Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gourmet Chicken Salad for the Soul!

Starting last fall, my family and I started using our smokehouse again.  This cinder-block and cement structure was originally built about 45 years ago by my father, now an angel and ethereal guardian, Douglas Smith.  Decades ago, our family would raise, slaughter, smoke,can, and freeze much of our family's diet, which  made perfect sense, considering our brood's size.  Our family numbers also included some of my parents siblings' children as well.  My siblings and I have been blessed with parents any person would be honored to have, and even though we have never been what one would call wealthy or rich by monetary standards, our parents managed to provide, nurture and bring whole-hearted help, comfort,  spiritual guidance, divine love and encouragement for many, and are respected pillars in our small lake locked community to this day!   Our diet included a large garden, where corn, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage and a host of other veggies grew.  I remember as a young girl the 'canning days', which consisted of early rising and gathering of the crops to be preserved respectively, digging, picking, shucking, snapping, par-boiling, canning and freezing which usually ran into the late evening hours of that particular Saturday, as that was one of the only two days our working parents were permitted to conduct the chores at home.  We generally kept two hogs at a time and would slaughter either just before Thanksgiving or Christmas.  The hogs were fattened throughout the year with store bought feed, as well as corn and apples from our own garden and apple trees.  One of  my most favorite and memorable recollections is of the hogs, and the way they consumed fresh apples, the sound of the crunching apples, juicy and obviously super yummy!  After tending to and feeding them all year, not to mention giving the hogs names, this time of year, though necessary, became a tearful farewell, fore I knew "Suzy" would be no more, the romping carefree, apple snacking behemoth I had  help her become.  Alas, I digress!

It was important that the temperature be cool enough to facilitate the smoking and curing process of the hams, shoulders and side meat.  The day of slaughter, started as did the garden harvesting, early,  with a blooming fire underneath the scalding tub, in which the animal, once killed, first, would be hung, gutted and bled, then submerged in the water to aid in the sloughing off of it's hair and initial sterilization.  After the carcass is broken down, the process of smoking and preparation of the home-made and manually ground sausage would ensue.  This has always been one of the best sausages  I have ever tasted.  The small brown bags of country sausage seasonings would be purchased from the local hardware and farm supplies store, Rountrey's and the rewards of the toils of this day would  consist of fresh, hot 'ho'cakes' harnessing the end product of sausage blended just right, with a perfect fat/lean ratio, one batch hot, the other mild, with a sumptuous fried egg in tow, Absolute Bliss!  Savoring the harmonious balance of the sausage and it's complementary seasonings, tasting the hard work, long grueling  hours and sacrifice, sustenance for the long hard winter yet to come.  Winter- time Country Breakfasts could often manifest themselves in the form of fried apples, fresh frozen from summer, steamed or fried potatoes, from the cool, dark storage bin in our "Corner House", home-made biscuits, hot from the oven, fresh, aromatic coffee and hearty cakes of organic and wholesome sausage, locally owned, grown and operated!!  I love the beautiful country-ness of my existence, growing up in rural Leesville, 10 miles from the nearest town, lots of trees and a winding river to cross, a nightmarish and slippery upgrade in the then treacherous winter weather  These times echo throughout my mind and time, forever embossed and illuminated as some of the best times of my life, which had not occurred to me until I was blessed enough to live to adulthood, Thanks Dad and Mom!
Are you smiling as I am as I write this?  Good, now back to the recipe.
Today's recipe is a delicious creation containing chicken, smoked to mahogany, hickory infused perfection in our adorable little smokehouse, retrofitted with a grilling/smoking grate, cooled, shredded and tossed with a gaggle of sultry veggies, fresh herb and spices.  This chicken salad is one I would consider Gourmet, in lieu of appearance, and the deviation of ingredients normally found in a sometimes one dimensional store purchased variety.  Housed in a wonderful whole wheat pita, and bedazzled with fresh kale, this recipe screams EAT ME! and HAVE SECONDS!  I hope you enjoyed this walk down an aromatic and sensory response filled  memory lane and may your mind be catapulted back in the future, to this stroll you just took with me, holding hands, swinging back and forth, meandering down a crisp late fall lane, laden with leaves of oranges, reds, yellows and browns, smiling, happy!
Recipe:
2 cups smoked, cooked shredded chicken
1 lime
1/ 4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. celery seeds
2 tbsp. small dice mini yellow pepper
2 tbsp. thinly sliced red onion, halved, then quartered
1 tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes with herbs, small diced
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tbsp. julienne of fresh mint
small pinch red pepper flakes
2 whole wheat pitas, halved
1 1/3 c. fresh chopped kale
SPST
In a medium bowl, add chicken,  juice of lime, cumin and celery seed and toss to evenly coated.
Add  ingredients down to the pepper flakes, and fold together until well and evenly incorporated.  SPST.
Line pita pockets with equal amounts of kale.  Use a fork to stuff chicken filling into place.  Serves 4.



