Marie's Kitchen: A taste of good luck for the new year

Date Published: 
December 27, 2013

With this column, I complete eight full years writing “Marie’s Kitchen.” Without faithful readers, and great chefs and cooks who agreed to be highlighted in the column, this would not have been possible. My heartfelt thanks and sincere wishes to all for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

Coastal Point • Marie Cook: Marie Cook conjured up some of this Garlicky Lentil Soup for her holiday column.Coastal Point • Marie Cook: Marie Cook conjured up some of this Garlicky Lentil Soup for her holiday column.I shared in a recent column that I’ve been battling a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and underwent weekly chemo infusion treatments from July to September 2013. It is with great joy that I share the results of my recent PET scan: Everything in both lungs is gone — everything! I am in total remission!

It will take time for my B-cells to regenerate to increase my energy, but I’m back at World Gym and getting stronger with every workout. Life is good! God is good! I am truly blessed! Thanks to all those who have kept the prayer light burning for me. I couldn’t have done it without you!

Every New Year’s Day, I serve pork roast and sauerkraut — two foods at the top of the list of Top 7 foods to serve on New Year’s Day to bring good fortune all year long. Check out the list:

(1) Pork and sauerkraut: The Pennsylvania Dutch believe that you’ll have good luck if you eat them together on New Year’s Day. Why? Pigs are forward-thinking animals. All four hooves point forward and they root forward, too. Pigs are also rotund, symbolizing abundance. And the long strands of sauerkraut symbolize long life. All pork products are fair game, including sausage, ham, etc.

(2) Black-eyed peas and collard greens: Our Southern neighbors prefer black-eyed peas, because they are shaped like coins, and greens remind them of paper money.

(3) Grapes: Originally a Spanish tradition, eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight has also become popular in the U.S. The dozen grapes symbolize the 12 months in the new year. But count the grapes as you go, because if, say, grape No. 4 is bitter, you should be prepared in the fourth month to experience a bit of difficulty. Fruits of many kinds consumed on New Year’s Eve or Day are also good luck.

(4) Beans and lentils: Again, beans and lentils are round like coins and represent good fortune. Often, Italians will pair lentils with sausage or pork, and Brazilians enjoy lentil soup with or without rice.

(5) Pomegranates: I find pomegranate juice bitter, but apparently this fruit is linked with increasing longevity and curing heart disease. When the New Year turns, Greeks often smash a pomegranate on the floor in front of their door to break it open and reveal seeds symbolizing prosperity and good fortune; the more seeds, the more luck.

(6) Herring: I will not be eating herring on New Year’s Day — pickled or otherwise. Sardines are suggested for those of us opposed to herring, but, again, that won’t be happening. Each year I say, “Marie, this is the year to eat sardines, because they are so good for you,” but the years come and go and, alas, no sardines pass my lips; 2013 is no exception.

Fish are said to be lucky, too, because the scales resemble coins; they swim in schools, which invokes the idea of abundance; and they swim forward, symbolizing progress. That sounds like a stretch of the imagination to me, but I have a great imagination and I love fish, so it works for me.

(7) Soba noodles: Slurp soba noodles without breaking them. In Japan, long buckwheat noodles symbolize long life, but only if you eat them without chewing or breaking them. I won’t be slurping anything on New Year’s Day, so I’ll be counting on the long strands of sauerkraut to lengthen my life.

My all-time favorite pork recipe is from “The New Antoinette Pope School Cookbook,” which is definitely not new anymore, since the earliest edition was published in 1948. My edition is from 1961.

The recipe suggests adding browned potatoes for the final hour of cooking, but I prefer to make a big pot of mashed potatoes and top them with a glob of butter! I also skip rubbing the clove of garlic all over the roast and substitute a generous sprinkling of granulated garlic. Generally, I roast pork loin for 35 minutes per pound.

Pork Roast & Sauerkraut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Ingredients:

? 1 3-pound piece boneless pork roast

? 1/4 cup Crisco shortening (I now use canola oil.)

? 1 bag (2 pounds) sauerkraut (I use a bag of Dietz & Watson brand.)

? Salt

Pepper

? 1 clove garlic

? 1 pound potatoes

Method for Pork Roast and Sauerkraut:

Empty sauerkraut into a colander and run cold water through it. Do not drain too thoroughly. Place sauerkraut in a roasting pan. Season pork roast with salt, pepper and garlic, and brown on all sides in hot shortening. Place browned pork roast on top of sauerkraut, pour drippings over meat, cover and roast at 325 degrees about 2-1/2 hours or until pork roast has reached the desired temperature. One pound of potatoes that have been peeled, quartered and browned in shortening may be added to the roast the last hour. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Lentils are on the New Year’s Day list because they are said to resemble coins. Lentils are high in fiber and do not require soaking before cooking. Garlicky Lentil Soup is a hearty vegetarian recipe from one of my many cookbooks dedicated to soups, soups and more soups: “The Complete Book of 400 Soups,” by Consultant Editor Anne Sheasby. Of course, you can use chicken broth if you don’t care about the vegetarian aspect of this recipe. Garlic lover that I am, I usually add an extra clove, and I toss the onions, garlic cloves and carrots into my food processor and give them all a whirl — a real time-saver!

Garlicky Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

? 1 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained

? 2 onions, finely chopped

? 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped (I use three garlic cloves.)

? 1 carrot, finely chopped (I use two carrots.)

