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Today marks the end of a week in which chef and TV host Mario Batali and his family protested prospective cuts to the federal food-stamp program by subsisting on a total allowance of $31—the equivalent of a food-stamp budget. For a family of four, that amounted to $1.48 per meal. According to Batali, the man behind such New York restaurants as Babbo and Otto—and the lavish, gourmet market Eataly—he managed to endure the week successfully without additional indulgences, including lattes and alcohol.
In the spirit of thrift and quality, Bloomberg Businessweek asked Batali to provide an affordable bag lunch for the tasteful, prudent, and all-too-busy corporate grunts among us. He happily shared his take on rice and beans. “All in, this costs about $1.45, which makes about two servings,” says Batali. “It fits my budget—but just barely.” If you’re eating on the equivalent of a food-stamp allowance yourself, however, be mindful that one crucial ingredient blows the budget wide open: hot sauce. So, like Batali, you’d have to show some hustle and ingenuity. “It costs a buck,” he says. “But almost everywhere I go I can find a bottle of Tabasco.”
Mario Batali’s Rice and Beans Bag Lunch
“Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, the spices, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes. Add the water, bring to a boil, cover, and lower the heat. Cook for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand 5 minutes and then uncover and allow to cool. Dump into a bowl and add the black beans and stir gently. Refrigerate overnight. Serve it with some hot sauce (but don’t buy it).”
Yields roughly 3 1/2 cups or 2 good servings