Home is Sweet Home
By: Scott Harris
When has HOME been so important and discussed more in our lifetime than in recent months? I envisioned last year, 20/20 would be the year of perfect vision. While it was undefinably different than expected, I found amongst a field of “C” word pandemonium, we have the power to change our focus and find a rare rainbow seeded gift box, with a sea of clarity inside.
Maybe it’s not our focus we have to change, but more our perceptions, or the senses we use to perceive. I realized I was given more than just the sense of sight and sound that was driving the world’s attention. Why not focus on taste and heart, as my regular world I knew, forever changed? I admit to having a BIG sweet tooth, so why not focus on what is sweet? I knew my heart is always with home! So YES … a Home Sweet Home can be my haven!!!
As a civilization this year, we’ve experienced that Home is more than just a noun, it became an Environment that kept us safe. Home used to be a place that we came to after a long day’s activities. It was a place that we may not have valued for ourselves, but preferred to show off while entertaining. It was a kitchen for many that was kept perfectly polished, but barely utilized. A place we slept at while dreaming of leaving to go on vacation to the ‘South of Somewhere.’
Now, it’s evolved to become our safest of havens. While it’s been a bruiser of a year for many as we were sequestered inside, it was for good reason. Our homes are a like a womb that keeps us safe, protects and heals us. It’s been an amazing reformation of thought that reminds us how important and Sweet Home...is.
Given how much time we are now spending in our homes, it seemed timely to think about how to redefine our home into an even sweeter place!! It’s now a place we work from, a place our children learn in, a restaurant we eat at. And…while on the topic of Sweet…why not add in some of my favorite, yummy sweet recipes that kept me going!
Home as the Sweet Workplace
Many of us would wake up every morning to an alarm clock, dashing to shower, getting dressed, racing to our car to drive the road’s daily craw with stretched-out-hand in search of coffee.
Rushing into an office, finding your co-workers half asleep and mildly exhausted already. Now, for most, we wake up smiling, straightening out our favorite pajama bottoms, putting on a professional shirt or blouse, becoming experts in finger combing our hair as we get ready for our first Zoom call at the kitchen table.
While not everyone has the luxury of having their own private home office, you can still set up an amazing space for you and your family to work from. I found what was most important is separating workspace from home space. We’ve been forced to blend them; how do we make the best of it? Find any location that you can set up in. Ideally, find a quite spot near a window as natural light is better to work from and set up any table you can find! Don’t underestimate the value in buying yourself a nice plug-strip that sits next to so you’re not found arguing with the wall-plug behind your desk. And, at the end of your day, just as you do at work, turn off the lights, close the books, put the work away, and move into other sweet zones of your home!
Home as the Sweet School
We used to take our kids to school, but now, home-schooling is the new norm for some time to come. And, while schools will likely resume, it’s a great time to think about the experience for our children on how to create a safe place to study, mediate and to practice for them. For a child, a home is something very different than what it is for as an adult. For a child, a happy home is a place of security and serenity for they and their family. It’s a recognizable place they own with a schedule that gives them comfort.
Like your home office, find a place to make this a Sweet Work / School space for your children. You’ve already started with a few tips on the Sweet Workspace. To that, add in some things that make it feel like “their” private space such as a special chair, a mouse and keyboard that fits their hand perfectly. Make it even fun with one with some colorful blinky lights and colors and watch your kids get excited and feel at home in their new school!
Home as the Sweet Restaurant
Home used to be the place for many that were afraid to dirty the stove and to experiment much beyond simple meals that came from the “Made in Under 30 minutes” recipe sections. Kitchens were more valued as a showpiece, than a workplace. We dreamed of going to a restaurant, but now we see things differently. We accepted the idea that a little grease splatter vs. long drives, wait-times, hefty tips and counting how many cocktails you had, is a welcomed trade-off!
While I haven’t been able to be at home as much as others, as I’ve been busy making them during this time, I’ve been working on a few new recipes that make me want to tap my heels and be at my Home Sweet Home. I’m excited to share these with you to make your time at home even more enjoyable this holiday season!
Farm Fresh, Smoked Pumpkin Soup
One of my favorite and sweetest new recipes was created when I made my annual pumpkin soup. This year, my friends said “No way! You’re not going to turn on that oven and heat up the house!" So, I had an ah-ha moment and thought, “Why can’t I’m simply smoke the pumpkin on the grill outside?" It completely changed the flavor profile and made the pumpkin, unbelievably velvety, smoky and the sugars slowly caramelized. AH HA! A new addition to the annual tradition of recipes was born that I’m happy to share with you here!
- • You're favorite California old vine Zinfandel (My new favorite)
• 3-4 Hickory Wood Chunks soaked in water and several coal briquettes
• 3-4 Sweet Sugar Pumpkins (The best ones are hiding out at your local farm - Don’t use the one from your neighbor’s Halloween decoration)
• 1 large Yellow Onion
• 2 large Shallots
• 5 cloves of Garlic
• 4 cups Chicken Broth (Make your own broth quickly by simply simmering fresh chicken wings!)
• Brown Sugar to taste
• 1 stick of Real Butter (If you use anything other than real butter, please return your cooking license)
• 1/2 C Heavy Whipping Cream (The heavier the better!)
• Powdered and dried Cayenne Pepper
• Fresh Oregano
• Fresh Rosemary
• Course Sea Salt (God did not create all salts equal. The salt of the earth is not as good as the one from the sea)
• Apple Smoked Bacon (You can substitute with bacon bits if you don’t feel like being Martha Stewart)
• Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (Buy a beautiful aged block and shave with a peeler)
• Baby Pumpkins for serving bowls
- 1. Open the bottle of wine and pour a glass...this is for you!
2. Wash, halve and use an ice cream scooper to remove the loose flesh and seeds from the Sugar Pumpkins - keeps the seeds and toast for later! Healthy snack at your new Sweet Workspace.
3. Walk to your barbecue and place the briquettes in an aluminum tray, lite the briquettes and when smoldering, add the soaked wood chunks on top to start the smoking. Move off to the side. Light a burner to medium.
4. Place the pumpkins on the barbecue grill flesh side up and smoke and bake for approximately 20 minutes with the lid closed until the flesh becomes soft enough to scoop like melted caramel ice cream. (Try to watch as to not burn the flesh like I did the first try)
5. Mince the Onion, garlic, and shallots and sauté in a 5 qt. pot with butter until they are soft and become translucent. (Try to not give in and start eating the pumpkin while you are waiting)
6. Put the oh, so velvety, smoky, caramelized pumpkin mix into the pot with the savory root goodness above.
7. Turn the heat to medium/low and slowly start to blend the chicken broth into the smoked pumpkin mix until it starts to slightly boil. Adjust the broth amount as needed.
8. Add butter, heavy cream, cayenne, brown sugar, herbs and salt to taste.
9. Simmer until all is well blended, 5-10 minutes and move the soup into your favorite food processor or blender in batches. Whip on high until it’s pureed!
10. Return the velvet mix to the stove and add more stock if needed to thin out if desired. (But keep it thick)
11. If you’re crazy like I am, you’re now cooking your bacon to get it ready for the topper, carving out baby pumpkins for your bowls and seasoning the pumpkin seeds to put into the oven for tomorrow’s snacks.
12. Ladle the soup into your carved out pumpkin bowls…garnish with a swirl of heavy cream on top, sprinkle the fresh oregano and shave the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top. Oh, and don’t forget the chopped apple wood bacon on top!
13. Repeat step one and enjoy! Your family will love you and watch out…they may forever ask you to bring this heavenly soup to every holiday meal!
Candied, Home Cured Salmon with a ZING
This is one of my favorite, easiest (anyone can do this) recipes that I came up with this after loving lox, but not wanting to pay a fortune for fives slices in a shrink wrap pack made in a factory. Who said we can’t eat well? Cooking is therapy, so don’t get too caught up in the measurements of each item as much as the enjoyment of feeding your soul while you cook!!!!
- 2lb Fresh Atlantic Salmon filet, skin on (trim off belly portion so the fillet is a consistent thickness)
3/4 cup course Korean Sea Salt (there is other sea salt alternatives out there…but who knew this stuff was SOO good)
3/8 cup unprocessed raw sugar
3/8 cup dark brown sugar (just pure goodness…)
Pinch of cracked white pepper (don’t be shy)
Dash of liquid smoke (If your not crazy like me and don’t have time to smoke it after it’s been cured)
1 large bunch of fresh organic Dill (it’s not just for pickles)
2 Meyer lemons from your neighbor’s tree
3/8 cup of your favorite port wine (enjoy a sip while your are preparing and try to not smile)
- Your food is only as good as the ingredients you start with so seek out the freshest ingredients you can find!
- I enjoy getting to know my food, so I always take a full fresh salmon from the local fish market and fillet it myself. If you can't do this, try to find the freshest filler you can!
Directions1. Mix all dry ingredients into this secret, sweet spice rub into a large bowl
2. Chop the fresh dill
3. Blend in dill and port wine into the dry rub (take a moment and smell…mmmmm)
4. Pat salmon on all sides with the herbal sweat spice rub! (Don’t forget to take a picture to show your friends you can cook)
5. Zest of a lemon on top of fillet (avoid the acid of the juice…we only want the skin)
6. Wrap tightly with Saran Wrap and place in a glass pan and weight the fillet down with a board or brick wrapped in foil
7. Refrigerate for 48 hours and flip the fillet several times a day. (The liquid will be drawn out and is normal) Remove the cured fillet, wash off the brine and pat dry. Put in the refrigerator uncovered for at least two hours, remove, thinly slice and garnish with fresh dill, lemon zest and if you have a wonderful olive oil (Paso Robles oil rocks), lightly sprinkle on top. Bring this to your next party and its guaranteed to be a hit! If you want to make it a total hit…take a sharp knife and cut of the candied skin...fry in in cast iron skillet until crispy. Let it cool, cut in squares and use a garnish. And…if you’re looking for a marriage proposal...just garnish with caviar and it’s all over...