Kitchen Witch - A toast to moms, past, present and future

Curried chicken salad with mango and grapes

I got a late-night call a few weeks ago. It was my mother, clearly shaken. She had just hung up with her dear friend, Mary Ann, who was remembering the day her daughter was killed 13 years ago.

Mom and Mary Ann met as young brides in the early ’60s, bonding over miniskirts, cigarettes and pregnancies. Tina was born about six months before I showed up in 1966. We played together as kids, then grew up and grew apart. But because of our mothers, we remained indelibly connected.

I remember that April night in 1993, coming home to the front page of the local paper on the table, where I read headlines that had me in Mary Ann’s kitchen within an hour. We mourned, drank Johnny Walker Red and took care of each other through an unfathomable tragedy.

So, with Mother’s Day on the horizon and Tina-Mary Ann imagery on the brain, I decided not to get sad about what should have been. Instead, I thought, why not combine forces — bringing all the women of these two families together and celebrating the amazing bond between mothers and daughters — past, present and future.

No reservations are necessary for this group, as we’ll brunch together at Mom’s place, with the curried chicken salad below taking center stage. Mary Ann will bring mimosa fixins, and I’m ready to make a toast.

Curried chicken salad with mango and grapes

Adapted from Spices of Life by Nina Simonds


1 2-inch hunk of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into three pieces about the size of a quarter

3 tablespoons rice wine or sake

Approximately 1 1/4 pounds chicken breasts, skinned and trimmed of fat

1 fennel bulb, cleaned and trimmed, thinly sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, julienned

1/2 pound red or green seedless grapes, removed from stem, rinsed, drained and sliced in half

1 ripe mango, diced

1/4 cup minced scallions, including greens

Rinsed and drained lettuce leaves (something scoopable like Romaine or Boston; endive is also nice)


2 1/2 teaspoons brown or black mustard seeds or kalongi seeds (optional)

2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1 2-inch hunk fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/2- inch pieces

3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 cup plain yogurt, drained in a sieve to release water

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

• Bring 1 quart water, ginger slices and rice wine to a boil in a medium pot. Add chicken breasts, partially cover and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until chicken is cooked, about 15 minutes (longer for bone-in breasts). Remove chicken from pot and let cool. With hands, pull into bite-sized strips.

• Toss chicken, fennel, red pepper, grapes, mango and scallions in a mixing bowl.

• To prepare dressing: Heat a small heavy-bottomed skillet until hot. Toss seeds (if using) and curry powder into pan and stir with a wooden spoon over medium-low heat until curry powder is fragrant and seeds begin to pop. Scrape out onto a plate to cool.

• Place ginger and garlic in bowl of food processor or blender and pulse until finely chopped. Add curry powder mixture, yogurt, salt and pepper and whiz until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Pour dressing into a small bowl and add to salad as needed, until everything is well-coated.

• Scoop salad on top of lettuce leaves that have been arranged in a bowl or on a platter.

• Makes about 3 main-dish servings.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at