Sunday, March 18, 2012

Parsnip Fries

I am back!!! The long delay was due to a few reasons.  Mainly, I had an awesome friend staying with me for her Spring break.  The only food I even made this week was a decent , but not my favorite, brussels sprouts dish.  The rest of the time we ate at lots of different restaurants - garlic noodles at Old Spaghetti Factory, pad thai at Mai Thai, steak sandwich at Matador - you get the picture.  Mai Thai was hands down the best pad thai ever and I cannot wait to go back.

Now that I am alone again, there is plenty of food I want to cook.  I am looking forward to wasabi salmon and marinated tofu.  Today it was time for PARSNIP FRIES (note you could also follow this recipe and make carrot fries, squash fries, sweet potato fries, etc).

I think parsnip fries are even better than potato fries and perfect for the cold rainy day we are experiencing outside.  They are hearty, warm, and full of flavor. Also, they are really filling!

Are you not sure what a parsnip is?  They are a root vegetable related to the carrot.  At the grocery store, they look like white carrots that are larger and a bit less uniform in shape. 1/2 a cup of parsnips has 3 grams of fiber and 55 calories, with 0 grams of fat or cholesterol.  They have 45 mcg of folic acid in 1/2 cup (the recommended daily amount is 400 mcg).  The recommended daily intake of potassium is 470 mg and parsnips have a more half that amount in 1/2 a cup (286 mg). Basically, not only are they tasty, but they are healthy too.

2.5 pounds of parsnips (try to buy ones of uniform shape to make it easier to cut into fry shape)
1 clove of garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 sprigs of rosemary


1) Preheat oven to 450*.  Cut the parsnips into fry shapes.  My method was to cut in half widthwise (so across the middle) into two pieces.  Then, I cut each piece in half lengthwise and depending on the size of the parsnip, cut into two or three pieces lengthwise.

2) Dice three sprigs of rosemary.  Toss the parsnips with rosemary, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, and 1 clove minced garlic.
3) Spread out parsnips on a cookie sheet.  Lay 5 sprigs of rosemary around the cookie sheet, still in sprig form.  Cook for ten minutes.

4) After ten minutes, stir the parsnips around to help them evenly cook.  Cook another 10-15 minutes (I cooked for the whole 15 minutes and it was perfect).
5) Crumble the sprigs of rosemary over the parsnip fries.  Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, and more to taste.  Add salt and pepper.

6) Devour and enjoy!

Friday, March 9, 2012


For breakfast, we went to Cheeky's, located in downtown Palm Springs (622 N. Palm Canyon Drive).  Cheeky's is open every day of the week, except Tuesdays, from 8 am - 2 pm.

They serve seasonal, locally grown, and mostly organic food.  This resulted is very fresh, healthy tasting items, but it wasn't always a good thing.  For instance, my Grandma orderer the fruit plate, which had some great, unique choices: Asian pear, kiwi berries, and kumquats.  The Asian pear was delicious, the kumquat was okay, but the kiwi berries were awful.  They weren't ripe at all.  Kiwi berries are one of my favorite forms of berries, and it was disapointing to be served such an unripe version.  It was like Cheeky's wanted to serve something unique, cool and local, but those goals outweighed the most important requirement - that it still tasted great. 

Cheeky's changes their menu weekly to match what is available in the market, which I think is really cool.  It would be fun to live in Palm Springs and know there is always going to be something new. They also make all the batters, sauces and dressings in house.  Below is what we ordered, and I think our total came out to be $41, which is pretty reasonable for 3 people eating in downtown Palm Springs.

Bacon Flight $4
Pretty lame, actually. The idea was fun - five different kinds of bacon, and the bacon was cooked exactly how I like it (crispy).  However, it is pretty sad when there are five different flavors and we can't really tell them apart.  I can make more flavorful bacon at home (sprinkle brown sugar and cayenne over bacon, place in oven, then die from happiness).  This would be yummy if you just want five strips of bacon at a good price, but keep your expectations low for something called a "flight" of bacon.  We did enjoy whatever flavor it was that had thyme on it.

