Monday, June 13, 2011

Learning to Eat: Vegetable Jalfrezi

(First, thanks for the lovely comments on my last post ... I swear, I wasn't fishing for compliments!)

This weekend, at the suggestions of the pediatrician last week at N.'s four month checkup, we fed N. rice cereal for the first time.  She's been eying my plate for over two weeks now when she sits on my lap, sometimes very intently batting at it with her hand, and in the last few days, she has been following the food with eyes that say, "c'mon now, really?  you're not even going to give me a bite?!"  At coffee hour, when I'm wearing her facing forward, she strains towards the plate of cake, and at a barbecue this weekend, she actually interrupted the fork en route to my mouth.  While I know that the introduction of solid foods is controversial, especially among breastfeeding mamas, and that now many people recommend starting at six months or even later, we did it this way with my son when he seemed ready (also at four months), and it seemed to work, so we decided to do the same when N. was ready, too, provided it was suggested by her doctor.  I think that learning to eat should be a fun activity, and though we don't plan to make solids her sole source of sustenance for a long, long time, we will likely combine the approaches of "give the baby a bunch of mushy food on her tray and some of it will get into her mouth" and "feed the baby by hand."   We started with the latter, and she actually pulled my hand, holding the spoon, into her mouth, where she gobbled it up.  Not much came back out, either.  She's a quick study, that girl.  I almost felt badly about feeding her something so bland, and had to restrain myself from running to the kitchen for some garam masala to season it.

On the one hand, the milestone made me sad that my little girl is growing up so fast; as much as I don't love being on constant Bo.oby Call at the All Day Cafe, I love how she looks up at me, nestles into me, when I am feeding her.  I love her wide eyes, her little half-smile when she's awake and nursing.  I waited so long for her to come ... and already, in imperceptible ways, she's leaving.  At the same time I'm excited that I'll soon be able to introduce her to the rich diversity of foods that I have come to enjoy.  Our CSA starts soon, and I'll be able to feed N. some of the amazing fresh organic produce that comes from a farm just down the road from us.  She is a lucky child, to have summer vegetables for her first foods.

As I scooped away the leftovers of this dish the other night, I thought to myself that it would make an excellent advanced baby puree.  Move over, Ty.ler Flo.rence.

Vegetable Jalfrezi
Serves 4-6, adapted from Marcus Samuelsson's New American Table

1 lb unpeeled sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 c. lentils
1/2 c. peeled and diced carrots (2-3 carrots)
2 eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 T. olive oil
4 green Thai chiles or 2 dried chiles de arbol, seeded and chopped (optional; I omitted these)
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 red onions, chopped
2 T. garam masala
1 t. yellow mustard seeds
1 t. ground cumin
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 c. coconut milk
Juice of 2 limes
1 T. chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-6 pita rounds
Lemon-tahini sauce (recipe below)
Whole wheat pitas (for serving)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes, lentils, carrots, and eggplants and boil for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chiles, garlic, onions, garam masala, mustard seeds, cumin and tomatoes and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and reserved sweet potatoes, lentils, carrots, and eggplants and simmer until the veggies are softened, another 10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

Slice the pitas to form pockets. Spoon in the vegetables. Drizzle with lemon-tahini sauce.

Lemon-Tahini Sauce

1 Twater (plus more to taste)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t. sesame seeds
1 t. za'atar (I made my own - 1/4 cup sumac, 2 tbsp thyme, 1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds, 2 tbsp marjoram, 2 tbsp oregano, 1 tsp coarse salt - whiz together in food processor/blender/spice grinder)
2 T. tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1 T. hopped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the ingredients in a food processor. Puree until smooth. Add more water and salt/pepper to taste.
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  1. oh man, I'm all over this. my obsessive preference for this flavor palate suggests i was very recently from india, you know, in another life. then again, maybe it was just having reread the jungle book recently..

  2. I got M a bebepod yesterday and she looks so freaking grown up sitting it in it makes me want to scream "NO!!!" Wow, N is already interested in solids. I keep saying that I will wait until M does the same, shows interest. But I secretly keep hoping it will be a long time off.

  3. Wow four months. Little P is two months today! It goes so fast.

  4. Hey! did you get my email about The Pomegranate Society?

  5. That looks delicious! A lucky child indeed!

  6. Super delicious. Great recipe. Thanks for posting this...



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