Congratulations! It’s nearly January 1, and if you’re reading this, you’ve almost made it through a year of political insanity, wildfires and hurricanes. The solstice is behind us and days are getting longer: by the end of January we’ll have about 45 more minutes of daylight in which to ponder the frozen, muddy or slushy landscape. If you’re reading this in Maine, you’re way luckier than others: we had no active volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods or wildfires during 2017. If you’d like to ensure continued good fortune in the coming year, celebrate New Year’s Day by consuming some lucky food.

By this point in the holiday season, any food containing no sugar or fat would be a lucky break for the digestive system. Something healthy like kale springs to mind, but alas it is not traditionally associated with good fortune, although some other decidedly humble and equally healthy foods are.

In Japan, New Year’s Eve usually features a hot or cold soba noodle dish. Noodle shops in Japan stay open all night on New Year’s Eve to accommodate the demand for toshikoshi soba, or “year-bridging” soba noodles. Buckwheat is a hardy crop, so buckwheat noodles signify resiliency and strength. In many Asian cultures, long noodles symbolize long life. Buckwheat noodles are also easy to cut, the better to cut off bad luck and debts of the old year. And on a chilly day, hot soba noodles warm the soul.

N E W   Y E A R ’ S   S O B A   N O O D L E S

1 10 oz. pkg. soba (buckwheat) noodles
6 cups dashi stock
34 cup light soy sauce
12 cup mirin
1 Tbsp. sugar
6 scallions, sliced into thin rounds
Dashi stock:
1 qt. cold water
1 4-inch square kombu (dried kelp), rinsed
13 cup bonito flakes
Place cold water and kombu in a saucepan and set aside to soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Set saucepan over medium heat and bring water just to a boil. Add bonito flakes and immediately remove from heat. Do not boil the kombu, as it will turn slimy. Let dashi set for 10 minutes, then strain, pressing down to remove as much liquid and flavor as possible.

Cook the soba according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water. Drain again and set aside. Mix dashi, soy sauce, mirin and sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until broth comes to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Portion soba noodles into four deep bowls. Ladle hot broth over the noodles and sprinkle each serving with scallions. Serve immediately.

In Italy, along with fish, lentils are eaten during New Year’s celebrations. Lentils are a symbol for coins, and it’s believed that eating them on New Year’s Eve will bring wealth in the new year (in Piedmonte, however, rice symbolizes coins, so the traditional meal there includes white risotto). While New Year’s lentils usually contain some form of pork sausage, you can jumpstart your new healthy, lighter eating resolutions by leaving out the pork and combining lentils and rice for twice the luck in this simple lentil-rice pilaf.

L E N T I L - R I C E   P I L A F

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, sliced
2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
134 cups vegetable broth
12 cup dried lentils, rinsed and drained
12 cup long-grain white rice
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley
Heat oil in skillet. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook until tender. Add broth, lentils and rice. Heat to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat 20 minutes or until done. Stir in tomatoes and parsley.


Last New Year’s a friend in Florida promised me a traditional New Year’s dinner if I arrived there in time for the holiday. I didn’t make it, and while I can’t take responsibility for all the bad luck that ensued, including the hurricane that hit the state, I feel very unlucky not to have sampled the promised collard greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread and Hoppin’ John.

Collards are available in the markets right now, so if you want to cook up your own good luck, serve some on New Year’s Day, first saving a few uncooked greens to hang over the door to ward off evil spirits.

S O U T H E R N - S T Y L E   C O L L A R D   G R E E N S

12 bacon slices, finely chopped
2 medium-size sweet onions, finely chopped
34 pound smoked ham, chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
12 cups chicken broth
3 lbs. fresh collard greens, washed and trimmed
13 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cook bacon in a 10-quart stockpot over medium heat until almost crisp. Add onion, and sauté 10 minutes; add ham and garlic, and sauté an additional minute. Stir in broth and remaining ingredients. Cook two hours or to desired degree of tenderness.

Sop these greens up with some Southern-style cornbread, that is, cornbread made with no flour, stone-ground cornmeal and NO sugar. I love my own favorite cornbread recipe, which calls for flour, oats and a bit of sugar as well as cornmeal, but should I serve this to my Southern friend, I can imagine her comment: “Ah wudn’t put that mess in mah mouth.”

S K I L L E T   C O R N B R E A D

3 cups stone-ground cornmeal
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. baking powder
34 tsp. baking soda
212 cups buttermilk
3 eggs
112 sticks unsalted butter, melted, divided
Place a well-seasoned 12-inch cast iron skillet on the center rack of the oven and preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, whisk cornmeal with salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk with eggs and continue to whisk while drizzling in all but one tablespoon melted butter. Mix liquid ingredients into dry ingredients until thoroughly combined; avoid over-mixing. Pour reserved tablespoon melted butter into preheated skillet and swirl to coat bottom and sides. Scrape batter into prepared skillet, smoothing the top gently with a rubber spatula. Bake until cornbread is lightly browned on top and a skewer inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes in skillet, then serve warm.