French Herb Omlette with Avocado and an Apple Frisee garnish
This was a great omlette.  The addition of avocado was genius - it made it creamy and smooth tasting.  The apple frisee garnish sounded more like a salad on the menu, but this just went on top of the omlette.  The apples were cut into cute tiny slices, and we loved the flavor of apple with onion.

Tomato and Asparagus Frittata
This is what my Mom got and it was good too.  Big halves of grape tomatoes, and the asparagus provided a nice crunch.

Truffle Tater Tots
This was my favorite.  These could quite possibly be the best tater tots I have ever had.  Perfectly crispy, not greasy at all, and nicely salted.  I am not sure what makes them "truffle" though - maybe they are cooked in truffle oil?  There is no unique taste, but the texture is superb. Only problem? The ketchup was way too tiny!

Fruit Plate (see above)

The drinks sounded great, but were way too expensive.  Orange juice, which I am sure is fantastic, was $6.  However, I think it came in a carafe, so that is probably more than one serving.  The slushee/smoothie type drinks sounded great, and they also had mimosas.  I think the mimosas were $11 though, so I passed.  They also had Intelligenista coffee and Mighty Leaf teas.

While the drinks you had to pay for were out of our league, the water was divine!  The water came with no ice, but stayed chilled the entire meal.  It was served in a large fancy looking carafe.  It was great water - yes, it seems like water would be hard to mess up, but this water just tasted fantastic!

We didn't get any pastries, but they are supposed to be wonderful.  They are all baked on site, by pastry chef Deb Menduno.  She makes whatever appeals to her that day, which adds to the element of surprise in dining at Cheeky's. 

Cheeky's also does catering

I love magazines, so I was really excited that Vogue recommends checking on Cheeky's.  In their 2011 Guide to Coachella , Cheeky's is one of four restaurants they list as must-dine spots.  Citing the restaurant as cheerfully laid back, but with a "menu that means business," they recommend trying the duck confit hash or the chilaquiles with homemade chorizo.

I recommend checking out Cheeky's.  It was fun, totally in the spirit of Palm Springs, and healthy.  We had a great brunch that didn't break the bank, and left feeling full but not that awful stuffed feeling.  The service was perfect - the waitress knew when to stop by, but wasn't intrusive or rude.

We went around 10:00 am on a Thursday morning, so we were seated immediately inside.  If we had elected to sit outside, there was a 10-15 minute wait, and I think on the weekends you can expect to wait much longer.  However, they did have a civil sign-in sheet, which I appreciate.  I hate when waiting in line is a free for all. 

Definitely check this place out!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Shanghai Red's Oyster Bar

For dinner, we went to Shanghai Red's Oyster Bar in downtown Palm Springs. 

Shanghai Red's is located at 235 S. Indian Canyon Drive.  There is also a La Quinta location (78575 Highway 111 Unit 100, La Quinta CA 92253).  Dinner is served at 5:00 pm.  We were there at 8:30, so we made it onto the late night happy hour menu valid from 8 pm to close and all day Sunday (no drink specials, but great discounts on food).

When you get to Shanghai Red's, most of the parking spaces say parking reserved for the Fisherman's Market and Grill.  I was a little nervous, as that was not the restaurant we were going to.  However, the two seem to be intimately combined, so I think you can confidently park in those spots, even if you are going to Red's rather than the Market and Grill. 

The oyster bar is a tiny little restaurant, so don't expect a big spacious dining room.  However, they have plenty of outdoor seating, so if you go on a warm night, you can guarantee yourself a bit more elbow room.  We went on a Tuesday and the place was packed. Apparently Friday and Saturday they have live music. That sounds fun, but I would caution against going on a weekend if you want to sit and enjoy your dinner. I imagine that place gets pretty crowded
We had one appetizer, two glases of wine, two vodka tonics, a soup and two entrees for $86. 

