(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Whether it's a pretzel or hot dog vendor in New York City, a taco truck in Los Angeles or cart in the Mexican state of Baja California, or their counterparts dotting the thoroughfares of Thailand or Vietnam, street food provides its own unique roadmap of the culinary, cultural and historical sides of a country, a region, a city, or even just a specific block.
This is not a modern trend, but one that's been going on for centuries that's only gathered more steam and popularity in recent decades. When food trucks circle in the hundreds together for a festival in spots like the Rose Bowl stadium in California, are followed feverishly on Twitter or inspire their own Food Network television series, like "The Great Food Truck Race," or road trip films, like last year's "Chef," it's a reflection of the long tradition of street food elevating itself well above the pavement.
Carts or trucks aren't even necessary. Some have brought the streets to tables or even inside. The famous open-air Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles has been thriving across the street from CBS since 1934 and features dozens of stalls of international and regional street specialties, like the acclaimed longtime Gumbo Pot with its authentic New Orleans noshes.
TV Food Network "Too Hot Tamales" star, Chef Susan Feniger, who for decades has scoured the dusty byways of Mexico for her Santa Monica Border Grill restaurant, until recently had a Los Angeles cafe called Street that featured the street food of hundreds of countries. It inspired her cookbook, Susan Feniger's Street Food.
CNN food and travel star, and bestselling food book author Anthony Bourdain has announced that he and a partner are planning to open an international street food hall in New York City this year. It may have about 50 single stalls and additional areas featuring international and regional spotlights. Bourdain has kept most of the details under wraps, but recently told the Wall Street Journal, "It will be fast and accessible foods, with hundreds of options. You can have roast goose; I can have beef rendang."
Getting street food rolling in your own kitchen is uniquely rewarding and also a good introduction to the ethnic aisles of your supermarket or local ethnic markets. Cookbooks, like Feniger's or longtime staple New York Cookbook by Molly O'Neill, are delicious and easy-to-follow starting points.
Below, are a few street-inspired easy treats that recently set my kitchen afire, including the wrap filled with hummus and quinoa (an ancient protein-filled grain-like seed that's experiencing modern popularity) from international vegetarian author Nava Atlas' Plant Power that's simple to prepare and full of Middle Eastern flavors and nutrition.
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
HUMMUS WRAPS WITH GRAINS AND GREENS
- 2 (10-inch) wraps, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup store-bought or homemade hummus, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons hemp seeds or 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, brown rice or black rice 1 to 2 large handfuls mixed baby greens, shredded lettuce, baby arugula or baby spinach
- 1 medium ripe tomato, thinly sliced
- 1/2 medium firm ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
- Strips of sun-dried tomato, to taste (optional)
Yields 2 wraps.
Place one wrap on a plate. Spread with half of the hummus and sprinkle with half of the hemp seeds.
Arrange half the quinoa down the center of the wrap. Put a large handful of leafy greens next to it on one side and half the tomato slices on the other. Sprinkle half the avocado slices over everything, followed by a few strips of sun-dried tomatoes.
Tuck two ends over the fillings; then, starting from one end, roll tightly, making sure that the ends are kept tucked in and that everything remains snugly inside. Repeat with the second wrap. Cut each wrap in half before serving.
-"Plant Power" by Nava Atlas.
MEXICAN GRILLED CORN ON THE COB
- 4 ears fresh corn, husks and silks removed
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 tablespoon (preferably Mexican-style) chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
- 1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese (or ricotta salata)
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Lime wedges, for serving
Yields 4 servings.
Grill the corn, turning frequently with tongs, until charred in spots, 6 to 8 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, chili powder and lime zest. Put the cheese on a small plate. Spread each ear of corn with 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise mixture and then roll in the cheese to coat. Sprinkle with salt and serve with lime wedges for squeezing over the corn.
-FineCooking.com ("Street Food from Around the World")QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
When preparing homemade iced tea, carefully add boiling water to pitcher or glass first and then the tea or else it can become foamy. Let the tea cool to room temperature before adding ice or placing pitcher or glass in the refrigerator, or the liquid can become cloudy. Lisa Messinger
is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes
(Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet
(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.