Sometimes when we’re lounging peacefully poolside at our Palm Springs getaway — eyes closed, water gently lapping beneath the breezy palms — we imagine the wonderful boozy row between Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra in their nearby home. You remember: the one where Gardner launched a Champagne bottle at Sinatra but missed, resulting in the famous cracked sink in the master bathroom. All that ruckus because Gardner blew a gasket after hearing about Sinatra’s dalliances with Lana Turner.
Ah, Palm Springs. Stars — among them Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, Gene Autry, Bob Hope, Liza Minnelli, Liberace, Arnold Palmer and Dinah Shore — flocked to glamourous gin mills in the California desert in the 1940s and ’50s for respite from the harried life of Hollywood.
These days, Palm Springs is the most artificial place on the planet. Imported palm trees and faded Hollywood stardust now give way to leathery, overfed Canadian retirees and a booming epicenter of the gay universe. (Love The Follies!)
Foodwise, desert cuisine is hard to fathom. Orange, lemon and grapefruit trees abound as do California staples of dates and avocados, and hearts of palm (wrong trees, but still Palm Springsy).
Fine dining in PS, Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage commonly means tony seafood dishes and glamourous steak houses dripping with bernaise. The desert dining of days gone by included midnight suppers at the Chi Chi Lounge, with orders of Welsh Rarebit and barbecued spareribs to soak up all that gin. Four-inch steaks, an obsession with zombies and Polynesian delights courtesy Don the Beachcomber.
To our imagination, Palm Springs cuisine means cool, citrusy salads to beat the heat. And we like them effortless and light, so we can lounge poolside sans pooch hanging over our Lilly Pulitzer tankini. Cold shrimp and lean chicken add the perfect touch of protein for swimming a few laps between belts. It is Frank’s world, after all. We just live in it.
UPDATE: Coconut Date Rolls are a perfect poolside snack with a fruit tray or on top of your salad.
1 lb. pitted dates
1 cup slivered almonds, roasted
1 cup unsweetened dried coconut flakes (reserve some for rolling)
Blend the dates, almonds & coconut in a food processor until a paste is formed. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls of the paste in the dried coconut and form into 1-2 inch balls. Top with a slivered almond! Makes about 25 little rolls.
PALM SPRINGS FRUITY CHICKEN SALAD
1/2 cup pitted dates
2 large oranges
1 small pineapple
2 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halved, cooked and cooled
1 cup plain lowfat yogurt
2 Tbsp honey
2 tsp grated orange peel
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped candied ginger
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh mint
1/8 tsp salt
dash cayenne pepper
Make dressing by whisking together all ingredients until well combined. Slice dates. Slice peel and pith from oranges. Slice oranges crosswise into 1/4 inch rounds. Quarter and peel pineapple. Slice into 1/2 inch thick slices. Arrange oranges, kiwifruit, and pineapple on 4 salad plates.
Tear chicken into strips. Toss with dates and Orange Mint Yogurt Dressing. Divide mixture into 4 portions and arrange evenly on each serving plate. Garnish with mint sprigs.
SUNNY PALM SPRINGS SALAD
A salad made with hearts of palm, avocado, grapefruit, and tomato.
1 grapefruit or tangelo or oranges
2 tomatoes, Roma type
1 can (398 mL size) hearts of palm
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
ground pepper to taste
salt to taste
Using a sharp knife, supreme grapefruit over a bowl to catch juices.
Cut the avocados in half lengthwise, reserving shell to serve from. Cut the avocados into bite-size pieces, then add them to the bowl. Cut the tomatoes into bite-size pieces, discarding the seeds. Add the pieces to the bowl. Drain the hearts of palm, cut them into small rounds, then add them to the bowl.
Pour the oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper into a shaker to emulsify. Toss well and serve.
PALM SPRINGS SHADE SALAD
Chopped salad of crab, pineapple, avocado, green onion, grape tomato in a soya/sesame/siracha mayo.
14 oz. can artichoke hearts, quartered
14 oz. can hearts of palm, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
14 oz. olive salad
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, quartered
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
2/3 c. olive oil
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
Drain artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, olives and pimentos. Add mushrooms. Combine other ingredients. Mix with vegetables. Allow to stand in refrigerator overnight. Serves 6 to 8.
Margarita Shrimp and Scallops
Recipe courtesy Dave Fogelman
4 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons gold tequilla
1 tablespoon orange flavored liqueur (recommended: Triple Sec)
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
Pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 (U-15) shrimp and 6 very large sea scallops, cut in 1/2 or 12 smaller sea scallops
12 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1 medium mango, peeled and flesh diced
1 tomato, seeded and diced
2 scallions, green part only, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon diced Vidalia onion
10 mint leaves, chopped
2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon mirin
Pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pink salt, for garnish
First preheat the grill to medium.
Add all the marinade ingredients to a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the shrimp and scallops and set the bowl aside. Next, add all the salsa ingredients to a serving bowl and mix well.
Remove the shrimp and scallops from the marinade. Put a scallop in the “U” (curved part of the shrimp) of the shrimp and skewer, first through the scallop and then through the shrimp. Arrange the skewers on the hot grill and cook approximately 2 1/2 to 3 minutes on 1 side, then turn and grill for 2 1/2 minutes on the other side. When done, remove the skewers from the grill to a serving dish. Drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with pink salt. Serve with the salsa and enjoy!