Here is what we ate:

Seafood platter - $15.95
Coconut Shrimp, Oysters Rockefeller, Clams Casino, and Stuffed Mushrooms

Bowl of Clam Chowder - $7.50

Crab Enchiladas - $14.95
Hand rolled corn tortillas stuffed with Blue Crab and cheese, with salsa verde and sour cream sauce.

Seafood Fettucine - $15.95 (non-happy hour price is $17.95)
Sauteed shrimmp, crab, scallops, and mushrooms served over fettucine alfredo.

Ruben and Ozzy's Garlic Cheese Bread - +$3.95 added to any entree

We found out about this place because of the fantastic yelp reviews - 4.5 stars and 145 reviews.

Here are some of the reviews:

"This place is a lot of fun - a little bit of grit and attitude in a very tidy town"  I agree - this is the kind of place where you could quickly feel like a regular.

"The service is always great and the food is always consistent."  Our service was about a 3 out of 5.  Not terrible; not exceptional.  The waitress took 20 minutes to take our order, but it was understandable, considering the place was pretty busy

"Gumbo - excellent." Must have been good because they were all out of it.

What we thought of the food
We all loved the garlic cheesy bread - six [small] slices, very garlic-y, and loaded with cheese. 

 As for the appetizer platter, the coconut shrimp was a crowd favorite. This was great to split between 3 people, as each item was served with three. It came with a delicious orange marmalade to dip the shrimp in.   My mom didn't like the Oysters Rockefeller (baked with spinach and cheese) but she doesn't like oysters, so that isn't saying much.  I thought it was okay, but I greatly prefer mussels and clams.  Clams Casino was clams with cheese and bacon, which my mom and Grandma liked.  I thought it was okay - I prefer a lighter clam.  The stuffed mushrooms were good, but those are hard to mess up.

The clam chowder was a big flop.  It was served cold, which is completely wrong, as everyone knows clam chowder should be piping hot.  My Grandma asked for it to be warmed up, but it still came back not-very-hot.  I have had better clam chowder out of a can.  It just wasn't very exceptional, and certainly not how I would expect it at an Oyster Bar.

We loved both our entrees.  I absolutely loved the seafood fettucine.  It wasn't just seafood thrown over pasta.  There was an actual sauce, and tons of seafood mixed in.  One negative note was that we were scammed out of our garlic bread and too polite to inquire about it.  However, was my favorite dish of the night.

We also got Crab Enchiladas, which were my mom's favorite.  I thought they were okay.  I have no reason for not loving them; I just didn't.  They were a bit on the spicy side, and covered with a verde salsa.  The pico de gallo was a nice touch, as was the side of lemon.  I loved the rice pilaf, but again, nothing special.

Service was okay.  Very slow to take our order (though I am not sure whose fault that is), forgot the garlic bread, and the soup was cold.  I did get drink refills and she was sweet, but nothing outstanding.

Overall: Go here!  It is the kind of place that will make you feel like you discovered something and you are experiencing something the tourists are not.  Don't get the usual (clam chowder) but go for the unique dishes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pork Tenderloins and Sweet Potatoes

To my delight, Mom and Grandma decided to entrust me with cooking dinner and we all agreed pork tenderloin sounded good.  Between the three of us, we had very different methods.  I marinate, Grandma pan fries with a dijon mustard topping, and Mom pounds it thin, covers it in panko, and fries.

I won (even though from the sounds of it everyone got the short end of the stick - their methods sound delicious) and they let me marinate the pork.

Before we jump into how I cooked the tenderloin, you should be aware I am pretty sure what I always thought was tenderloin was actually just loin.  There is a difference!

Grandma cut the tenderloin into little medallions for me.  Tip - freeze the meat for a while and it will be much easier to cut.  I prepared the marinade around 11:00 am, which meant we let the meat sit for about 6 hours.

