Rachel Wharton’s Bodega Beans

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Monday night I went to a friend’s play reading that let out at 9:30. I was starved. I considered grabbing a bite (I was in the No Man’s Land of 35th and 8th Ave.) but then I decided I’d head home and grab a can of chickpeas from the bodega and make bodega hummus. (See here).

As fate would have it, though, on the subway I ran into the unmistakable, inimitable Rachel Wharton of The Daily News who I journeyed to Queens with this summer. Rachel has a degree in food from NYU, so I put her to the test: “Rachel,” I said, “I want to make a quick easy dinner with something I can get from my corner bodega.”

“Beans,” she answered.

“Beans?”

“Yes,” she continued. “Beans. I ate beans all through college. With some onion, garlic, or whatever you have, they’re delicious.”

I pressed her further. “But how do I cook beans? I’ve never really cooked beans before.”

“Buy a can of big white beans,” she said. “Then when you get home cut up an onion and some garlic, saute that in olive oil, then add the beans, heat it through, drizzle with really good olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper or some cheese and serve it with rice or toast and you’re done.”

This DID sound pretty nice, especially since it was chilly out and a bowl of hot beans sounded better than a bowl of cold hummus.

“Also,” she said, “if you have bacon, you can cook the bacon first and then take it out, use the fat to cook everything else.”

As it happened, I did have bacon at home. I also had carrots and celery too (which Rachel said would work nicely) and so when she and I parted ways (she lives just down the street–who knew!?) I popped into the bodega and bought a can of what I think was butter beans. Big white beans. I bought an onion too and that was all I needed: the total? $3. The homeless person hocking up a loogie outside? Priceless.

At home, I did exactly as instructed: I cut up two pieces of bacon, cooked them on low heat until they were crisp and gave up their fat, then I drained the bacon bits on paper towels. In that fat, I added chopped onion, carrots, celery and 1 clove of garlic slivered. I sauteed that on high heat, adding a little more olive oil when the pan looked dry, and waited til everything had some color. When it did, I drained the can of beans and added the beans to the skillet. I tossed everything through, added salt, pepper, and some red chile flakes for heat, added the bacon, tossed again–like a real chef, with that magical tossing technique you see them do on TV–and then into a bowl it went.

Once in the bowl, I drizzled with a drop of olive oil and I grated some Parmesan on top.

One bite and I wanted to run down the street to give Rachel a hug. It was AMAZINGLY good. Not just a little good, incredibly good. Craig, who’d already had dinner, had a bite and even though his dinner consisted of a GIANT cheeseburger, he wanted to finish the bowl.

“Hey,” I pleaded, “that’s my dinner.”

He gave it back and I finished quite happily. Now I have a new easy, cheap dinner in my repertoire. Thanks, Rachel! We should ride the subway together more often.

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