In many countries, new year celebrations begin on the evening of December 31—New Year’s Eve—and continue into the early hours of January 1. On this day revelers often enjoy foods that are thought to bestow good luck for the coming year. In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people eat a dozen grapes right before midnight-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead. In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and insure future financial success, as in Italy where lentils are eaten and in the southern United States where black-eyed peas are served for dinner. Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary and Portugal. Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, a sign that the year has come full circle, are found on the table in the Netherlands, Mexico and Greece. In Sweden and Norway rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve. It is said that whoever finds the almond can expect 12 months of good fortune.
Other customs that are common worldwide include watching fireworks and singing songs to welcome the new year, including the ever-popular, “Auld Lang Syne”. The practice of making resolutions for the new year is thought to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot.
In the United States, the most well known New Year’s Eve tradition is the dropping of a giant ball in New York City’s Times Square at midnight. Millions of people around the world watch the event, which has taken place almost every year since 1907. Over time, the ball itself has ballooned from a 700-pound iron-and-wood orb to a brightly patterned sphere, 12 feet in diameter and weighing in at nearly 12,000 pounds. Various towns and cities across America have developed their own versions of the Times Square ritual, organizing public drops of symbolic items ranging from pickles to pelicans to possums at midnight.
New Year’s Eve is a perfect opportunity to show your softer side by planning a romantic dinner for the special person in your life. Enjoying delicious food in a romantic setting with someone you care about is the perfect way to help make sure your New Year’s Eve is special. Here is a suggested festive dinner menu for two, that is intended to inspire your planning for a special evening. The cooking of this dinner comes together quickly, if you do most of the preparation ahead of time, so that you have plenty of time to enjoy the evening with your loved one.
Italian Rice Balls
Rice symbolizes prosperity and wealth, so rice balls are good for New Year’s and wedding celebrations in many cultures. Another nice touch you can use with these is to put a small cube of mozzarella cheese in the middle of each rice ball. The rice balls can be prepared ahead of time and reheated in a moderate oven.
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup uncooked white rice
- 1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
- Olive oil
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, in cubes (optional)
- Marinara Sauce
In a bowl whisk together the eggs, Parmesan cheese, basil, pepper and salt; cover and refrigerate.
Pour the chicken broth and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a large saucepan and bring to a boil; stir in the rice, cover and reduce the heat to low.
Cook the rice until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 to 17 minutes.
Remove the pan the from heat and gradually pour in egg mixture, continually stirring rapidly to coat the surface of the rice and prevent the egg from scrambling; allow rice mixture to cool in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Pour bread crumbs into a shallow dish.
Dampen your hands with water and roll 1-inch balls from the rice mixture. If using the mozzarella, insert a cube in the center of the rice ball. Be sure the rice completely covers the mozzarella.
Coat each rice ball with bread crumbs.
In a small, deep skillet, heat enough oil to an adequately brown the rice balls. Fry the balls 4 to 6 at a time, turning as needed to ensure even browning. Drain on paper towels.
Serve warm with heated marinara sauce.
Arugula and Tomato Salad
- 3 cups arugula
- 1 tomato, cored and cut into wedges
- 1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Dash ground black pepper
In a jar with a screw top lid, combine shallots, oil, champagne vinegar, lemon peel, salt and ground black pepper. Cover and shake well. Makes about 1/2 cup.
Arrange greens, tomatoes, cheese and hazelnuts on two serving plates. Dress with some of the salad dressing.
Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca
- 2 (4-ounce) chicken cutlets
- Salt to taste
- 6 fresh sage leaves
- 1 ounces very thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 4 thin strips
- 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 tablespoons lower-sodium chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
- Lemon wedges (optional)
- ½ bunch asparagus
Sprinkle the chicken evenly with salt. Place 3 sage leaves on each cutlet; wrap 2 prosciutto slices around each cutlet, securing sage leaves in place.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place asparagus on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven to roast until desired tenderness, usually 15 minutes.
Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add chicken to the pan; cook for 2 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.
Combine broth, lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture and the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil to the skillet; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for 1 minute or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly with a whisk.
Place chicken and asparagus on serving plates and spoon sauce over chicken. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.
Chocolate Truffles With Liqueur
The truffle yield will depend on how small you roll the truffles; You should get at least 15.
- 3 ounces semisweet chocolate
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature ( do not use margarine)
- 2 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted through a sieve to remove lumps
- Unsweetened cocoa powder, for coating or rolling
In a microwave using medium-low power, melt chocolate in a medium-sized bowl– about 1 minute.
Whisk in butter and egg yolk until blended; then whisk in liqueur and powdered sugar until smooth.
Cover and refrigerate until firm enough to shape, about 1 hour.
Shape mixture into small balls, roll balls in cocoa, then place in tiny foil or paper cups.
The rolling process can be a bit of a messy job; if mixture gets too soft, return it to the refrigerator to stiffen up again.
Keep truffles refrigerated in a covered container; remove about 30 minutes before serving to take the chill off them.
- Roast Pork & Arancine, BBC Saturday Kitchen (catherinefulvio.wordpress.com)
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- Lamb Cutlets in Moroccan Style (theculinaryjourneymadesimple.wordpress.com)