? 2 tablespoons olive oil

? 2 bay leaves

? A generous pinch of dried marjoram or oregano

? 2-1/2 pints (6-1/4 cups) vegetable stock

? 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

? Salt and ground black pepper

? Celery leaves to garnish

? Crusty bread/rolls to serve

Method for Garlicky Lentil Soup:

Into a large, heavy pan, place the lentils, onions, garlic, carrot, olive oil, bay leaves, marjoram or oregano and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent the lentils from sticking to the bottom. Remove the bay leaves and add the red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. If the soup is too thick, thin with a little more stock or water. Serve the soup in heated bowls, garnished with celery leaves. Serve with warm, crusty rolls. Yield: 6 servings.

In my last column, I highlighted Pepe Sandoval, one of South Coastal Library’s volunteers. Some of his recipes came to my attention in the library’s new cookbook, “Food & Art.” The following recipe for Peach Arugula Salad is also in the cookbook. If you don’t already have a copy of the book, don’t delay. I’m told that the remaining number of books is dwindling. At just $15, it’s a steal.

I’ve made Carol Kopay’s recipe for Peach Arugula Salad several times. The first time I followed the recipe as is, but realized that a whole peach is too much for one person. I have since served only half of a peach with each salad, and it works out great.

This recipe was originally printed in Eating Well magazine. It says to toast the pecans, but after the first go-round, I found that using finely chopped pecans without toasting was just as good and less time-consuming. Plan ahead: After you roll the log of goat cheese in the toasted pecans, it must chill in the refrigerator before slicing.

This recipe also qualifies for the New Year’s Day menu, using greens and fruit from the Top 7 list.

Peach Arugula Salad

Ingredients:

? 1/4 cup toasted, chopped pecans

? 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

? Black pepper to taste

? 1 log (4 ounces) goat cheese

? 6 cups arugula (4 ounces)

? 1 tablespoon olive oil

? Zest and juice of one lemon

? 4 peaches, halved and pitted

? 4 tablespoons honey

Method for Peach Arugula Salad:

Toast pecans by placing in a pan and cooking over low heat with 1/4-teaspoon salt and pepper or to taste. Roll goat cheese in pecans and wrap; place in refrigerator to chill. Zest the lemon and toss with arugula. Mix olive oil with lemon juice. To serve, toss greens with dressing and place on 4 plates. Put two halves of peaches on each plate. Slice goat cheese log into eight slices and place one slice on each of the peach halves where the pit was. Drizzle with honey. Yield: 4 servings.

Since all types of pork products are fair game on New Year’s Day, you could serve Mrs. Black’s Rice Dish, which uses bulk pork sausage. I’ve never met Mrs. Black, but her rice dish and I are best buds. She is a friend of a friend in Florida, and her rice dish has appeared on my table many times, sometimes as a side dish and other times as the main course, served with a green salad or a fresh fruit salad.

Mrs. Black’s Rice Dish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Ingredients:

? 1 package Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice

? 1 package (16 ounces) bulk pork sausage (Tennessee Pride or Jimmy Dean)

? 1 jar (4 ounces) diced pimientos, drained

? 1 cup chopped onions

? 1 cup chopped celery

? 1 clove garlic, chopped

? 1 jar (16 ounces) artichokes, drained and chopped

? 1 large jar sliced mushrooms, drained

Method for Mrs. Black’s Rice Dish:

Cook rice according to package directions and brown the sausage in a skillet. Drain grease from skillet. Mix rice, cooked sausage and all the rest of the ingredients; place in a 2-quart baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

For those who want to follow the Southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, cook up a batch of Hoppin’ John. My recipe is from “The Black Family Reunion Cookbook – Recipes & Food Memories from the National Council of Negro Women.”

Hoppin’ John

Ingredients:

? 6 cups water

? 1 pound dried black-eyed peas

? 1 cup cubed salt pork, rinsed

? 1 large green bell pepper, chopped

? 1 large onion, chopped

? 6 cloves garlic, minced

? 1 teaspoon ground cumin

? 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

? 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste

? 1 teaspoon chili powder

? 2 cups uncooked rice

? Salt and pepper to taste

Method for Hoppin’ John:

Combine water and black-eyed peas in a large saucepan. Cook until almost tender, about one hour. Add more water if needed.

Brown salt pork in medium skillet on medium heat. Add green pepper, onion, garlic, cumin and thyme. Stir and cook until browned. Add tomato paste and chili powder; stir. Add a little water; stir. Pour into beans. Add rice and stir. Add enough water to cover by 1-1/2 inches. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Slurping a soba noodle in one piece does not appeal to me, and watching my guests do it appeals to me even less. But if serving noodles on New Year’s Day is on your list, try one of my favorite pudding recipes: Noodle Kugel. A former co-worker in Florida shared her grandmother’s recipe with me. She said it was served at all their Jewish holiday dinners.

Noodle Kugel (Pudding)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Ingredients:

? No-stick cooking spray

? 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

? 1 16-ounce container cottage cheese

? 3 eggs, beaten

? 1/2 cup sugar

? 1/2 cup raisins

? 1/2 cup butter, melted

? 1 teaspoon vanilla

? 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

? 8 ounces wide egg noodles (about 5 cups), cooked and drained

Method for Noodle Kugel:

Spray an 11-by-7-by-2-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In medium bowl, stir cream cheese, cottage cheese, eggs and sugar until well blended. Stir in raisins, butter, vanilla and cinnamon. Add cooked egg noodles; mix well. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake in 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Let stand 20 minutes before serving. Yield: 8 servings.

(Editor’s note: If you have recipes to share, or recipes you want, contact Marie Cook, Coastal Point, P.O. Box 1324, Ocean View, DE 19970; or by email at ChefMarieCook@gmail.com. Please include your phone number. Recipes in this column are not tested by the Coastal Point.)