By Nicky D Cooks
I like New Year’s Day; out with the old and in with the new is my mantra. I am always optimistic for what a brand new year will bring. I always like the fresh start of a new year, but that is just me. Growing up, we usually ate lentil soup on New Year’s Day.
According to my mother (Ma), who is the authority on such matters, “since we are Italian we eat lentils in our family on New Year’s Day in order to keep the malocchio (bad luck/evil eye) away—you must eat the right food on the first day of the New Year in order to start the year out correctly”.
Once again this is one of those things in my life that I just accept as gospel truth. When an Italian mother tells you about a family tradition- you go with it and never question it.
Why lentils you ask? I was always told that these little legumes symbolize good luck, good fortune and money due to their round shape; it resembles coins. And by eating lentils it is supposed to bring money, fortune and buona fortuna (good luck) for the upcoming year. Knowing that, who wouldn’t want to eat this as the first dish of the New Year?
Pork, kielbasa and sauerkraut are the traditional foods served here Pittsburgh. The thought of adding a legume to the mix- well it could cause a gastronomic nightmare. So since moving to Pittsburgh and eating the local New Years Day cuisine, I play it safe and eat my lentils the day after my pork and sauerkraut feast.
So far it has worked out pretty well and I am keeping up my traditions. Plus I am a superstitious person so I am afraid not to eat the lentils. I guess this is a product of being raised in an Italian house.
Have I passed on this tradition or as my husband likes to call it neurosis, to my children? Yes, I have. I do make each of my children eat at least single lentil to keep the malocchio away. They sit there eating a lentil, looking at me while I am telling them that the lentil will keep them safe from the evil eye. It is quite comical I admit, but I am only doing my job as an Italian mother.
If you do not eat it on the first day of January, does it mean that bad luck will come? No. But I do recommend eating these delicious legumes. Lentils have a mild yet wonderful taste. They are nutritious, rich in vitamin and fiber, low fat and a good source of protein.
I want to share with you my recipe for lentil soup. If you want to try this New Year Dish or if you are looking to try a different twist on lentil soup, I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. I made this a vegetarian version by using water instead of chicken stock, but by all means use chicken stock and it will make a richer and fuller soup that is equally as delicious.
I hope that you enjoy it.
Nicky D Cooks Very Veggie Lentil Soup Recipe
- 1 – 2 onion, chopped
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- Small bag of carrots sliced
- 1 celery heart, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (32-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 lb bag dry lentils- cleaned
- 8c water
- Handful of fresh chopped Italian Parsley (optional)
- Kosher salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Freshly grated Italian Cheese to garnish
In a large soup pot, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery; cook and stir for several minutes until vegetables are tender. Stir in garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
Stir in lentils, and add water, tomatoes and parsley.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for at least 30-40 minutes or so or until the lentils are soft. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the grated cheese once you serve it.
If you have some good crusty Italian Bread, serve it with the soup and this will be a perfect cold weather meal.
Nicky D Cooks: I am owner and operator of Nicky D Cooks -Authentic Handcrafted Italian Biscotti and Pizzelle. I can be found on my blog and webpage @ http://www.nickydcooks.com/.