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fiesta Spiced and Spiked Pork Chops

Pork is a delicious and wonderful addition to any occasion or menu.  White meat pork is just as low in saturated fats and cholesterol as white meat chicken.  Pork makes a great canvas for just about any marinade and cooking medium, depending of course on the cut and location on the animal.  Some cuts, as with other animals, are more suited for searing, sauteing, frying, baking etc or gentle methods of cooking  like cutlets, thin chops and tenderloins.  Other cuts like roasts, ribs, country style and spare variety, shoulders, ears, feet and organ meats like chitterlings require more aggressive cooking methods or a combination of the two.  Searing and braising or searing and baking is popular, especially for this featured recipe and cut, 1 inch thick bone-in chops.  Offal, also known as "sweetbreads", or the thymus gland of the pig and the liver  are the exception, which needs gentle preparation, to retain it's shape and preserve it's delicate flavor.
Pork is a staple in many ethnic groups all around the world.  We love our pig products here in the U.S., but it's also popular in Latin American locales  Mexico as well areas of Asian ethnicity like  Thailand and Vietnam, bottom line, everywhere!  Markets in my area do not offer chops this beautiful often, so I took advantage of the opportunity and came up with a recipe to do them justice! I hope you get the chance to try it and love it as my family and I did.  Enjoy.
Recipe:
2 1 inch thick pork chops, bone-in
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt
1/4 tsp. Sazon seasoning
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 brandy soaked pineapple rings (marinate in 1 oz. brandy for 30 minutes to 1 hour in resealable bag) Drink or discard pineapple marinade:)
fresh cracked pepper
olive oil for drizzling
Sprinkle chops with seasonings and drizzle with olive oil.
Rub chops vigorously to work spices into meat, both sides.
Place in resealable bag and position a pineapple ring on top and bottom of each chop.  Squeeze out excess air and seal.  Marinate in refrigerator for 3 to 24 hours,  the longer the BETTER!
Let stand at room temperature before before searing and baking or grilling.
Remove pineapple slices.  Drizzle with olive and grill over medium high heat or Foreman type grill until juices run clear and pork is opaque, about 155 degrees for medium well. SPST.   Let rest for several minutes before serving.
Pineapple may be grilled separately and served with pork if desired
Serves 2 for special dinner occasion or serves 4 sliced and pre-plated.
Recipe shown with Asian inspired Couscous.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hum-Burger Deluxe!

I came up with this recipe on a typical day, when I wanted to WoW!  the family and introduce an unfamiliar food item to the ones leery of diversity.  I chose a neutral medium like hamburgers to showcase the special ingredient for this particular day. Hamburgers are virtually fail safe and depending upon your cooking method, the fat can be all but eradicated, especially when using a Foreman type grill or grill pan.  A new recipe is just around the corner by changing out the bun, condiments, cheeses and veggies in no time.  Cheeseburgers are one of my favorites, no matter what time of year.  For those extremely conscious of their red meat intake, substitutions of lean ground turkey and chicken can be made.  .  Be careful to read the nutritional information on some of these blends, because they may harbor more fat than ground red meat, that's if the skin is ground along with the lean.  Typically for a good beefy tasting burger that's moist and flavorful, one would opt for ground chuck or ground round.  Regular ground beef is fine too, just make sure you aim for the 75-80/25-20 percent fat ratio for a more satisfying, economical purchase.  This burger is quite delicious with the implement of spinach instead of lettuce.  lettuce is about 95% water, while fresh tender spinach is loaded with essential B vitamins, calcium, fiber and Vitamins C and A, zinc, niacin and surprisingly enough, protein!
The special ingredient for these burgers is Spinach and Artichoke hummus, a delicious and nutritious creamy spread loaded with with protein, fiber and vitamins, revered in the Mediterranean, and now here in the U.S.
Recipe:
2 lbs. ground chuck
1 tbsp. onion powder, plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt
6 Ciabatta buns
12 slices tomato
1 1/2 c. fresh julienne of spinach
1/2 c. mayonnaise, optional
6 slices American cheese
3/4 c.  prepared Spinach and Artichoke Hummus
olive oil for drizzling
SPST
Preheat grill pan.  Mix onion powder and Himalayan salt gingerly into ground chuck, careful not to overwork.
While grill pan heats, turn on broiler and place buns on a large cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with onion powder and drizzle with olive oil.  Toast til lightly golden, about 3 minutes.
Place burgers on grill and SPST.  Cook burgers until juices run clear and no pink remains, unless you care for medium to medium well.
*As a general rule of thumb, only eat ground meats medium well or less from a trusted butcher or market, where the product and quality is optimal.  Cook for about 5 minutes on Foreman type grill or 4 minutes per side on a flat grill pan.
Assembly:
Spread equal portions of mayo on bottom bun.  Add 1/4 c. Spinach and two slices of tomato.  Add
burger and slice of cheese.  Spread 2 tbsp. Spinach and Artichoke dip on top bun and drizzle with olive oil.  Serves 6.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mediterranean Grilled Chicken w/Couscous Salad


