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

March 27, 2017

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.

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.


FrugalCat November 29, 2017
I work in the food industry. In the kitchen, the prep cooks trim celery stalks into sticks to serve with wings. They THROW OUT the leaves and trimmings. I have told the guys to save them for me. I chop them up and use them in cooking. It's been years since I bought celery. I made the salad with the leaves and stems and it was wonderful. White balsamic vinegar was what I used in the dressing.
Linda A. March 30, 2017
Chef Batali, thank you so much for helping with this initiative! You are very special!
BerryBaby March 30, 2017
Our mom made Kidney bean salad all the time and this was back in the 50's. A can of kidney beans, celery, sometimes green peppers if the were available fro our garden, apple cider vinegar, vegetable oil, salt and pepper. To this day it is one of my favorites.
sammy March 28, 2017
this is so important. i love this.
Trixie March 28, 2017
Balsamic vinegar? At any bodega? I'll check, but I highly doubt that any bodega in my neighborhood sells balsamic vinegar.
cookinalong March 30, 2017
No worries! Red wine vinegar is just as good. I agree that balsamic is probably not found in most bodegas, but it probably depends on the location. However, availability aside, this is supposed to be a thrifty, affordable meal and balsamic is waaaay more expensive than red wine vinegar.
MouthFromTheSouth March 30, 2017
At Aldi grocery stores, it's the same price as red wine vinegar which is very cheap. Is it good balsamic vinegar? No, but it works. :)