I’ve heard that the average person opens the refrigerator door 15-20 times per day. But why? Do they need distraction? Anything is better than mowing the lawn or doing laundry. What harm could a pleasurable bite of yesterday’s risotto do? Or maybe our late-night existential crises make us hungry for a couple of grapes, a nice blast of sweetness to counteract the bitter world. Whatever your motivation for opening that door, it’s important to have a few go-to ways to use the leftovers that populate a typical fridge. In mine, I can almost always find some chicken, rice, and maybe an apple and a little bit of random veg. Maybe that’s because of my habit of always cooking extra chicken to be sure I have a good source of lean protein, or the fact that so many of the lunches I like to eat involve rice. Or maybe I just always want curry.
Maui doesn’t have much to do with curry. But there, in an apartment condo complex in Kihei, I learned from my mother-in-law how to make this tasty mastery of leftover ingredients. It was hot on the dry side of the island. Like, it’s the equatorial region and every shirt sticks to you in five seconds hot. Behind the condos, the ground grew steeper, leading up into the clouds, the so-called mists of Haleakalā. The volcano stands so tall that thin air and dehydration become a consideration, and the temperature normally sits between 40 and 60 on the floor of the caldera. I thought about that caldera, sitting under the ceiling fan in that condo wondering what to eat. I thought about the north side of the island, where it rains every day, and could rain at any given moment, while a desert exists a few minutes to the south by car. I thought, before arrival, that Maui would be one of those cliched beach destinations, the same as every other, where a lot of people from middle america get sunburned and go home with sand in their luggage. I was more than wrong. In restaurants on Maui, I found the best fresh fish I’ve ever eaten and abundant, delicious fruits I’d never heard of. What better way to supplement these succulent dinners in the Hawaiian heat than with a chilled lunch salad featuring citrus and apple? Along these lines, some leftovers–lime or lemon juice, a little extra rice, some cold chicken–can come together to create something mouthwatering.
Curry Chicken Salad
½ cup sweet bell peppers, diced
1 cup cooked chicken, diced
1 cup leftover brown rice
1 cup apple, diced
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil vegenaise
- Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
- Serve chilled.