let them sit for about 20 minutes, gently tossing the strainer every five minutes or so to release the juices.  While they are resting, I usually melt in a clove or so of garlic like with my pico recipe.

Oh wait, if you are patient, there is a step before the tomatoes.  My bad.

If you remember to, pour between 1/4 and 1/2 cup  of extra-virgin olive oil in a bowl.  To it, add on large, smashed clove of garlic and desired seasoning (fresh herbs etc).  Let steep for a couple of hours.  This the oil you’ll use to toast your bread cubes.

Back on track.  While the tomatoes are sweating it out, I cut up my sort-of stale bread.  I usually don’t go whole-hog-Thanksgiving-stuffing-stale for panzanellaish.  It’s a personal preference, but we like a little give in the bread.

Also a personal preference, I like to toast the bread on the stove-top.  We aren’t making croutons here and for whatever reason, I tend to forget the bread when I attempt to toast it in the oven.  So, in goes the garlic oil, then the cubes.  Toss to coat and let toast on a couple of sides.

See what I mean?

No matter the persuasion, we always use cucumbers.  Sometimes persian (as I’ve done here), sometimes English, sometimes normal.  Seed them if you want.  We don’t.

This salad needs a little bite to it.  Diced shallot or red onion will do the trick.  Just a little kick.

Herbs are also important.  Remember the Strawberry Shortcake dolls that smelled like their namesakes?  Well, if it was the 80s and I was a strawberry shortcake doll, I’d be Basil Bottechelli.  Mint is lovely too or whatever your favorite combo might be.  When fresh herbs aren’t in season, we toss in some Herbs de Provence (our household’s version of Windex.  Have an issue?  Throw on some Herbs de Provence).

Okay, it’s time to man-up and buy a good hunk of parmesan reggiano.  I’m talking aged at least 18 months (though 24 is better).  It’ll be tough to throw-down upwards of $25 a pound the first time.  But, it will last much longer than you’d expect (even if you are prone to breaking-off hunks with your fork and eating it straight-out as TD and I have become)  And bonus?  The rind is an excellent addition to a soup or tomato sauce recipe.  It’ll change your life.  I swear.  Feta, goat or buffalo mozzarella (think caprese inspired) are genuis in this salad as well.

We microplane.  You could shave with a veggie peeler or grate.  Up to you.

Finish off the salad with some acid, really nice cold-pressed olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  My favorite acid for this is fresh lemon juice.

Toss everything together and then give it about 15 minutes for the bread to soften just a tad.  Pair it with a protein and beautiful wine and, no matter where you happen to be for reals, you’ll swear you’re in Tuscany.


TMH’s Endless Summer playlist.  Beach boys, 2 Wicky, Norah Jones, Karmin, Frank Sinatra, Grouplove, Foster the People, The Black Keys…to name a few.

Misanthropic Hostess Panzanellaish

In lieu of an actual recipe, I submit this diagram for consideration.  Mix and match as desired, adjust ingredient volume to number of people you are feeding (and then, double to be safe, there will never, ever be leftovers).

You should be able to click on the image for full-page display.


Roofdeck Redux

Sorry folks, no food porn this week.

This summer marks a milestone for TD and me.  Both of us are teaching graduate courses in different programs at different institutions (and the program I’m teaching in is in a different institution from where I work during the day).  We may never have our own reality TV show (because that’s the ultimate metric of success if you live in L.A. right?), but I think it’s kind of cool that someone out there believes each of knows enough about our respective day jobs that they think we are qualified to teach to other people (either that or they were desperate, which is fine too).  Unfortunately, TD’s class ended on a Tuesday and mine started the next day.  Which means no summer vacation for us this year.

No biggy.  Because I had a plan.  And it involved the roof.

One of the things that sealed the deal on our little townhouse was the rooftop deck (for TD it meant no lawn to mow, for me it meant a peak-a-bo ocean view).  When we first moved in, the BBQs immediately went up there as did a table and a couple of chairs.  Then, we quickly discovered that the East-bound breeze we loved so much funneled through our building’s courtyard like a smoke monster chasing Locke at 80 MPH.  Talk about a hostile environment.  So, for the last five years, the rooftop deck served minimally as a tableau for cooking with fire and a home for Edgar J Burro.

Poor Edgar was so lonely.

And so was our deck.

Knowing that we wouldn’t be dining al fresco in any exotic places anytime soon, I set out to bring the al fresco to us.  I used  this pasta tile as inspiration.  And a teeny tiny budget (because we’d just done the master bedroom which you’ll see next month).

The tile lead me to this rug.

A trip to Home Depot lead me to this really comfortable outdoor furniture.

Which was on sale for a ridiculous bargain.  But was the wrong color.

So, I refinished the love seat and chairs but left the table for a little contrast.

Made some throw pillows from leftover fabric from the bedroom.

