I decided that the theme of today’s PTO would be “gift cards” — specifically, using the ones that I had received, then stashed away in a box for later use. This weekend I realized I had amassed quite a stack, so today my goal was to blow through as many as I could. The main one was to Borders, and so I trotted into the one at Biltmore Fashion Park all giddy at the prospect of stocking up on $50 worth of magazines.
My friend Julie asked why I didn’t go for a couple of books; after all, they last indefinitely, while magazines can become outdated. I do love a good cookbook — it’s like culinary porn! — but there is one major problem with them: You can’t rip out the pages. (Well, I guess some people could, but I could not.) With a magazine — say, the May 2009 issue of Real Simple — I tore out the pages with recipes I wanted (and put them in a file folder), and kept two pages with other items to remember, then recycled the rest of the issue. Compare that with the book “Hot Sour Salty Sweet,” which looks amazing but as far as recipes go, I would probably be game for about eight or 10 of them. But I can’t bring myself to yank out just those pages, so instead I have a coffee table cookbook, 2 inches thick, taking up space on my shelf.
So I loaded up on magazines — quite a few cooking ones, yes, but also Psychology Today. And Details, which I was surprised to discover was still being published. For some reason I thought that went under? My tally was at $49 and change, so I reached down and grabbed an OK Weekly to put me over the $50 gift card balance so I could use it up. The cashier and I discussed the merits of Cooks Illustrated, vs. Donna Hay, an import from Australia (some of its recipes are in metrics, which should be entertaining) that costs $9.95. “Ah, it’s a gift card,” I told her about the Donna Hay. “It’s not my money.”
Then it turned out the card actually only had $10 on it, not the $50 that was marked on the envelope. So, basically, the gift card was enough to buy just that Donna Hay, and I ended up paying for everything else. I wish I could say I put back the OK Weekly — I especially wish I could say it after I leafed through it and realized I wasn’t interested in any of it — but I did not.
Tonight’s dish was another reminder that things don’t always work out the way you think they should.
What, you thought the recipe was going to be from Donna Hay? Nope — although I do have a few of hers (from a previous issue) in the pike later this week. (Also, I love how online, Donna’s note mentions that she’s “blown away” by the latest issue and “can’t wait to get started on the menus.” The phrasing makes it sound suspiciously like she’s as new to the contents as the rest of us.)
No, this is a Real Simple disappointment.
Cost of ingredients: A whopping 92 cents, for the red onion. For some reason I had once dissected a Costco quantity’s worth of broccoli and frozen the florets, and I already had the salmon in the freezer, too. I had all the other ingredients already lying around. The brown sugar was hard as a rock, but disintegrated once it was mixed with the soy sauce.
Substitutions: Jasmine rice instead of white (because it’s what I had), and I skipped (or, more accurately, forgot) the olive oil on the salmon. I also grilled it instead of broiling it. (And I used my new grill brush, which I bought with a gift card at Bed Bath and Beyond, to clean the grill.)
As easy as they said? Yeah, pretty much. I mean, it’s glazed fish, plus rice and broccoli.
How’d THAT go over? Eh. See above: It’s pretty basic … and pretty boring. The fish was tasty enough, but the remaining glaze couldn’t really salvage the sheer “blah” of white rice and broccoli — mixed together for even worse effect. And we used four servings’ worth of glaze on two fillets and two servings of rice and broccoli.
Would I make it again? Nope. Sometimes real simple is really boring.