Pork Tenderloin Marinade:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice (about 1.5 lemons)
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons ginger (I use the stuff in a jar that is already in a paste)
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon thyme (separate leaves from 6 fresh sprigs)

Mix together the marinade ingredients and marinate the meat for at least 1 hour and up to one day.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400*.

Place paper towels on the bottom of a plate, place the medallions on top, then place another paper towel on top.  Pat so the medallions are not as wet, just damp.  Season with salt and pepper.

Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan and heat over medium high until sizzling.  Sear your pork medallions - about one minute on each side.  If you have more than a pan full of medallions, only sear in one layer at a time.

When all the medallions are done, place on a cookie sheet and into the oven.  Cook approximately 15 minutes and then devour!


As a side dish, we had sweet potatoes.  We got four from the grocery store and they were HUGE.  With the three of us, we only managed to eat one and a half.  To prepare, we poked holes all over them, then just set them straight on the rack in the oven, heated to 400*.  I let them cook for a little over an hour, until they were soft to the touch.

Sweet potatoes are pretty hard to mess up and they make a delicious side dish with pork. Leftover sweet potatoes are even better.

Monday, March 5, 2012

California: The Grove

Saturday was our first full day in California and we spent it being tourists of sorts.  We were not the usual tourists because we were with my Uncle and his girlfriend - they had the knowledge of little hole-in-the-wall places to take us, so we weren't stuck with the standard route.

First we went down to The Grove, which is basically a big outdoor shopping mall.  I fulfilled a childhood dream and went into the American Girl Doll store.  I wanted to go there more than anything when I was little, but the only store was in Chicago.  My mom almost planned a trip to Chicago when I was younger, just so I could check it out!

A picture of The Grove, from their website,

The American Girl Doll store was HUGE and packed with little girls.  I was delighted to see girls still love the American Girl Dolls.  I still think they are the best dolls ever.  My doll, Samantha, from the Victorian period, has been retired.  I have mixed feelings about that.  I suppose being retired makes her more special, but I think she is still the best doll ever (classy, beautiful, the cutest outfits!) so it is disapointing more girls won't be able to have her.

Also, it seems less special the more dolls American Girl Doll produces.  When there were only six, I was intimately familiar with the story of each.  I even remembered all the details of their lives walking through the store.  Now, with so many dolls, I can't imagine girls know the stories of each, but instead must pick and choose a few.  We were forced to love what we had, as we did not have the luxury of ignoring a few dolls and substantially diminishing the number of dolls we had to dream about.
After the American Girl Doll store, we went to Anthropologie.  I had little interest, as my heart was set on H&M and Kohls.  I am a very strict shopper - I can only get those things I planned for and Anthropologie certainly wasn't on the list.  It was entertaining to look at the sky high prices for awhile, but not as funny now that I am willing to pay that much for a few items I fall in love with.

Bright blazers > Anthropologie expensive-yet-cute hippy clothes

We also wandered into Nordstroms, where I did a quick loop around the woman's clothing section, curious what brands are actually available in fancy stores.  I recognized all the ones I see in magazines, and it was especially cool to see the Rachel Zoe section.  I watched the episode where Jeremiah created the concept store, and I never really thought about the work that goes into setting up stores.  However, the Rachel Zoe section was comingled with a bunch of other designers, so I really don't think the concept idea is how it is executed in reality.  Nice try, reality television.  You gotta love Jeremiah though.

If I was to buy anything at Nordstrom, I would go straight for these shoes below.  I haven't bought Sam Edelman before, but I think the shoes are adorable and my Uncle's girlfriend, Grace, loves Sam Edelman.  However, I had my mind set on colored blazers, and shoes weren't on this list, so on we forged.

Now it is time to eat cheese and drink plum wine, so I will detail the rest of our adventures later.