This recipe is another wonderful installment of the 5 ingredient recipes featuring chicken.  This creation  is also currently in a Bare Chicken recipe contest, and hopefully progresses to the top 20 for voting coming up on Facebook starting November 5.  Wish me Luck!!  Inspired by beautiful and rustic flavors of the 21 countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea including Morocco, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Jordan, Spain to name a few.  These amazing sea side countries enjoy a diet rich in fresh fruits, veggies, and a host of grains, seeds, nuts, pasta as well as yogurts and cheeses, with a focus on poultry and seafood, that is usually grilled.  Olive oil is the fat of choice and a plethora of fresh herbs and spices are used respectively.  I enjoyed creating this quick and easy recipe and the flavor profile is bursting with color and taste.  There are only 5 ingredients and not an inch of flavor is compromised in this super simple, simply delicious recipe.  My 5 year old Bronwyn loved it and said "It's delicious Mommy", as did my sister Hollie and my niece Laura.  Their ages are 5, 28 and 23, so I feel it is safe to safe it can appeal to  wide age groups with equal satisfaction.  Enjoy!

Recipe:
1 lb. Chicken tenderloins, Just Bare if available
1 box Parmesan couscous
1 jar whole Greek Kalamata olives
1 jar sun-dried julienne cut tomatoes with herbs
fresh mint

Place tenderloins in a resealable bag with 1 tbsp. sun-dried tomato oil and 2 tbsp. olive brine. Massage tenderloins with marinade until equally coated.   Press out excess air and seal.
Marinate 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare couscous according to package instructions, omitting the olive oil and salt. Heat grill pan to medium high.  De-seed 12 olives and roughly chop.  Roughly chop 2 tbsp. of sun-dried tomatoes.

After marination, discard marinade and grill chicken until no longer pink and the  juices run clear,  or the internal temperature reaches 165* F, about 2 minutes for double sided grill or 4 minutes per side on a stove top grill.
 Let rest for about 2 minutes.  
Toss prepared couscous with sun-dried tomatoes and olives until desired texture.  Toss with 1 tbsp. julienne of mint.
To serve, mound equal portions of couscous on serving plate and arrange an equal portion of grilled chicken as desired along side or atop couscous salad. Garnish with mint leaves.   Serves 4.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rigatoni and Ricotta Bake

