Eating Well From The Corner Store: Bodega Party in a Box

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

There is always chatter about improving neighborhoods by opening up more farmers markets and making them affordable for all. Nothing wrong with that. But what about turning around the thinking behind bringing fresh, nutritious, affordable food to all by considering the bodegas that dot so many corners of the neighborhoods that need this kind of food most?

That’s what The Neighbor’s Project is doing. Their thinking is why not get the stores where people already shop to carry better food?

To support this effort, they created the Bodega Party in a Box, a fun little kit with everything you need to throw a dinner party using only ingredients from your local corner store.

Wait, that’s scary. For me, that means tired bananas, kitty litter and Chef Boyardee, so the thought never crosses my mind. I have three gourmet food shops within blocks, one of New York’s best farmers’ markets a ten minute walk away, two Whole Foods within fifteen minutes, and on and on. Many people don’t have such choices. They have the tired bananas and kitty litter.

Bodega Party in a Box is part of the Neighbor’s Project’s Food & Liquor initiative aimed at encouraging people to buy fresh produce from local corner stores, bodegas and liquor stores that stock it, and encourage more neighborhood stores to sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Here is their guide to getting more produce in your local corner store.

It costs $35 and includes The Bodega Cook Book: Eating Well From Your Neighborhood Corner Store, a silk-screened reusable shopping bag, eight party invitations and envelopes, and corner store-style flags. Yes, it’s quirky, but it supports a great cause.

This recipe for Plantain & Mole Wraps is in The Bodega Cook Book. It comes from blogger Chris Brunn in Chicago, where The Neighbor’s Project focuses some of its work. Christopher says “Soft sautéed plantains and thick mole combine with caramelized onions, red cabbage, carrots, cucumber and bell peppers in a tortilla slathered with hummus. Drink with horchata or coffee.”

Plantain & Mole Wraps
serves 8

2 onions, thinly sliced
2 large ripe plantains (ripe plantains have black skin), peeled and sliced
Oil for sautéing (peanut oil lends a nice deep flavor)
14 ounces hummus
1 cup mole sauce, mixed well
8 large tortillas (or your favorite bread)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 head red cabbage, shredded
1 cucumber, thinly sliced

Start to caramelize the onions early. In a large, thick-bottomed pot or pan on low, heat just enough oil to make the pan shiny. Stir in sliced onions, cover and cook until light golden brown, stirring occasionally. If the onions stick, get crisp or appear dry, lower heat or add more oil.

Sauté sliced ripe plantains in a second pan on medium heat, coated with enough oil that you see oil roll back and forth just a bit when you tilt the pan. The oil is hot enough when a small test bit of plantain sizzles. (If it turns black or the oil smokes, turn down the heat.) Add the plantains, and cook until they’re slightly crispy on each side, and tender and sweet in the center, stirring occasionally. Fish the plantains out, and drain them on paper towels.

To assemble, first slice and shred the remaining vegetables. Slather hummus all over one side of each tortilla. Place pieces of sautéed plantain across the tortilla, in a one or two-inch wide row, an inch from the edge of the tortilla. Smash the plantain into the tortilla with a fork as you go. Cover the plantain with the caramelized onions and the other vegetables, all in that row so it will roll up with everything in the center. Drizzle the filling with two tablespoons mole. Roll tightly, starting with the end closest to the row of vegetables.