The first of the year offers a clean slate and a fresh start, exemplified by the lists of enthusiastic New Year's resolutions that often don't make it past February. Ring in the New Year with foods that are festive and nutrition-conscious, like appetizers for a cocktail party that will fuel your guests past midnight. New Year's culinary traditions from various cultures focus on foods that symbolize luck, prosperity and longevity, and cheers-worthy cocktails toast the end of the old year and the coming of the new.
Eggplant, Mint and Yogurt Dip by Nigella Lawson
Pop Culture Popcorn by Michael Chiarello
Caviar Tartlets by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman
Mini Moroccan Lamb Burgers With Lemon Yogurt Sauce by Dave Lieberman
Wild Mushroom Cups Balsamic Reduction by Chad Carns
Chicken Satay by Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner
Babas Infused With Limoncello by Lidia Bastianich
Grapefruit and Champagne Sherbet by Christopher Idone
Toast the New Year:
Dry Manhattan by Nick Mautone
Negroni by John Mariani
Whole Citrus Margarita by Michael Chiarello
New Year's Culinary Traditions:
Hundreds of years ago in Europe, people hunted wild boars and slaughtered them on the first day of the year, making ham and pork a lucky food to eat at the beginning of a new year, as pigs are associated with abundance and plenty (being "fattened up"). As a main course for your New Year's Eve dinner, try Laurent Tourondel's Roasted Berkshire Pork Tenderloin With Caramelized Salsify. Juniper berries and fennel seeds give the roast a spectacular holiday flavor, while Brussels sprouts, apples and pearl onions provide nutritious veggies on the side.
Beans are also commonly seen as a lucky food for the New Year, because they bear a resemblance to coins and represent prosperity. These legumes pack a nutritional punch as well, with plenty of fiber without cholesterol or fat. Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner's recipe for White Bean Soup from northern Italy will keep your guests warm, while James Beard's Lentil Soup With Chard and Lemon brings us to the next category of lucky foods for the new year: greens.
Greens also represent wealth because of their color, as well as growth, and it's well established that greens such as spinach, kale, and collard greens are rich in nutrients and a key to eating for good health. Leafy dark greens are full of vitamins, calcium, iron and magnesium. Fran McCullough's Crunchy Kale is a fresh change from chips as an appetizer, and Nava Atlas' Spinach and Feta-Stuffed Potatoes make a hearty but healthy side dish or vegetarian main course.
Fish is commonly considered a lucky food for the New Year, from salmon in the American northwest to herring in Poland and carp in Germany. Try Debra Ponzek's recipe for Roasted Salmon With Quinoa and Carrot Oil. The highly nutritious whole grain shines in this recipe. In Japan, shrimp are specifically eaten for longevity, and during the Chinese Lunar New Year the consumption of whole fish is believed to signify a long life. Hiroko Shimbo's Seafood Miso Soup makes a healthy and inventive main course.
Long noodles are another symbolic New Year's food. The Japanese consume long, thin soba, or buckwheat flour, noodles, the shape of which connotes health and longevity. They are called toshikoshi soba ("passing the year" noodles). In China, uncut long noodles are consumed during the Lunar New Year (which takes place in February), and you are supposed to avoid breaking the strand when you slurp it in, to ensure a long life. This recipe for Spicy Mustard Greens With Asian Noodles by Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach can be served hot or at room temperature.