Pasta is popular all over the world and justly so.  There are literally hundreds of different types to cater to your sauces and recipe profile.  The perfect pasta shape for your specific needs is possible by way of ready to cook, store bought fresh or home made means.  Fresh pasta obviously cooks twice as fast and and would add a fresher flavor to the dish, but I generally go for the 'boxed and ready' for convenience.  There are recipes that call for thin sauces, so you would consider a pasta that has length like spaghetti, capellini, fettucine, linguine etc...and can be coated easily with thinner sauces and have surface area to accommodate.  Some recipes call for thicker, heartier sauces that need pasta it can cling to and has textured surfaces like rigatoni, farfalle, penne, and penne rigate or super absorbent pastas like ziti and macaroni, which allow sauces to coat the insides as well as the outside and hold their shapes well during baking.  Shells and orecchiette are excellent pastas for holding mass amounts of flavor and creamy sauces.
This recipe is mentioned in a previous article, Long Lost Cousins and Buttery Shrimp Bruschetta, which I served as the appetizer to this featured dish!  Generally speaking, I serve dishes like this family style for low maintenance, Friday Nite Cuisine.  This recipe is easy to make and has gobs of flavor and little finesse.
Recipe:
1 lb. rigatoni, cooked according to package instructions, just short of al dente, about 5 minutes
1 lb. good quality ground beef
1 small onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1.75 oz. sliced pepperoni, optional
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp. brown sugar, optional
1/4 c. fresh herbs like oregano, basil and parsley blend
1 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
2 c. mozzarella crumbles
Parmigiano Reggiano for serving and garnish (Pecorino Romano if desired
Olive oil for drizzling
SPST
Preheat oven to 375*F.
Cook pasta for about 5 minutes, drain, do not rinse, drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat.  Set aside.
Meanwhile brown beef and pepperoni with onion and garlic, until no longer pink and onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Drain off excess fat and discard. Add tomatoes, brown sugar and herbs. SPST.   Simmer for about 10 minutes and turn off heat.  Stir in ricotta.  Place in baking vessel.  Spread mozzarella atop, and drizzle with olive oil and cover tightly with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until pasta has absorbed all the excess juices. Remove foil and continue to bake until golden, about 15 more minutes. Garnish with liberal shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano.   Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 10-12.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Braised Turkey Wings and Farfalle w/ Green Peas

Yesterday was one of the days when we wish it were the next or day before, considering the weather, that was rainy and dreadful looking.  My children, Genesis and Bronwyn, my nephew Braelyn and my sister Hollie were tentatively scheduled for a trip to the "Pumpkin Patch", filled with corn mazes, farm animals like goats, pigs and geese, pumpkin hunts and tall structures built entirely of bales of hay, to climb, slide and ramble throughout!  Unfortunately, the weather had different plans, and the trip was postponed until the following Monday.  The children were devastated.  They had already placed their 'orders' for golden, delicious, pumpkin pies, made fresh from the take-home pumpkins picked fresh from the patch!  In a perfect world, Mommy could wave her magic wand and the hay would magically refurbish itself, the ominous clouds would bow their heads and gracefully bow out to expose the beautiful blue flecked Autumn sky, with the brilliant rays of a crisp day's Sun, shining and gingerly drying the chilly dew, that would make running a hazard and a hindrance to scavenging for the mini gourds scattered about the immense hunting field.  The call for the postponement came shortly after the children reached the school, around 8 am, and with a shrug of dismay, I threw the careful packed spoils of Sliced deli turkey, ham, bologna with American cheese on Bollio rolls, Fruitables, and Doritos into the freezer for the "to be continued" picnic on the farm with the gang! I then had a a notion for comforting foods, aromatics, fragrances of grandeur, to warm  and necessitate this Day of Gray, we desperately needed the rain anyway.  I had picked up some fresh turkey wings from the market, and considering the forcast, they made the perfect fit for something to cook slowly, with low maintenance, and maximum flavor rewards.  Turkey should not be shunned or denied until Turkey Day, as it provides and evokes warm and fuzzy thoughts, as with holidays and not to mention a healthy dose of trytophan for a lulling rainy day nap, if the opportunity arises!  Wings contain a sizable amount of fat as compared to breast meat, but this can be skimmed during the braising process, and after cooking, the skin may be easily removed as not to pose a threat to the nutritional aspect of the meal as a whole.  These wings are braised  in a vegetable stock, a Mirepoix, fresh garlic and a soft chicken bouillon cube for depth to it's flavor profile.  They are braised for several hours, and finished in the oven if desired.  These wings are served best just before falling off the bone, and the moisture levels will remain, as with rich flavor.  I paired these wings with Farfalle or bow tie pasta, cooked in the reduced juices of the wings and tossed with green peas for a wonderful color implement, and filling bluster!  The sun had returned by the time dinner came around, but thankfully, these recipes provided the rays of aromatic, and rainy day comforting bliss during it's down time!
Recipe:
4 lbs. Turkey wings with tips if available
2 large carrots, sliced lengthwise, then halved
2 large stalks celery, cut into thirds
1 large onion, cut into eighths
3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 soft chicken bouillon, cubes
water
olive oil for drizzling
SPST
For Pasta:
2 tbsp. corn starch, mixed with a little water
1 lb. bow tie pasta
3/4 c. green peas
additional water if needed
In a large heavy bottomed or dutch oven over medium heat, place veggies, drizzled with olive oil and cook until aromatic, about 3 minutes.  Add bouillon.  Cook additional minute and add washed wings to vessel.  Fill until wings are just covered with water and cover, bringing up to a boil, over medium high heat.  Reduce back to medium and cook wings in a rolling simmer for several hours or until tender, but not falling off bone and cooking liquid is reduced to about 1/3.*
Begin to skim fat as the wings cook, and discard.
Once the wings are tender, place in baking vessel,  Spoon some of cooking liquid over each wing arranged in dish, about 1 cup total.  Remove carrots and arrange alongside wings. Cover tightly with foil and bake in oven at 350* for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour.
 Add enough water to liquid reduction to make about 6 cups.  Remove from heat and whisk in cornstarch.  Bring up to a boil until thickened.  Add pasta.  Cook over medium heat until pasta is al dente.  Stir in peas. Turn off heat. Cover with tight lid and let pasta to absorb the juices.  SPST and drizzle with olive oil if desired.
Serves 6 to 8.
*Note:  I like the rustic note the simmered veggie bits add to the pasta, but feel free to strain them off for a more refined sauce!


