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Good luck foods ring in New Year

| Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011


At midnight in Spain, the custom is to eat 12 grapes --one for each chime of the hour or for each month of the year. The practice began in 1909 during a grape surplus. Since then, the practice has spread to Portugal, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru.


Because folded leaves look like money -- American money, at least -- they are thought to symbolize prosperity in the new year.


Lentils signify wealth and good luck, and are served with rice or in a soup.

Black-eyed Peas

This Southern tradition is said to have begun during the 40-day Battle of Vicksburg, Miss., during the Civil War. The town ran out of food, but the discovery of a stash of black-eyed peas gave them instant good-luck star power. Prior to that time, black-eyed peas were used as cattle feed


Pigs symbolize pushing forward, making progress, moving ahead.


Since the Middle Ages, fish has been a popular food for feasts. Depending on the country, it can symbolize fertility, a good harvest, long life or good fortune.


In Pittsburgh, an over-size, glazed sweet pretzel is part of the New Year's Day breakfast menu. Greeks celebrate with the Vasilopita cake -- a tradition that dates back 1,500 years -- in which a coin is inserted in the dough. The person who finds it has good luck for the coming year.


Ireland and Germany associate cabbage with good luck and fortune. Happily, sauerkraut also goes great with your roast pork.


Since ancient times, this fruit has been believed to have a role in fertility and abundance.


In many Asian countries, eating long noodles on New year's Day will ensure a long life. But the noodle cannot be broken or cut before eating.

Racks of Pork with Apple Chutney

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Rest: 1 hour, 50 minutes

This recipe is from Betty Rosbottom, cooking teacher and author of "Sunday Roasts: A Year's Worth of Mouthwatering Roasts" (Chronicle Books, $24.95). She suggests you ask the butcher to prepare the racks so they can be sliced into individual chops.

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 racks of pork, 3 pounds per rack, 5 ribs each
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium-size red onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Apple Chutney (purchased readymade, or see recipe )

Whisk the olive oil and curry powder in a small bowl. Brush all pork surfaces with half of the curry-oil mixture; reserve the remaining mixture. Let the racks rest at a cool room temperature, for 1 1/2 hours.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel the onions; cut into 1-inch-thick wedges, leaving the root ends intact. Season the pork racks on all sides with salt and pepper. Put a large, heavy, flameproof roasting pan or tray over one or two burners on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, brown 1 pork rack on all sides, beginning with the fat side down; for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove; repeat with the remaining rack.

Put the racks in the pan, facing each other, fat sides out, bone ends up and intertwined. Scatter the onions around the pork. Drizzle the onions with the remaining curry-oil mixture; toss lightly. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the center registers 150 degrees and the onions are softened and browned, for about 1 hour.

Remove the pork from the pan; arrange on a serving platter, bones intertwined. Surround the pork with the onions. Cover loosely with foil; let rest for 20 minutes. Serve sliced into chops. Sprinkle with salt, top with the apple chutney and garnish with the onions.

Makes 10 servings.

Apple Chutney

This chutney is adapted from "Sunday Roasts" by Betty Rosbottom. She pairs it with roast racks of pork. It also would be delicious with roasted or pan-fried chicken, or other cuts of pork.

The chutney may be covered and refrigerated for as long as three days; bring to room temperature to serve.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 large, unpeeled Gala apples, halved, cored, chopped in 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 to 2/3 firmly-packed cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons each: country-style Dijon mustard, minced fresh ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; stir until the onions soften, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil; stir in the apples. Cook, stirring frequently, until the apples are translucent and lightly browned, for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the brown sugar, mustard, ginger, coriander, cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper; stir until the sugar starts to melt. Add the vinegar. Heat to a simmer; cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and the liquid is syrupy, for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat; cool the chutney to room temperature. Serve with the racks of pork

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Spicy Black Beans With Chorizo and Greens

This dish riffs on Italian-style greens with white beans. Choosing to pair black beans with chorizo, a spicy Mexican sausage, was easy, as those ingredients are frequent partners in Mexican cooking.

As a convenience, you can use pre-cut, bagged, mixed greens; the kale in some of the mixes can remain a little bitter, but it still works. If you choose to use canned, diced tomatoes -- another time-saver -- use a no-salt-added brand.

Serve with roast pork, or as a main dish with rice.

This recipe is from Stephanie Witt Sedgwick via The Washington Post.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, cut into 1/2 -inch dice (scant 1 cup)
  • 8 ounces fresh chorizo sausage (casings removed)
  • 1 cup of 1/2 -inch-diced tomato, peeled and seeded, if desired (may substitute canned, no-salt-added diced tomatoes)
  • 3 cups cooked (homemade or canned, no-salt-added) black beans
  • 1/2 cup no-salt-added chicken broth
  • 1 pound washed, trimmed greens, such as a mix of chard, kale, mustard greens, spinach and/or turnip greens, or the leafy green of your choice, torn into bite-size pieces
  • Salt, optional

Heat the oil in a large (13-inch), shallow, nonstick braising pan or a heavy-duty roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until just softened.

Add the sausage to the pan in small chunks. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring and breaking up clumps of sausage, until the sausage loses its raw look; it will not be cooked through. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the black beans and broth.

Add the greens in 1 or 2 batches. Cover (with a lid or aluminum foil) and cook for 2 to 4 minutes to wilt the greens with each addition; uncover and use tongs to incorporate.

Cover and reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so the liquid is barely bubbling at the edges. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes to meld the flavors and cook the sausage through. Uncover and taste; add salt, if desired. If the mixture is soupy, increase the heat to high and cook (uncovered) until the liquid has reduced so the mixture is moist but not soupy.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8 to 10 side-dish servings or 4 to 6 main-course servings.

Lentil Soup

This recipe is from Joseph Erdos of .

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 medium-size cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 medium-size carrots, diced
  • 2 medium-size ribs celery, diced
  • 1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 10 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 pound lentils, picked through and rinsed
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fine sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Warm the oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic; cook until soft and translucent, for about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and celery; cook until almost browned, for about 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock, lentils, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender, for about 35 to 45 minutes. Check the seasoning. Using a blender, puree a third of the soup, and incorporate it into the other two-thirds.

Serve drizzled with olive oil and garnished with thyme sprigs.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Scallops in a Ginger Cream Sauce

This recipe was a favorite at Muriel's, now closed, and came from chef and owner Stephen Esherick.

You will need two saucepans to prepare this dish, plus a pot for the noodles. This recipe makes 1 serving, but can be doubled or quadrupled.

  • Water
  • 1 1/2 ounces buckwheat soba noodles
  • 6 ounces sea scallops (10-20 count size)
  • Flour, for coating the scallops
  • 2 tablespoons clarified butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon diced shallots
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (plus extra for spinach, optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh gingerroot, minced, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach, with stems
  • 2 tablespoons sliced leeks (white part only)
  • Tomato peel, for garnish, optional

Cook the soba noodles according to the package directions, drain, and set aside.

Lightly coat the scallops with the flour. Heat 1 tablespoon clarified butter in a saucepan over high heat. Add the scallops and sear until lightly browned. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the shallots, 1/4 cup white wine and gingerroot, and saute briefly. Reduce the heat to low and add the cream. Mix well, and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook the sauce over low heat for a few minutes, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat the remaining tablespoon of clarified butter over high heat. Add the spinach and leeks, and saute until the spinach wilts and the leeks are soft. Add a light splash of water or white wine to the pan, if desired.

Cover a dinner plate with the soba noodles, then top with a smaller circle of the spinach mixture. Arrange the scallop mixture in the center. For an attractive garnish, make a rose shape out of a tomato peel.

Makes 1 serving.

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