Malloreddus are a simple sort of gnocchi, native to Sardinia, made from a plain dough of flour and water. They're "pressed with the thumb against a textured surface, The Oxford Companion to Food observes, "so that when cooked they curl up into the form of giant woodlice." That's a bit unkind toward a humble dish that's not trying to climb above its station. This hearty version, alla Campidanese ($15), named for a province in the south of the island, incorporates sausage in the traditional tomato sauce.
On a dreary spring day when even Greenmarket produce seemed drab, the colors inside the compost bins first caught my eye. Often the food scraps are beautiful in and of themselves; see the slideshow for more from several seasons.
It's not unusual for my local market to collect, twice a week, some 1,500 pounds of household food scraps. Surely some of the food was locally grown, but, by the looks of things, more was remotely sourced, especially during the colder months. These scraps, which otherwise would end up in a landfill — food accounts for about 17 percent of New York City's waste stream, according to GrowNYC, which operates the Greenmarkets — are instead transformed into compost for use in urban farms and gardens. See how easy it is to contribute to the compost stream.
Wasong is a succulent native to rocky soil in China, Korea, and Japan. Adherents of various Asian folk-medicine traditions maintain that wasong fights inflammation, enhances the immune system, even combats cancer. Whatever the truth of those claims, you can imagine how the chopped leaves might add an interesting, crunchy texture to an omelette or a quesadilla, after the fashion of nopales. And if you get your nose right up close, you can detect the faint scent that has earned wasong another common name, rock pine.
Founded in the late 1990s as Yuno's Farm, Lani's has earned a deserved reputation as a consistent purveyor of fresh and varied produce. Shown at bottom, from a market day several years ago: callaloo.
The most recent business at this address was 103 Grocery & Flower; earlier, according to a onetime resident of the upper Upper West Side, "that place was the Olympia Superette for decades." And earlier than that? The neon lights are long gone, and some of the Art Deco lettering has peeled away, but what remains is strongly suggestive of "Hudes."
Despite their differences, these two dishes represent a single item on the picture menu: "pork noodle" ($5). The meatier version was procured last winter, the better garnished but less porky, several months later. Their common bonds are ribbonlike "belt" noodles, hand-stretched on the spot. Boiled, the irregular, almost ragged noodles are still very chewy and must be eaten soon after serving, before they become clumpy. They're a bellyful.
Corner-cutting in the meat-sauce department is almost certainly a product of close competition; on a given afternoon, as many as four Queens-based carts will set up near Columbia's Broadway gates and beckon the university's large Chinese-born student population. Auntie Wang (王阿姨, wong Ah-yee) is the only vendor whose name isn't rendered in English, but young and willing translators abound. And, as indicated, the menu is presented in English, too, with the standard caveat that pictures are for illustrative purposes only. Your serving may vary.
The Henan-born proprietors of the Auntie Wang cart also apparently run Taste of Northern China, a new, smallish storefront at 88 East Broadway. Chowhound squid kun made the connection based on the commonality of one rare menu item, "hot dry noodle," and, even more tellingly, a shared telephone number.
Auntie Wang Cart near Broadway and 117th St., Manhattan 646-229-8107 Hours irregular; most days, lunchtime through dinnertime
In the week leading up to Easter, just about every Ecuadorian professional chef and home cook prepares her own version of fanesca. Traditionally this hearty soup features salt cod, symbolic of Jesus, and 12 varieties of beans and grains, representing the 12 apostles. This rendition (small, $5) was well-fortified with fish. I didn't make close count of the rest, any more than I tried to tote up all the empty fanesca containers that previous customers had deposited nearby.
During the 51 weeks when fanesca is not on offer, this cart serves a short roster of workaday soups (about $4 each). On previous visits, one featured a few good-sized chunks of catfish (mind the bones) and lots of yucca in an opaque, piquant yellow broth. Another, similarly colored, was burdened by cow foot as well as chickpeas, chunks of potato, and large-kerneled corn.
Also shown: a traditional Ecuadorian wrapper atop a traditional New York wrapper. Resting on that paper bag is an humita (ooh-Mee-tah, $2), an ancient food from South America, prepared from corn dough wrapped in its own husk and boiled, or perhaps steamed. Though this cart's humitas include a little queso blanco, they're more sweet than salty.
Ecuadorian cart West side of Amsterdam Ave. between 106th and 107th Sts., Manhattan At this location, Saturday only
This twice-yearly event is held indoors, in conjunction with a mini flea market; to get to the goods or to exit the room, you've got to walk by the chow, whose sale raises funds for the NYBC (most items, $2 to $5). The menu is small and, as you'd expect, meat-free. Chirashi sushi, vinegared rice topped with vegetables and mushrooms, and a vegetarian curry rice are surprisingly invigorating morning fare, especially when the weather is a little raw.
On a previous occasion I was drawn to a curious version of tsukemono (Tsu-keh-MO-no), "pickled things" customarily eaten over rice and chased with green tea. The Latin American gourd best known as chayote (chy-Oh-tay), pickled in a soy sauce mixture and accompanied by lotus root, nori, and sesame seeds, has a crunchiness that stands up to the tsukemono treatment, a member of the Buddhist Women's Association explained. (For that matter, the flavorings for curry rice hail from India, she also noted.) Though tsukemono were available at the most recent event, I didn't note whether chayote was among them.
The few Japanese confections seem to pale in popularity beside the Western-leaning desserts, like the matcha cupcakes and slice of pistachio cake shown below. Chocolate cake and apple pie were big hits, too.
New York Buddhist Church Festival 331 Riverside Dr. (105th-106th Sts.), Manhattan 212-678-0305 www.NewYorkBuddhistChurch.org (The spring 2014 event was held on March 29)