Bringing Street Vendors Home
New York City wouldn’t be NYC without street vendors. But apparently the city has been cracking down on vendors in recent.
There are more than 10,000 street vendors in New York City – hot dog vendors, flower vendors, book vendors, shoe shiners, street artists, and many others. They are small businesspeople struggling to make ends meet. Most are recent immigrants and people of color. They work long hours under harsh conditions, asking for nothing more than a chance to sell their goods and services on the public sidewalk.
Yet, in recent years, vendors have been victims of New York’s aggressive “quality of life” crackdown. They have been denied access to vending licenses. They have been swept from the streets by powerful business groups. They have been unjustly harassed, and their property has been illegally seized.
The Street Vendor Project works to correct the social and economic injustice faced by these hardworking entrepreneurs. Reaching out to vendors on the street, we hold clinics to educate vendors about their legal rights. Working to support a local vendors’ rights movement, we organize vendors to participate in the political process that determines their fate. Finally, we engage in systemic advocacy to help policy makers and the public understand the important role street vendors play in the life of our city.
For more information about the Street Vendor Project, go to www.streetvendor.org.
That said, I’d happily go out and support the vendors of NYC, if I didn’t live 3,000 miles away. But I do. So instead you’ll find 3 recipes below for street vendor food, including pretzels from NYC, elote from LA, and arepas from Miami so you can honor street vendors everywhere at home.
Mexican Corn on the Cob – Elote
- fresh corn
- cotija cheese (grated)
- cayenne pepper
- lime juice
- Husk, butter and grill the corn til it starts to brown.
- Slap on a coat of mayo (low-fat is fine) and roll in cotija cheese (parmesan works fine as a substitute.)
- Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and as a squirt of lime juice.
NOTE: This can be done off the cob as well in a bowl. Just mix ingredients and serve.
New York Style Pretzels
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
- 3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons pretzel salt (large coarse salt)
- parchment paper
- Stir together sugar, yeast, and 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (105 to 110°F) in a glass measuring cup, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
- Whisk together 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 tablespoon table salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough. Dust work surface with 1 tablespoon flour, then turn out dough and knead, gradually dusting with just enough additional flour to make a smooth sticky dough, about 8 minutes. (Dough needs to be somewhat sticky to facilitate rolling and forming into pretzels).
- Return dough to bowl and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface and cut into 8 equal pieces. Using your palms, roll 1 piece back and forth on a clean dry work surface into a rope about 24 inches long. If dough sticks to your hands, lightly dust them with flour. Twist dough into a pretzel shape. (Dough will retract as you form the pretzel.)
- Transfer pretzel with your hands to an oiled baking sheet and form 7 more pretzels in same manner with remaining dough, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart.
- Let pretzels stand, uncovered, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Bring a wide 6-quart pot of water to a boil.
- Using both hands, carefully add 3 pretzels, 1 at a time, to boiling water and cook, turning over once with tongs, until pretzels are puffed and shape is set, about 3 minutes. Transfer parboiled pretzels to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining 5 pretzels in 2 batches.
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper and oil paper, then arrange pretzels on sheet. Brush pretzels lightly with some of egg and sprinkle with pretzel salt. Bake until golden brown and lightly crusted, about 35 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve warm.
Street Vendor Arepas
- One cup areparina (Most people will have to buy this. It is made by Goya, among others. Look for it near the Mexican foods, or near flour.)
- Cooking oil
- 2 cups of warm water (not boiling) Also good to have around for topping when you are done:
- Cheese (Feta, swiss)
- Butter (or margarine)
- Mix the water and the areparina in a big enough bowl. Let it rest for a few minutes.
- Knead the dough. Take small balls and knead individually. It is helpful to have a little bowl of water nearby to dunk your hands in occasionally. Flatten using hands taking the ball and starting to press from the center out while you turn the arepa around your fingers so it takes the shape of a little pancake. They should be like 3-5 CDROMs stacked together, only with a little less radius. Your hands will work hard, and get messy, but the arepas should turn out ok. Each pancake will take around 30 seconds to 2 minutes to make.
- Use a hot frying pan which has been coated with oil (use a paper towel with oil) and bake the arepas. Turn only once when it is brown. Some of the flours make arepas that split slightly when you cook them; that’s ok. Others you have to just get used to the consistency of cooked arepas and you know when they are done. Do not overheat the pan. Arepas take a while to cook, possibly ten minutes or so. Five minutes per side.
- Serve with sliced cheese, or butter and salt.
Photo from Flickr.