START 2013 RIGHT with food that symbolizes good luck. These easy appetizers are perfect for New Year's Eve or New Year's Day entertaining, too.
"Long noodles are associated with long life and good health," said Hiroko Shimbo, author of Hiroko's American Kitchen (Andrews McMeel, $24.99). Here she turns soba noodles into sushi rolls. Pair with your favorite cold dipping sauce.
Slice 1 medium mango, half an avocado and 1 peeled Kirby or pickling cucumber into 1/2-by-3 1/2-inch sticks. Slice 3 ounces smoked salmon into 1-inch-wide strips.
Divide 9 ounces soba noodles into 4 portions; bind one end of each together with twine. Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water per package instructions. Drain; leave twine on. Rinse noodles well under cold water; drain. Pat dry with a paper towel.
Lay a bamboo sushi rolling mat on your work surface; ready 4 sheets nori seaweed. Position 1 nori sheet on the mat with one edge flush with the mat edge nearest you. Place 1 bundle cooked noodles at the nori's near edge, with the tied end protruding from the right side. Cut off the tied end; discard. Spread the noodles to cover two-thirds of the nori sheet, leaving the top exposed.
Place 2 avocado sticks, 3 each of the mango and cucumber sticks, and one-quarter of the salmon across the edge nearest you. Roll nori tightly around noodles. Make three more rolls; cut each into 8 pieces.
Makes 32 pieces.
The southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas - or any field peas for that matter - for good luck often shows up in pea-and-rice hoppin' John. Here the legumes become a salsa-styled appetizer from Sheri Castle's The New Southern Garden Cookbook. Serve with tortilla chips - or with saltines as they do in Texas, where this is sometimes called Texas caviar.
Place 2 cups frozen black-eyed peas in a large saucepan. Add cold water to cover by 2 inches and a pinch of salt; heat to a boil. Skim off foam, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain; transfer to a mixing bowl. (You may also use canned black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed.)
Stir in 1/4-cup each red wine vinegar and vegetable oil, 1/2-teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, teaspoon hot sauce, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2-teaspoon each ground black pepper and ground cumin; let beans cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Stir in 1/2-cup fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained; 1/2-cup corn kernels; 1/2-cup diced red bell pepper; 1/4-cup finely chopped onion; 1/4-cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley; 1 to 2 pickled or fresh jalapeños, finely chopped; and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh or canned mild green chilies. Cover; refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. To serve, stir well and check seasoning. Makes 2 cups.
Go for the green
The color green on New Year's means wealth in several cultures, including the South, while pork symbolizes progress or wealth and prosperity throughout much of Europe and in Cuba. These mini-tarts combine those ingredients.
Remove the stems from 1 bunch chard, saving the stems for another use. Chop the leaves coarsely; wilt in a large stock pot with a little water until soft. Drain; allow to cool. Wring out as much liquid as possible with your hands. Place chard in a bowl; add 1/2-pound ricotta, 1/4-teaspoon salt, 4 lightly beaten eggs, 1 link cooked Mexican chorizo sausage (casing removed, crumbled), 1 clove garlic, minced and sautéed, 1/2-cup finely chopped sautéed onions.
Roll out a savory dough for two 9-inch pies (or use frozen, prepared dough, thawed) on a lightly floured surface. Cut into circles wide enough to tuck into individual 2-inch tartlet pans or small muffin tin cups. Tuck crust into pans or muffin tin.
Fill the crusts with chard mixture. (You may have some mixture leftover.) Top each with a small slice of red bell pepper.
Bake at 350 degrees until filling is set and crusts are golden brown, 30 minutes.
Makes about 24 tartlets.