It’s difficult to believe it’s been seven months since the pandemic turned our lives upside down. The longer it goes on the more I value the routines and rituals that give my life structure and keep me grounded. Every October, DP and I spend a week in Cape Cod, where Columbus Day is the official end of summer and the area goes into a kind of hibernation. It’s our favorite time to be there.
We arrive at the house late Saturday night, and because we haven’t yet received the results of our COVID tests, we have to quarantine for a few days before hitting the grocery. That means we don’t have a lot to work with for our first meal or two. DP’s parents are returning home to Boston, and leave us some French onion chicken with mushrooms and rice they made the night before, a bit of tomato salsa, green salad and mozzarella cheese. Never wanting to waste anything, I also have random leftovers I brought from New York: red lentil dahl, flour tortillas, and diced zucchini and peppers. In the pantry I find a couple onions and an unopened jar of pickled jalapenos.
Breathing new life into leftovers can be challenging. I think the trick is looking at your leftovers as new ingredients instead of who they were in their first life. So, let’s break down what we have here. Chicken, mushrooms, broth, basmati rice, lentil dahl, zucchini, peppers, salsa, greens, mozzarella, jalapenos, tortillas. Some say roti, others scream burrito. But I think with a little manipulation of flavors, these ingredients could be delicious wrapped together in a tortilla.
First I saute zucchini and peppers with onions in a little olive oil. I don’t have any fresh garlic, so I add a small pinch of garlic powder. Once the vegetables were soft, I add a spoonful of the tomato salsa and cook it into the vegetables. After transferring the vegetables to a container, I simply use the same pan to reheat the chicken with the mushrooms and some of its broth, and season it with a chili powder, paprika, and cumin. Turmeric would be nice, but I don’t have it. Dahl and rice, I simply reheat in the microwave.
Now all the ingredients are hot, all that’s left is to assemble the wraps and toast them in a pan. At the Cape house the range and oven are electric, so a heavy cast iron pan works best. When I assemble the wraps, I try to position the cheese on the outer side of the filling so it melts quickly. Any greens or salad I try to position in the center so they don’t wilt. Our meal is ready in just about 30 minutes.
The burrito-roti mashup pays off. The creamy aromatic dahl complements the earthy smoke of the chicken, and floral perfume of the basmati. The vegetables add moisture and texture, the pickled jalapenos lend the perfect punch of tartness and heat and the mild cheese and greens cool the palate. Best of all, we get our test results shortly after, and the extra wraps make perfect road food the next day’s excursions.