December 23, 2016  -  Vol. VIII No. 26
A Merry Mediterranean New Year's

Traditional New Year’s meals around the world celebrate abundance and prosperity, things we all want in the coming year. Abundance doesn’t have to mean gluttony, however. This New Year’s, try indulging in the diversity of color, flavors, and foods of the Mediterranean diet. Splurge on a nice extra virgin olive oil, dried figs, or an imported Mediterranean cheese, and use them to spruce up winter vegetables and whole grains. 

To incorporate Mediterranean customs into your celebrations, try featuring foods like … 

Pomegranates. Pomegranates are a Greek symbol of good luck and fertility, and it’s customary for families to hang a pomegranate in the entryway of their home through the twelve days of Christmas. On New Year’s Eve, one lucky family member gets to smash the pomegranate to reveal its seeds. The more seeds that scatter, the better. 

12 Great Ways to Use Pomegranates

Lentils. In Italy, lentils are thought to bring wealth in the new year because they resemble little coins. They are usually served with pork sausage - sliced into rounds of course!

12 Great Ways to Use Lentils

Grapes. In Spain, it’s customary to eat twelve grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve, one for every chime of the clock. Each grape also symbolizes a month in the coming year. A sweeter grape could mean you’ll have a better-than-average month. 

12 Great Ways to Use Grapes

For the main event at your New Year’s Eve party, try serving a variety of seasonal small plate dishes, buffet-style. Choose dishes that can be prepared ahead of time and that taste great at room temperature, so you’ll be able to relax and spend more time socializing with family and friends. Sharing dishes also makes the dining experience more communal, casual, and fun. That’s what the Mediterranean lifestyle is all about.

Here are a few ideas to try:

  • Tasty dips - hummus, muhammara, etc. - with whole grain pita, warmed in the oven
  • Stuffed grape leaves 
  • Preserved roasted red peppers, artichokes, and mushrooms
  • Spanish tortilla, cut into bite-sized wedges
  • Dates stuffed with cheese and almonds
  • Shrimp, chicken, and lamb kebabs, served with tzatziki
  • A winter salad made with seasonal winter vegetables and fruits like oranges, grapefruit, or radicchio. Add dried fruit, nuts, and serve it with rich balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

For something bubbly, try serving a Mediterranean sparkling wine like Spanish Cava or Italian Prosecco. Cava tends to be a bit drier and Prosecco sweeter and fruitier. They are both great alternatives to Champagne, and perfect for if you want to break away from the classic this New Year's.

Ask guests to bring simple snacks for all-night grazing like mixed olives, fresh fruit for a cheese plate, or nuts and dried fruit. The more the merrier! We have an entire year ahead of us, full of possibilities to do things better, but let’s not forget to enjoy this New Year’s celebration and close the year on a positive note. Relish the meal and the company, in true Mediterranean style. 

Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy New Year, from all of us at Oldways.

Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipes.

Sautéed Bosc Pears with Toasted Walnuts

This simple fruit dessert combines sweet pears and crunchy walnuts with cinnamon and spices. The cut pears are visually impressive and tasty, for minimal effort in the kitchen. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of California Walnuts.

Peanut Caramel Popcorn

Popcorn is a whole grain snack you can feel good about. This recipe makes it just a little bit more decadent with the addition of peanut butter and honey. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of The Peanut Institute.

White Bean Pasta e Fagioli

Warm up to this classic Italian pasta and bean soup, perfect for a cozy night in. It's a great first course for a smaller gathering. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of Barilla
Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be.