Once upon a time, there was an Italian man who loved to cook for me. This was long before I caught the cooking bug, so the idea that someone who wasn’t a family member cooking for me was new and I loved it. One dish we often ate was a peasant stew that didn’t really have a name, we just called it Nana’s Chi-Chi Beans. His grandmother came from Italy and he would sometimes return from a visit with a large Tupperware container. I’d turn on the stove and just melt when I opened up the container and sniffed the melding of the onions and garlic. The creaminess of the beans with the just-right crunch of the carrot, I’d be in heaven at the table.
Alas, the man is long gone and the name has changed, but the dish is still part of my repertoire. When I am feeling poor in the pocket, I reach for this dish. It costs probably $3 at the most to make, and could serve up to four at dinner. For some variety, you could serve this over rice or pasta, and sometimes I sprinkle some cheese on top, feta and parmesan are terrific. For another twist, you could substitute sweet potato for the carrots or add a splash of white wine. Add a little bit of crushed red pepper if you want some spice. Or, just eating it as its written is also good, as I can attest from my lunch the other day! I find it’s a perfect autumn meal.
If you’re interested, there’s a slow food movement online, $5 Challenge, where you pledge to share a fresh, healthy meal that costs less than $5. This one definitely fits the bill!
Chris’s Chi-Chi Beans
• 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves of garlic (or more if you prefer), minced
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
• 1 can chi-chi (garbanzo, chickpeas), rinsed
• 1 can stewed tomatoes
Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and onion and cook until translucent. Add the carrots and cook for a couple of minutes until soft. Add the can of beans and stewed tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook throughly. I’ve never timed making this, once I turn down the heat, I just let it cook until dinner is ready. If you find the liquid is evaporating, you can add a little bit of water or wine.