What to CookThe52

Mario Batali on the $2 Salad You Can Make from Any Bodega

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A few years ago, I met a cooking challenge that turned out to be…challenging: Create nutritious and wholesome meals on a very limited, SNAP-friendly budget (under $2 a meal)! Make sure the ingredients are easily accessible and simple, but tasty. So, yeah, no Parmigiano Reggiano or a sprinkle of maldon sea salt.

These meals would form the base of the Food Bank of NYC’s Community CookShop program. This program aimed to help children, teens and adults develop nutrition knowledge and cooking skills to make healthy food choices on a limited budget. What started in 2012 as a pilot program, I’m proud to say, is still going strong.

Join Us in Celebrating Bodegas (& The People Who Run Them)
Join Us in Celebrating Bodegas (& The People Who Run Them)

For many of the families who benefit from the Cookshop program, their local bodega is the only place they’ll do their food shopping.

As hunger relief activists, we think about bodegas a lot—their locations in certain “food deserts,” the dry goods and produce they stock, the people they serve—but less so about the people running them.

But in these strange and uncertain days, people matter most.

Photo by Liz Clayman

It’s evident our support of bodega and any immigrant-run business is vital. Where we shop and whom we patronize is just as important as the products that fill our baskets.

Here’s one of the Community CookShop’s (slightly modified) recipes. It’s not groundbreaking or experimental. But it’s healthy and available in most bodegas. The original recipe uses fresh green beans but celery works just as well for that added crunch.

Mario Batali's Snappy Celery and Bean Salad

Mario Batali's Snappy Celery and Bean Salad

Mario Batali Mario Batali
Makes 4


  • celery, 1 head or about 10 ribs (you can substitute canned hominy or canned white beans)
  • kidney beans 1 15-ounce can, rinsed
  • chickpeas 1 15-ounce can, rinsed


  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
Go to Recipe
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!