The SNAP Challenge is underway, and it’s an incredibly important campaign to help raise awareness around the challenges endured by millions of low-income Americans trying to feed their families on food stamps. A Place at the Table is a riveting documentary that I think best captures our “privileged” nation’s dire food poverty. When Natascha Thompson, President of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, asked if I could share a recipe that would fall within the allotted $4.50 a day – the equivalent of one family’s daily food stamps – I jumped at the opportunity. (Plus, you all know I get giddy at any chance to film a food clip with Kellie Meyer at WENY TV).
When I was born, my mamma and papa were recent immigrants to the U.S. from Italy and England. They came from middle-class families in search of a better life. It wasn’t easy at first. My father was studying to become a doctor, and while unpaid in residency, my mom became pregnant with twins! She kept her job as a secretary while finding budget-friendly ways to feed us well. She kept a bountiful garden and put up the harvest, hang-drying herbs and freezing pureed tomatoes. She powered the pantry with bargain basics like canned beans, canned tuna and bags of onions on sale. This system became the foundation for our kitchen, and I’ve taken these principles with me to many kitchens in the U.S. and abroad. Plus, any Italian will tell you that if you have garlic and olive oil at home, you have the makings of a meal!
This recipe sums up to about $4.00 total, and can feed four hungry mouths a nutrient-dense, absurdly delicious dish! The beans provide protein, the kale provides calcium and good ole’ green vegetable stuff and the garlic is an immune-boosting machine; the rosemary and olive oil weave the components together with effortless success. You can have this dish on the table in under 20 minutes.
Here are a few extra trips for making your wallet and belly happy:
- Buy a rosemary plant in the spring and let it sit on a sunny windowsill. Use fresh rosemary year-round, or snip the stems and tie the rosemary into a bundle. Hang it from a nail or string on the wall, and you’ll have dried rosemary to keep your food seasoned in the winter. You can do this with sage, thyme and oregano as well. You’ll save money in dried herbs, and always have powerful flavors at your fingertips.
- Buy dried beans. This requires a little bit of planning ahead to soak the beans and cook them, but they’re cheaper and tastier once cooked. When buying canned beans, check to make sure the only ingredients are beans and water – no additives or preservatives, please.
- Choose the cheapest green: spinach, bok choi, escarole, and chard all work well in this recipe.
This dish is sweet and tender, easy to assemble in the dead of a storm when just a few items graze the pantry, and an instant portal to the familiar nuances of Italian cuisine so dear to my heart! The baked beans and sauteed greens make a perfect bed for seared sausages, fish, meat, a poached egg or Crispy Italian Baked Tofu for the veggies and vegans!
You can substitute Great Northern White Beans for other beans, including black, kidney, and red. For greens you can use kale, collards, or any other hearty winter green in your farm-fresh box or on the supermarket shelves.
- Great Northern White beans - 1 (15-ounce) can
- Garlic - 5-6 garlic cloves
- Extra virgin olive oil - 2.5 tablespoons
- Rosemary - 1.5 teaspoons crushed, dried
- Sea salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- Black pepper - 1/2 teaspoon, freshly ground
- Extra virgin olive oil - 2 tablespoons
- Garlic - 1 tablespoon, sliced
- White onion - 1 cup sliced
- Greens - 1 bunch greens, leaves stripped from stem and coarsely chopped
- Sea salt - 1/4 teaspoon
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Drain the can of beans and put them in a small-to-medium baking dish so the beans are about a 1-inch layer deep.
- Use your palm to press down on the flat side of a knife to smash the garlic cloves. Add them to the dish with the olive oil, rosemary, sea salt and black pepper. Toss the ingredients together.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, uncover the baked beans and let them continue to bake for about 10 more minutes until the garlic and beans turn a caramelized brown color.
- While the beans are baking, prepare the greens.
- In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for about 1 minute and then add the greens. Toss, coating in the olive oil and cover with a lid to saute for about 7 minutes.
- Remove from heat and serve with the baked beans.