Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #40: January 10, 2021

 Hi all,

This week has been a heavy one - I'm exhausted, sad, and overwhelmingly disappointed in the world we live in.  I know we're better than this.  For once, I really don't know what to say, so instead, I'm just keeping this week's Digest light (with entertainment recommendations) and comfortable (with two stellar recipes I made this week, both featuring one my favorite herbs: thyme).

Stay strong, everyone - and I'm always here if you want to talk.

As always, 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.


  • What IS fun, anyway?
  • Looking for new ways to keep virtual parties fun and avoid the inevtiable awkwardness?  Check out this breakdown of your options from Wired.
  • Is your Netflix queue running low?  Here is a list of 50 new TV shows coming out in 2021 - mark your calendar, grab the PopSecret, and get binging!
  • Find yourself cursing like a sailor at the news these days?  Netflix's new series, History of Swear Words, investigates the history and impact of six common swear words, all hosted by Nicholas Cage.
  • Looking for a new routine?  Set up a weekly event of some sort - Zoom lunch with friends/colleagues, an exercise class, a book club/discussion group, or even the month-long baking class from Christina Tosi of Milk Bar.  Just give yourself something to look forward to each week and anchor you a bit when the rest of the world seems topsy turvy, or when the days start to blur together.  Prefer alone time?  Set a day and time each week when you do something for yourself, like testing a new recipe or playing a video game.
  • The Public Theater is hosting a virtual version of their annual Under the Radar Festival, featuring cutting-edge theatrical performances, through Jan. 17th.
  • Escape the Room, Escape the World - the NYT understands why people love Escape-the-Room games!  If you're looking for a bite-sized version during the quarantine, try any of the mobile apps from Nicolet (cute, cartoony, snack-sized chapters - try the ones named "Collection", like this one) or Jammworks (a little darker, but still cute, and based on classic fairy tales - a little like Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes, but in cute puzzle game format; try Snow White or Cinderella to get started).  You can also try the one-hour timed games in the Unlock! series that come with cards and a phone app for the official timer and some codes you need to enter, which make for a great date night activity at home.
Recipes of the Week: What to do when you have too much THYME on your hands!
  • Pork chop* with balsamic-thyme glaze and garlic-thyme crispy potatoes and tender roasted zucchini: [*NOTE: You can use a bunch of proteins for this - steak or chicken breast would go well with this, too.]  Dice 5-6 new potatoes (or 1 med. potato) into 1/2-inch pieces; pull thyme leaves from sprigs until you have 1.5 tsp; trim and halve 1 zucchini, then cut into 1/2-inch half-moon-shaped slices. Toss potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp thyme, salt, and pepper; place on one half of a rimmed baking sheet. Toss the zucchini with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and place on the other half of the sheet.  Roast on top rack at 450 degrees until everything is browned and tender, about 20-25 min.  Pat your protein dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper.  Heat a large drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat, cook until browned and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side.  Set the meat aside to rest; wipe out the pan.  For the glaze: Heat 1.5 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 packet chicken stock concentrate (or 1 cube bouillon), 1/4 cup water, 1.5 tbsp brown sugar, and a few whole sprigs of thyme over medium heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 3-4 minutes - don't walk away or it will burn!  Turn off heat, stir in 1 tbsp butter; remove thyme sprigs.  Place protein in the pan and turn to coat in the glaze; plate meat and veggies; top with remaining glaze and garnish with remaining thyme leaves if desired.
  • Butternut squash agnolotti with maple-bacon-thyme cream sauce: [NOTE: You need to stir this sauce pretty constantly the whole way through, but it's worth it!  Because of the texture, I used short stabs with a rubber spatula (gentle, or it will splash), from the outer edge of the pan toward the middle - keep doing that over and over, and the unblended parts will rotate around toward your spatula, like an electric mixer; just don't forget to scrape the sides every 20 seconds or so.]  Boil water; add pasta.  Prepare bacon; if made in a pan, wipe it out lightly and use that pan for the sauce.  While the pasta is cooking, melt 4 tbsp butter over medium heat.  Add 2 cups light cream (I didn't have cream or whole milk, so I used skim and it turned out fine, although the texture would definitely be better with something thicker) and stir for about one minute to combine and come to a simmer (it won't fully combine, but keep stirring until it looks uniform across the pan).  Add 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tbsp fresh thyme (don't overdo it), and a large pinch of salt (I used rosemary salt); stir to combine.  Simmer, stirring pretty constantly, for 3-4 minutes, until slightly thickened.  Add cooked pasta, with a tiny splash of pasta water, to the pan, allow to simmer in the sauce for a minute or two until the consistency is what you want it to be.  Top with bacon crumbles.

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