Monday, October 8, 2012

5 Ingredient Recipe featuring Chicken!

This recipe is one of the approximately 33/5 ingredient rough drafts I came up with for a recipe contest.  The goal is simple, 5 ingredients from start to finish.  Sounds kinda futile at first until you stop and give it a try.  Once I factored in the idea of having ingredients that bring their own flavor like marinades and ready made sauces, it became a lot easier. This is a simple one that can be taken as is or morphed into a wonderful salad.  Chicken of course is the main ingredient.  Next, there's Caesar dressing to serve as the marinade for the chicken as well as the dressing and moisture for the dish as a unit.  An Italian Loaf with Sesame Seeds is the starch, and Romaine the vegetable.  Lastly, there is olive oil to infuse flavor and prevent sticking.  This recipe worked like a charm and can be prepared in about 15 minutes not including marination time.  I used a Foreman Grill Mate which cut the normal stove top preparation time virtually in half!!!
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwich
1.1 lbs. chicken tenderloins, preferably Bare Chicken
1 lb. loaf Italian bread with Sesame Seeds
1 bottle Caesar dressing
1 head Romaine lettuce
olive oil for drizzling
Place chicken in resealable bag and add 2 tbsp. dressing.  Turn until all pieces are coated.
Marinate for 30 minutes in fridge and up to 24 hours.
When 20 minutes marination time remains or when ready, heat grill pan or Grilling apparatus until hot.  Drizzle halved loaf with olive oil and grill until golden, about 3 minutes per half.  Set aside to cool slightly.
Next, wash, dry and half Romaine and drizzle with olive oil, grill until has char marks, about 2 minutes per half.  set aside to cool slightly, before chopping and tossing with 1/2 cup Caesar dressing, less if desired.
Once chicken has marinated and bread and lettuce has been grilled, place chicken drizzled with olive oil on grill and cook until no longer pink and juices run clear, 2 minutes (I used a two sided grill).  this time will be longer on a flat top grill, about 4 minutes per side.
Place bread halves together and cut into 5 servings, rendering 5 sets of sandwich bread.
Assembly:  Divide chicken tenders equally among sandwiches and top with about 1 cup of romaine.  Add sandwich top.
Serve additional Caesar on side for personal preferences.
OR:
Slice each portion of bread 3 times lengthwise and 3 times crosswise to form croutons.
Slice chicken on bias and distribute evenly atop each mound of Romaine
Place equal portions of lettuce among 5 to 10 plates and top with equal portions of chicken and a the portioned out croutons.  Makes up to 10 first course salads.