Added a new umbrella and some flameless candles for ambience and wind-out-smartiness. Et voila.  A fully furnished roofdeck oasis for about $800.

And the wind?  Having just now spent more time out there than it takes to cook a chicken breast, we’ve learned that it dies down just about the time the sun is setting.


Furniture: Home Depot


Fabric for pillows and pillow inserts:

Rug: RugsUSA

Candle tower, glazed pottery pots: already had

It’s the little things

How apropos is this latest edition to the MisanthropicHostess Kitchen decor? 

I happen to be a bit of a letterpress fanatic and came across this beauty by Quail Lane Press on ETSY while looking for something else entirely.  Cracked me up the first time I saw it.  And, considering the number of dance parties that spontaneously occur in our kitchen, it needed to come to  my home.   Even TD lkes it…and his sense of humor isn’t usually so (wait for it)….corny.


It’s sexy and it knows it

Am I the only one who finds the “wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle” part of that song oddly (and probably inappropriately) hilarious?  Yes?  Okay then.

I had some hazelnuts that needed to be used.  AND I figured that I’ve branched out enough lately that it just might be okay to return to my baked good of choice: bars.

And these?  Are like an afternoon in Sienna in late spring; simultaneously sunny, decadent and more than a little sexy.

Brown sugar shortbread forms a lovely base.  What’s that I hear?  The theme music for a Misanthropic digression?  So, see those shoes I’m wearing in the photo below?  They were prototypes for what became You by Crocs.  Just one of the perks of having a husband who scores strange and wonderful swag on a regular basis (as a note, he usually gives me the women’s shoes.  Most of the time).

Anywho.  Let’s boil some honey shall we?  Don’t scrimp on this part, use the orange blossom honey the recipe calls for.  The result is a beautiful floral note that plays ridiculously well with the hazelnuts and chocolate.

Hazelnuts go into the caramel.  So does the candied orange peel.  Of which, I had none.  Even without it, the orange flavor comes through the with honey and fresh orange peel.  These will be made again during the holidays with candied orange peel.  Oh yes, they will.

Everything goes back into the oven until bubbly.

And here is where I diverged from the original recipe.  As you’ll see below, the original instructs you to cut the squares then dip the edges in melted chocolate.

I thought it would be prettier to drizzle drizzle drizzle drizzle.  Drizzle, drizzle, drizzle, drizzle.

Then cut.

Wrapped in a cellophane bag and orange ribbon, these would make a lovely gift to anyone needing a little love.


No soundtrack this week.  In its place, I offer an alternate ending below.

Chocolate Dipped (or drizzled) Hazelnut Caramel Squares

Bon Appetit, December 2010


  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) plus 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup orange blossom honey
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
  • 5 ounces hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied orange peel
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
  • Special equipment: candy thermometer


Preheat oven to 350°. Line 13 x 9 x 2-inch metal baking pan with foil (or parchment). Mix flour, brown sugar, and salt in processor 5 seconds. Add 3/4 cup butter; using on/off turns, process until coarse meal forms. Transfer to pan; press firmly and evenly onto bottom of pan. Bake crust until golden, about 20 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Bring 6 tablespoons butter, 2/3 cup sugar, cream, honey, and finely grated orange peel to boil in heavy small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Boil until candy thermometer registers 230°F, about 6 minutes. Stir in nuts and candied orange peel.

Spoon hot nut mixture evenly over crust in pan. Return to oven and bake until entire surface is bubbling, about 10 minutes. Cool 20 minutes. Using foil as aid, lift cookie from pan. Carefully peel foil from edges. Cut warm cookie into 1 1/2-inch squares. Cool cookies completely.

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Melt chocolate in small metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until warm to touch. Remove bowl from over water. Dip corner or edge of each cookie in melted chocolate and place on prepared baking sheet. Chill until chocolate is set, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD: cookies can be made up to 3 weeks ahead. Store in airtight container in freezer. Bring cookies to room temperature before serving.


Back it up to the part where the pan comes out of the oven.  Let the entire pan cool to room temp.  Melt chocolate over a double boiler or very slowly in the microwave on 50% power, whisking in between turns in the oven.  Once chocolate is completely melted, drizzle over the entire lot in the pan (be generous).  Let chocolate set until completely hardened.  Remove entire block from pan (it will easily pop-out).  Cut.  Enjoy.

Because returning from a holiday in the middle of the week is, well, brutal

Today, because yesterday was the 4th, we’re going nice and easy.

A little Belgium pearl sugar.  Or maybe confectioner’s.

Deceptively delicious.  They’ll make having to return to work on a Thursday almost okay.


Scissor Sisters.  The Kitchen Gods love ’em. Oh, and of course, there was dancin’ today.

Brown Sugar Crinkle Cookies


  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt


  1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture (the dough will be soft).
  2. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Flatten with a glass dipped in sugar. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks.