Monday, October 5, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #29: October 4, 2020

Hi all,

If you've been paying attention to the Digest (or if you've talked to me in the past three years), you've probably noticed that I love copyright law.  Like, really love it.  Well, as it turns out, this week marks a watershed moment in copyright history: oral arguments in Google v. Oracle are slated to take place on Wednesday morning at 10am.  In the Year of Zoom, even the Supreme Court has gone virtual - they began broadcasting a live audio feed this past spring, and they will continue to do so this term.  You can tune in live on Wednesday morning at 10am EDT here, and the recording will be posted here on Friday.

Google v. Oracle holds a very special place in my heart.  This case has been brewing for a full decade, since just about the time I first understood what copyright law really was.  I've had the incredible experience of watching this case develop, from the complaint all the way through the Supreme Court appeals, at the same time as I was learning about the concepts that are involved.  I remember, shortly after starting at Google, wandering over to the desk of our lead copyright attorney and asking him to explain this "fair use" thing that everyone was talking about (Google was involved in a second landmark case involving the same concept at the time, so it was a ubiquitous phrase in legal news).  Anyone who's taken a class in copyright law will understand that that's an absurdly broad question to ask someone out of the blue (I've since written entire papers on small aspects of this doctrine), but, to his credit, he never batted an eye and instead gave me a perfectly understandable explanation.  Nine years later, I was blown away when I was invited to speak on a panel about copyright law alongside that very same attorney, who had become one of my heroes.

This landmark case involves two issues: 1) whether certain types of software code are copyrightable, and 2) whether using those types of code in order to make other software programs interoperable is a sufficient basis for fair use.  If you don't know what that means, don't worry - these are technical terms, but you can trust me that these are important issues for anyone creating software, which these days includes nearly every company.  If you do want to read up on the case, see here and here for good overviews.  This case will determine how software developers are able to function moving forward, and it will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on the digital world as we know it.  Tune in on Wednesday to learn more!

In the meantime, this is the final installment of the recent "Best of..." series; next week, we'll resume the normal format, full of fun and/or helpful tidbits to help you stay positive and find your groove.  Previous digests can be found on my blog at  If you have suggestions or would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know.


Best of...Delivery Food: Nearly every restaurant is now delivering online, so perhaps my best recommendation here is simply to look at the website of your favorite restaurants and see if they're delivering.  However, if you need some new inspiration (and particularly if you live in Manhattan), here are some that have brought me joy during these past few months.
Best of...Kitchen Gadgets, Part II
  • Ice cube trays: If you haven't already noticed, ice cube trays are a very easy way to express your personality - they come in every shape and size and theme, so literally just think of something that you or a giftee loves and run a Google search, and you'll probably find something wonderful.  Here are some of my favorites I've seen over the years:
    • Classic: Luke and I bought these when we first moved in together years ago because they were the ones on Amazon with the fastest delivery time, but it turns out that they're actually still in our freezer to this day, despite being entirely devoid of fun shapes or puns.  They just plain work.  The large shape means that you have a chance of finishing your drink before it gets completely watered down, and they're compact and take up very little space in our tiny apartment freezer (which I was especially grateful for in March when trying to stock up on long-term groceries).  And no matter how long they've been sitting in the freezer, they're flexible enough that it's always easy to get them out.  If you prefer smaller cubes, try this honeycomb shape instead.
    • Space Invaders: For classic gamers - just a little something to make you smile as you sip.
    • Brain Freeze: Get it?  Actually also a great shape - they're large and melt slowly.
    • DIY Spheres: These molds are actually a lot of fun - you can fill them with water for a giant, slow-melting, statement ball of ice, or you can add diced fruit (strawberries, chopped or whole raspberries, and whole small blueberries are beautiful), herbs, or even fun surprises like gummy bears or Lego figurines (that last one is a BAD IDEA for kids, though - choking hazard, be smart!).
  • Oxo smooth edge can opener: I was terrified of can openers (and open cans) until I found this one - it's completely foolproof, and I would probably even trust a child to be able to use it safely (don't take my word for that last part - use as directed by Oxo).  They appear to have changed the design recently and it now looks more complicated, but the one in the link above is the one I have, and I adore it.
  • Cookie press: This tool makes holiday cookies absurdly simple - you can make dozens of bite-sized delights in seconds using it, and with a shape like a caulking gun, it's also really fun and easy to use.  Just use the recipe that comes with it or look up "spritzgeback" recipes (my adaptation of the fabulous recipe that came with my first cookie press can be found on page 4 here).  Select a shape - other than that, the only decoration you need is a few drops of food coloring in the dough (pink flowers? green trees/clovers? The world is your oyster).  Use a rubber spatula to smoosh the dough into the barrel of the press, then hold vertically against your cookie sheet and press the trigger.  Lift, move, repeat.  I can cover a 16" sheet in about 15 seconds with this thing.
  • Immaculife mug: Tea isn't always for two.  When you're looking to make a solo cup for yourself, try this mug.  You can use it with a tea bag, but it also comes with a removable strainer for loose leaf tea, and it's available in dozens of fun colors and prints.
Best of...Recipes, Part II
  • White Wine Butter Pasta Sauce: One of my favorite sauces to make is also incredibly simple.  Start with some chopped garlic and equal parts white wine and butter (I usually do 1/4-1/2 cup each).  Heat on medium-low until slightly reduced (about 1-2 minutes; if you're worried about the garlic burning, you can add it after a few minutes, although I usually don't have that problem with this particular preparation for some reason).  Add some sage or rosemary if you have them on hand, a pinch of salt, and a splash of pasta water, then simmer until slightly thickened and saucy.  Finish with 1/2 cup parmesan cheese if desired.  It all takes less than 5 minutes to come together and is absolutely delicious!
  • Pecan Pesto: Here's another versatile sauce recipe.  A traditional pesto includes garlic, pine nuts, basil, cheese, and olive oil.  There are two problems with that for me: pine nuts are sometimes expensive or hard to find, and I don't love basil.  So I subbed in pecans for the pine nuts, and a handful of chives, rosemary, and thyme for the basil.  It turned out beautifully, and even my husband gave it two thumbs up (and two bowls down).  So here goes: Place 1/2 cup pecans, a small bunch of chives (maybe about 20 total, sliced), a small bunch of rosemary (ideally minced - I used maybe 1/2 to 1 tbsp) and thyme leaves (I used maybe 1/2-1 tsp), 1 tsp minced garlic and 1 cup parmesan cheese to a food processor; blend until even consistency (should be a sort of sandy texture).  Drizzle in 1/4 cup olive oil and a splash of pasta water; add more of either or both as needed to reach desired consistency.  Add protein if desired (I tossed in sautéed chicken with a little chimichurri seasoning and rosemary salt (highly recommended if you followed my advice from a few weeks ago and ordered from The Filling Station!)).  And since this pesto is so good and you're going to want a lot of it in each bite, I recommend using a pasta with a grippy, sauce-holding shape, like fusilli, rotini, or radiatore.
  • Cornmeal-Crusted Shrimp.  I used frozen jumbo shrimp, and this was a phenomenal, restaurant-quality dish.  If you're using frozen shrimp, the first step is to either thaw them or to put them in a Ziploc and start running warm (not hot) water over them while you prep the batter; either way, peel and devein before using.  In a bowl, combine 1 cup yellow cornmeal, 1/2 cup flour, and preferred seasonings (I used salt, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and a smoky maple barbecue seasoning mix).  In a separate small bowl, mix 1 egg and 1/2 cup milk.  Heat a layer of oil in a large frying pan - it should be about half as deep as your shrimp (so if you're using small shrimp, you'll need less than for jumbo shrimp).  One by one, fully submerge each shrimp in the egg-milk mixture, then completely cover with the breadcrumbs, pressing them onto the shrimp until you have a reasonably thick coating with no shrimp visible, then pile on a plate until you're ready to fry.  Once your shrimp is battered, place one layer in the pan, leaving about an inch between each so they don't stick together.  Cook about 3-5 each side, using tongs to gently flip each one  so as not to rip off the cornmeal crust.  Once the shrimp are golden brown and crispy, remove to a paper-towel-lined plate for a few minutes to drain.  I served them over white wine & herb pasta (with garlic, fresh chives, rosemary, thyme, and sweet), and it was absurdly delicious - see previous digests for my base white-wine-garlic sauce recipe.
  • Chicken Pineapple Quesadillas: The beauty of this recipe is that it requires only a handful of ingredients that are relatively easy to find, even during the apocalypse - you can even use canned fruit.  Start by turning on your broiler.  Slice an onion and mince a few slices (2 tbsp minced).  Medium-diced about ½ cup pineapple; if using canned, drain and discard the juice.  Heat a drizzle of oil on medium-high.  Add sliced onion, cook 4-5 minutes til softened.  Add pineapple, salt, and pepper and cook 2-3 minutes until lightly browned.   Remove from pan and set aside; wipe out pan.   Pat chicken dry w/ a paper towel (I used about a cup of large-diced chicken (bite-sized pieces)).  Heat another drizzle of oil; add chicken and whatever spices you’d like (I used chili powder, sweet paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder).  Cook, stirring, until chicken is browned, 4-6 minutes.  Add onion and pineapple, a squeeze of lime juice, and a pinch of chopped cilantro.  Rub one side of two tortillas with oil; place oiled-side-down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Evenly sprinkle with ½ cup cheese (I used mozzarella), then the filling, then another ½ cup of cheese.  Fold each tortilla in half to create quesadillas.  Broil until golden brown on top, 1-2 minutes; flip and repeat; watch closely and don’t burn them!  Cut into wedges; top with pico de gallo (diced tomato, chopped cilantro, minced onion, a squeeze of lime juice, salt, and pepper) and sour cream.  Enjoy!
  • Rosemary Butter Cookies: Yes, those Rosemary Butter Cookies.  This is one of my favorite cookies I've ever made, and a perennial favorite at the Cookie Party.  Bon appetit!  Cream 1 cup unsalted butter (softened) and 3/4 cup granulated sugar until pale and fluffy.  Mix in 1 whole egg and 1 tsp vanilla.  Reduce speed to low and add 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tbsp very finely chopped fresh rosemary (don't skimp!), and 3/4 tsp coarse salt. Halve dough, shape each into a log.  Place each on a 6"x16" sheet of parchment and roll in the parchment until it narrows to a reasonably even 1.5" in diameter.  Freeze until firm (lay each one flat to avoid lumpy logs), about 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Pour granulated sugar in a long line on your counter (about as wide as your dough).  Lightly beat an egg white in a small bowl.  Use a pastry brush or a paper towel to coat each log with egg white, and then roll in the sanding sugar.  Slice into 1/4"-thick rounds, space about 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, and bake until the edges are golden, about 18 minutes).  Check carefully every 2 minutes after 10 minutes or so to avoid burning - these go from perfect to charred very quickly!  You can see the full version of this recipe in the following link.
  • Sam's Cookie Collection: This is from the 2019 Cookie Party, but it has many of my cookie classics.  Enjoy!

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