"Arancino," after the resemblance to a "little orange," is the usual name for this sort of stuffed, fried rice ball. "Piccola mela" does roll off the tongue, true, but "Italian apple" is more evocative. Mine was filled with sauteed spinach and garlic ($4). At an indoor market, a satisfying snack; nearer the deep fryer, surely even better.
Leah's Italian Apples 718-775-7096 At the periodic Ridgewood Market, Gottscheer Hall, 657 Fairview Ave. (Gates Ave.-Linden St.), Ridgewood, Queens www.RidgewoodMarket.com
St. Brigid's, a Roman Catholic church on the Ridgewood-Bushwick border, was named in 1887 for a patron saint of Ireland, and in the early years of the 20th century it came to serve a largely German-American congregation. Today many congregants and neighbors are Ecuadorian, judging by the abundance and pedigree of the street food nearby on a recent Sunday.
This plate of mote pillo ($5) has its roots in Cuenca, a city in Ecuador's southern highlands also famous for fanesca. At the simplest mote pillo consists of eggs and hominy scrambled in the presence of onion, garlic, cilantro, and (for color) achiote. A few members of our scouting party suggested that meat would improve it, and indeed in Cuenca a related dish, mote sucio, also includes kernels of hominy (mote) that have been sauteed with pork, or in pork gravy, so they become "sucio" ("dirty").
The question then arises: What is "pillo"? The only translations I've been able to find suggest "rascally" or "roguish," which is a stretch for a dish that is not even very piquant (at least in this instance). If you can supply a better etymology for the pillo in mote pillo, please do.
On the side: quaker (Quack-air, not shown, $3), a beverage that smoothly blends oatmeal, name-brand or not, with a little orange juice. In Ecuador, quaker traditionally includes naranjilla, also known as lulo; the O.J. is a U.S. substitution. This quaker was also flavored with apple and cinnamon (nicely noted, missmasala!), giving the impression, in the best possible flashback-to-childhood sense, of packaged instant oatmeal, now in drinkable form.
El Bochinche Street cart on St. Nicholas Ave. between Linden St. and Gates Ave., Ridgewood, Queens Friday through Sunday, early afternoon till early evening, year-round
The variety of street food outside the Grover Cleveland soccer field in Ridgewood, Queens, is hardly the equal of what you'll find in Red Hook. Apart from a truck selling soft-serve ice cream, a recent weekend visit turned up only a pair of Ecuadorian vendors grilling chuzos, or skewered meats. The busier of the two also deep-fried hot dogs and sliced potatoes for salchipapas (about $4). The name is a portmanteau of "salchicha" and "papas" (sausage and potatoes); this batch was also well-dressed with optional lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo. Foot traffic supplied most of this vendor's clientele, but over the course of a quarter-hour she also supplied curb service to several cars that pulled up alongside.
Salchipapas and chuzos vendor Street cart outside the Grover Cleveland soccer field, Stanhope St. at Fairview Ave., Ridgewood, Queens Weekends, probably only in temperate weather
The original name, "savory bread pudding," just didn't cut it. Leftover bagels are one component, noted the local Chowhound who first steered me this way. There's some biscuit, too, added the counterman, and lots more — sweet sausage, ham, egg, a dose of black pepper — most everything associated with a certain mighty breakfast combo except the potatoes and, unless you dress for the occasion, the plaid flannel. Henceforth, ask for the "lumberjack" ($4).
If you've ever encountered a pljeskavica in the wild, you know that the nickname "Bosnian style burger" barely hints at the peculiarity of the beast. The beef-and-lamb patty, perhaps eight inches across but no more than a quarter-inch thick, is sandwiched in a pita-like bread of similar proportions. (The coin, off to one side, is a U.S. quarter.) Fully dressed, this pljeskavica (Plys-kah-veet-sah, $9) also sports lettuce, tomato, raw onion, yogurty white sauce, and the piquant Balkan spread called ajvar (Eye-var). Both onion and ajvar are essential; the patty itself is only mildly seasoned.
By default, the grill man — a Mexican fellow, on the day of my visit — will divvy up your pljeskavica so it's easier to handle. Or share it with three friends; there are just enough stools so you'll each have a seat.
Unlike Mexican alfeñiques, brittle sculpted confections that typically show their faces for the Day of the Dead, Ecuadorian alfeñiques resemble sticks of soft turrón or stiff taffy, made with sugarcane. They're anything but brittle: To separate my purchase ($1.50) into portions for sharing with a friend, he and I needed to grab on from opposite ends, with both hands, before we could pull it in two. Biting off a piece might have been easier (if messier); buying two alfeñiques, easier still.
The market's proprietor also withdrew several other enticing items from beneath the front counter: bars of white chocolate Nestle Galak; concha negra (not shown), his home country's famous black cockles, waiting to be shucked and served on the half-shell with a few drops of lemon juice; and a massive egg, one of several in stock. Obviously it's from a bird, mate, but who can say what bloody flavour it is? Not me; I've never tried huevo de avestrus.
True, "alcapurrias dos veces frito" doesn't have the ring of "twice-fried fries." But you get the idea: First they're deep-fried at a relatively low temperature to cook them through, then on higher heat to create that crisp shell. (French fries, whose preparation is often the subject of exhaustive analysis, may be a slightly different story, since they're all-potato and much thinner.)
As at the yearly Festival Cultural de la Calle 152, the two operations are performed simultaneously, side by side, to satisfy a continual demand for the ground-beef-filled frituras. The bright color of this alcapurria (ahl-cah-Poor-ree-ah, $1.50 each) comes from an unusually generous ration of annatto.
Also shown: a sandwich de pernil ($6); the cut edges of the loaf seemed to have been wiped with garlic. Ensalada de pulpo, pinchos de pollo, bacalaitos, pastellitos, pasteles en hoja, and morcilla were also on offer; a rotisserie was not in action this day.
Las Alcapurrias Outdoor stall in the used-car and auto-repair lot at the corner of Cooper and Wyckoff Aves., Ridgewood, Queens Saturdays and Sundays, 10:00-8:00 (Via a tip from an EIT reader and devoted bicycle rider; thanks, Mark!)
Though pfeffernüsse (Feh-fer-noose, $15.99 per pound) translates as "pepper nuts," in Germany and in neighboring Denmark and the Netherlands, these small, firm cookies often contain neither pepper nor nuts. (That's the case here, too.) Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and anise are common ingredients that contribute to the zingy flavor.
Pfeffernüsse are associated with the winter holidays. At this long-lived German-American bakery, you'll find them from Thanksgiving week through the beginning of the New Year.