While I don’t consider myself superstitious, my love of food traditions has made the New Year a favorite holiday for me. Another confession: I don’t always make it all the way to midnight on New Year's Eve. But I still have fun sharing with friends and family some of the many delicious foods that mark New Year celebrations around the world. Most of these ingredients are also very healthy, so stocking up on them could be a bonus for your resolutions as well.
I think a buffet set with an array of dishes with special stories is an ideal way to ring in the year, whether it’s for late-night revelry or for brunch on January 1st. But just choosing a favorite food or two is a fun way to prepare for the year ahead.
Here are five of the most popular lucky ingredients, plus some absolutely auspicious recipes to share with friends and family. A new tradition or two may be in your future!
Eating 12 grapes — one for each stroke of the clock as it strikes midnight — is a New Year custom that hails from Spain but is now marked in Portugal and former Spanish colonies. I first followed this charming custom while celebrating in Barcelona some 15 years ago and have never forgotten it.
You can just nibble some grapes (and pop a few into a loved one’s mouth!) as the ball drops, or have fun by serving an inventive grape dish. These intriguing Blue Cheese and Walnut Dusted Grapes are ideal for a buffet, and you can make them up several hours ahead and chill them. For a baked cake, Grape Harvest Cake, enriched with olive oil and wonderfully tender from buttermilk, is one of my very favorite not-too-sweet treats to bake up.
Enjoying black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a tradition I grew up with and one I still follow today. My family preferred a hearty winter stew similar to the classic Hoppin’ John. But a few years ago I did a project developing some recipes that combined Sriracha with peas, and I absolutely recommend these to liven up a buffet: Black-Eyed Pea Nachos or Hoppin’ John Salad with Spicy Sriracha Vinaigrette are absolute crowd pleasers. The latter recipe includes ham (also thought to be a lucky food in some cultures), but you could substitute baked smoked tofu or a veggie sausage product.
Dark, leafy greens, thought to resemble money, are considered the go-to food for New Year’s prosperity in many cultures. Think kale, collards, chard and mustard greens to promote health and maybe even wealth. A fabulous Kale Salad is about as easy and scrumptious as it gets, or try two-bite, super-healthy Kale-Almond Bruschetta. For a hot greens recipe, double up your lucky foods with Black-Eyed Pea and Collard Green Soup, an ideal dish to keep warm in a slow-cooker on your buffet table.
Small, round lentils look something like coins, hence their association with financial reward in the upcoming year in countries from Brazil to Italy and Germany. A dish with guaranteed richness from ground nuts is this Lentil-Walnut Spread, an ideal choice to serve on crostini or crackers.
Another great choice is Lentil, Butternut Squash and Collards Pie, a holiday centerpiece that’s complete with collards, another ingredient linked to good fortune.
Pigs represent progress in a number of cultures, whether because of the animal’s habit of rooting in a forward manner (symbolizing advancement and adventure) or because of its rich flesh, associated with prosperity. Pink marzipan pigs are an irresistible display in shop windows in many European countries and a wonderful treat for children and adults alike.
For a terrific New Year’s nibble, try these Spanish Pork Meatballs. Or go for hog heaven with a superb show-stopper like Crown Roast of Pork with Wild Rice Stuffing, a buffet entrée anyone would be lucky to share with you!
What do you serve on New Years? Tell us about your foods with benefits!
Updated Dececember 28, 2015