A Brazilian-Style New Year’s Celebration!

Eating grapes or pomegranates at the stroke of midnight (then keeping the seeds in your wallet) are some of the many New Year’s superstitions followed around the world. They range from the simple to the elaborate and most are diligently followed in hopes of a better year. These superstitions are taken most seriously in Brazil, where I was born. Rio de Janeiro hosts the most spectacular New Year’s party around the globe.

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Superstitious beliefs abound and dressing in white is at the top of the list. Thousands flock to the beaches to render homage to Yemaja, the deity of the Oceans. Little boats filled with white flowers and beads are thrown to the waves where the hopeful stand in white.  Fireworks explode in a myriad of colors and shapes. Throughout the city, parties abound and the bubbly corks explode in the air while all shades of white populate the landscape.

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A Brazilian-style New Year’s party might be the perfect theme for you this year. After all the hurdles of years past, we are more than ready for a blessed and fruitful 2014. Why not try to help out the planets?

Ask your guests to dress in white. It is a must. As far as the underwear goes, there are some rules as well: white for peace, red for love and yellow for prosperity.

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The table is usually a buffet decorated with white flowers and lots of bling.  Champagne should be at hand for the midnight toast. Green grapes are on the top of the grocery list, followed by lentils and pomegranates. The menu should contain foods that can be served at room temperature. This is not a time to be in the kitchen.

My perfect supper would be a delicious ham (I have heard that Martha Stewart has a great recipe for ham with pear and cranberries on her site), a lentil salad, a pomegranate salad and many bowls of green grapes. No heavy desserts. Buy assorted chocolate bites, like truffles, that pair beautifully with champagne.

Lentil Grape Salad

A couple years ago I took this Lentil Salad to a friend’s home and it was a hit:

For 4 servings

2 cups of dried green French lentils (lentils de Puy)

Cook the lentils in low sodium vegetable or chicken broth with salt and pepper and  2 bay leaves. Be careful not to overcook them. Drain pour over the dressing while they are still hot.

Also add:  golden raisins soaked in rum, candied pecans or chopped walnuts and green scallions

I also love to add some cubed roasted beets which you can substitute for halved grapes

Dressing:

Sweet curry powder ( I usually buy it at Penzey’s spices)

Rice vinegar

Maple syrup(make sure you get the real deal)

Mustard

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

cauliflower pomegranate salad

Cauliflower and Pomegranate salad:

For 4 people

Roast one head of cauliflower with olive oil and salt and pepper in a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until soft, but not mushy.

Prepare a dressing using Tahini, lemon juice and olive oil, salt and pepper. Dress the cauliflower while hot and sprinkle some pomegranate over it.

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You toasted the New Year with a flute of bubbly, ate the grapes and the lentils, the pomegranate seeds are already inside your wallet and now it is bedtime – white pajamas and crisp white linens should be waiting for you. Light a nice scented candle and think good thoughts before lights out. Happy 2014!

Now that you have done all of it and your next year will be fantastic, make sure to call your travel agent and book your next New Year’s in Rio to see in person what it is all about!

~Patricia de Niemeyer Kahane~

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