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Monday, October 1, 2012

Asian Fusion Baby Back Ribs

This recipe is a delicious variation of the way a lot of us enjoy baby back beef ribs.  I created this recipe in the style of  Asian Fusion, considering the ingredients are commonly used to prepare that particular cuisine.  The sauce is not a typical barbecue in that it is not tomato based,  rather one using Hoisin, soy, brown sugar and fish sauce.  I also incorporated green onion.  Since these ribs are on the not so meaty side, I bake them with a generous layer of peppers and  onions, plus a hefty 5 cloves of garlic, infusing lots of fat free flavor, and adding some bulk to the dish respectively.  The end product is a taste bud orgy with a sweet/salty/savory/umami mystique served simply w/a seasoned turmeric  tinted Jasmine Rice.
Recipe:
5 lb. beef baby back ribs
6 mini peppers, various colors, sliced
2 onions, sliced
5 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 tbsp. sambal oelek
1 soft beef bouillon cube
1 tbsp. fish sauce

Sauce:
1 c. beef broth
3/4 c. Hoisin
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
3 tbsp. fish sauce
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 350*.
Wash and pat ribs dry.  Toss veggies together with sambal oelek and smother ribs evenly in a large roasting pan.
Mix 1/2 c. hot water with cube and fish sauce.  Pour over everything.
Cover tightly with foil and bake until tender, about 2 hours, basting periodically with juices and fat.*
When ready, combine all sauce ingredients in small saucepot and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer and cook additional 5 minutes until reduced slightly.  Adjust to desired thickness by adding water or broth or by simmering until desired consistency is reached.
Pour over ribs and bake uncovered for an additional 25 minutes, basting every 5 minutes or so.
* After ribs have baked for first 2 hours, pour off rendered fat before adding the rib sauce!
Serves 8 to 10.

A Taste of the Old Country!

It was a gorgeous sunny day.  The clouds were sparse and fluffy, like gobs of marshmallow creme on a brilliant blue canvas, decorated by my 5 year old Bronwyn.  The weather was pleasant, just shy of hot, and the breeze had the tiny wisps of hair silhouetting my face playing tag with my eyes, the wisps were winning!  Rays of sun danced about in midair, bouncing and reflecting off windshields, windows, fenders, hoods, rear-views,tiny shards of glass and pebbles, and various juxtapositional items here and there,  glass fronted businesses. I  had to squint often, since I was not wearing sunglasses.  The traffic had once again begun to rise and fall, speed and slow, nearing the top of the hour of 5 pm.  I walked to the shaded area underneath a canopy of foliage.  There were leaves, large and small, flat and curled.  There were vines, some elegant and slender, some gnarled and sinister.  There were items scattered about the foliage, and upon closer inspection, I realized that they were of the fruitful variety.  There were brown and fuzzy kiwi, small medium and large for their size, only a couple had fallen to the concrete below, indicating more time was needed before enjoying their citrusy tang, the wonderful green with speckled black interior hidden by a coconut like casing.  There were also pods that hung loosely amongst the kiwi.  They were as long as first grade pencils, fat pencils like snakes that had swallowed several grapes.  They were the pods of a Wisteria Plant.  Fragrant fruits that appeared as golden sunsets, side by side hung about the canopy as well.  These were the largest Persimmons I had ever seen.  The ones in my sister's yard were  mere dwarves in comparison to these gargantuan gems, that emitted it's glorious perfume to entice the soul and stimulate the appetite.  There were also grapes, bunches congregating throughout, the vines intermingled with the others, melting pot indeed.  I had never experienced figs from it's original source until now, and they were astounding and amazing.  They too will be enjoyed, in the months to come.  While walking this small stretch of paradise, cascading along the outer brick walls and dangling over the seated picnic area for dining outside, I missed my number being called.  The unforgettable Cheese Steaks my sister Hollie would bring home periodically were freshly prepared and waiting for me, this time I placed the order myself.   This was my first physical visit.   It was hard to believe I was actually standing outside of a fabulous restaurant in Vinton called The Original and Only New York Pizza, Inc, Italian Style.  The owner  brought these trees, bushes and vines over from the old country and planted them here himself.  They were bountiful and beautiful, lavish and lush, and in the middle of a busy town, your psyche transcends and it's like walking a country hillside in Sicily, from whence they came.  The grandchildren run the business now, which originally opened in 1983, but it's genuine character and integrity is unmolested and breathtaking, not to mention the food.   The menu is concise and encompasses things Italian, whether your taste is for Old World Style  Pizza, Neapolitan, Sicilian or Veal Sandwiches, this spot covers the gambit.  The staff is cordial and engaging, eager to share it's history,  that is if one asks, as did my sister Gayle and I.  This place is must visit!!  I can guarantee the visit will not be your last!!
The Original and Only New York Pizza, Inc.
708 Hardy Road
Vinton, VA 24179
540) 342-2933
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Smokinhotchef
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