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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32 comments

  1. This is one of my healthy dinner alternatives, especially for people who are stuck in the fast food rut. Quick, easy, and really healthy!

  2. White beans are the greatest! This meal sounds so delicious. I also like to take almost those exact same ingredients (white beans, raw garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, plus maybe some chopped kalamata olives or sun dried tomatoes), throw them in the food processor, and make delicious white bean spread – it’s heavenly on a crusty baguette. And they’re perfect with pasta, too…love them.

  3. May I be so bold as to give you the name of my standby restaurant near the Penn Station wasteland restaurant?

    Havana New York

    27 W 38th St

    (between 5th Ave & Avenue Of The Americas)

    New York, NY 10018

    (212) 944-0990

    It is not as far west as where you were but it is a perfect go to with tasty mojitos and great inexpensive food. I love this place pre/post MSG game.

  4. I’ve recently discovered the use of white beans for cooking. I think you find them alot in many Italian recipes. I finally tried some for myself in a cold salad of white beans-canned and drained-roasted red pepper, scallions, fresh basil and then olive oil and lemon juice as a dressing. It is so refreshing and lovely to look at. Everyone always raves about it and it is one of the simpliest things I make.

  5. I know you’re in New York but 3 bucks? I get canned beans for 45 cents a piece and onions for 75 cents a pound. I guess I can sit here with my zero culture and enjoy the cheap canned goods that the South has to offer.

  6. i love to make something similar as a side dish that is absolutely amazing, but i serve it cold. I take one can each of northern, kidney, and pink beens and drain and mix them together. To this i add some raw chopped onions, minced garlic, Salt, Pepper, and toss with olive oil and balsamic. So simple and so delicious.

  7. Total yum. Here in the south we also have field peas which are lovely. This would also be a great New Year’s dish, when black eyed peas are traditionally eaten.

  8. Re the question: “What’s a bodega?”

    It’s a Spanish term and typically used to refer to small neighborhood markets – or what in my small city Irish-American upbringing called a “corner store”. That’s different from a neighborhood market – which larger and is typified, in the NYC area, by places like C-Town or perhaps even Gristedes.

  9. Mmm, my favorite standby dinner is similar, but in stew form. I think of it as a fake cassoulet. I brown some sausage in a pot, take it out, add a little olive oil, cook onions or garlic, add in a can of organic cannellini beans, a can of Muir Glen chopped tomatoes, and cook it until the tomatoes taste cooked. Then I stir the sausage back in and serve it drizzled with olive oil, with big croutons. It takes about 20 minutes and is so warm and satisfying.

  10. That sounds great! I remember doing something similar with chickpeas and black beans.

    Although with the chickpeas, one could also do the typical Indian seasoning with mustard seeds and may be some curry leaves .

  11. Awesome post. I love those beans. They look to me like what we call Dried Butterbeans (large and white) down South.

    Neener, where are you from? I am from South La. and never hear people talk of field peas now that I live out in California.

  12. Great Post.

    BTW, I find that rinsing the beans thoroughly is the crucial step.

    My favorite recipe these days:

    EVOO, Smoked Paprika, Juice of 1 lemon, red onion diced finely, and chopped olives (moroccan preferably)

    This is great with grilled chicken for a very healthy meal.

  13. I’m so glad you gave this recipe a try. So many people are afraid to cook with beans, but they’re so incredibly good for you! Your recipe is similar to one I cooked for a client this week (no bacon, but added parsley, basil, shallot and chopped tomato).

    I started from dried beans and popped them in the pressure cooker with a few sage leaves. They were cooked in 40 minutes (no soaking, either), as opposed to the 2 hours or so they would take to cook in a regular pot. I swear by my pressure cooker for cooking beans.

  14. First recipe i’ve ever made from you. It was great. I loved it and can’t wait to try more of your recipies!

  15. I usually make this with a can of canellini beans, garlic, a handfu of fresh spinach and cut up cherry tomatoes. So easy, so cheap, so good!

  16. Yum – I’m off to the store . . . planning to serve over polenta for extra yummy cold night dinner. Thanks!

  17. This is the first recipe I’ve tried from your book or site and it turned out great! Cheap, nutritious, hot, but most importantly……delicious.

  18. i always buy cans of beans but i’m never sure what to do with them. i’m going to give this recipe a try. i hope it’s as delicious without the bacon, because though i love bacon, i can’t take the lingering smell in my apartment!

  19. i always buy cans of beans but i’m never sure what to do with them. i’m going to give this recipe a try. i hope it’s as delicious without the bacon, because though i love bacon, i can’t take the lingering smell in my apartment!

  20. We had a variation on this the other night and my husband and sister in law pronounced them the “best beans they ever had”! I added lemon zest at the end which was a nice addition.

  21. Thank you for this idea!! I made them yesterday, using the bacon, and I replaced the carrots and celery with canned diced tomatoes. They were great last night and REALLY fabulous for lunch today.

  22. I’m pretty sure this is the first recipe of yours I’ve made and it’s SO good. I don’t usually venture into white bean territory but your description won me over. I also tried commenter katef’s recipe which was fantastic as well. Thanks for the inspiration, Adam!

  23. This looks like a FANTASTIC recipe, whether you are a vegetarian or not… and beans are SO healthy for you… I can’t wait to try it!

  24. I’m eating a version of this right now (pinto beans, onion, chopped baby carrots, a little green pepper – cause that’s what I had) and it’s delicious! It takes lots of salt & olive oil, but it’s so great. Thank you!

  25. Rachel,

    You must remember Nong from Bangok Center Grocery. She died on Monday. Please call me.

    Jon Marks

    212-545-8008