When Leena Saini’s daughter was ready for solid food, she researched foods that babies around the world were eating. She interviewed mothers from different backgrounds, read cookbooks and international parenting books, and visited abroad to see what babies were offered. Saini discovered that babies were being served a broad range of foods, often just a pureed or mashed version of what their parents were eating, helping them to acclimate to their culture’s flavors at a young stage. Her research inspired her to create Around the World in 80 Purees: Easy Recipes for Global Baby Food a cookbook for other parents who are interested in introducing their child to the flavors of the world. Her Habichuelas con dulce recipe (below) is a seasonal, and not too exotic, dish to dip into. As always, follow your pediatrician’s food and feeding guidelines for your baby.
Habichuelas Con Dulce
Makes about 3 cups
Habichuelas con dulce (pronounced “ah-bee-chweh-lahs cawn dool-seh”) traditionally is served in many Dominican households during Lent and also as a food for babies. This baby-friendly version uses a bit less milk and sugar than the original; the sweet potatoes and raisins lend natural sweetness. And it’s packed with nutrition—protein and fiber from the beans and vitamin A and beta-carotene from the sweet potato.
1 cup dried kidney beans
2 tablespoons unsulphured raisins
½ cup peeled and diced sweet potatoes
1 cup coconut milk
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
Prep: Pick over kidney beans for small stones and detritus and then rinse. Place in a bowl with a generous amount of water and soak overnight. The next morning, drain beans and discard liquid.
Make: In a 2-quart saucepan, place beans, 4 cups water, and raisins. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, adding water if the level over the beans drops to less than an inch, for 45 to 55 minutes, until soft. Toward the end of cooking time, mash beans with a wooden spoon or potato masher.
In a 1-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring sweet potatoes and enough water to cover them to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and steam for about 7 to 10 minutes, until potatoes are soft. Drain and set aside. Transfer cooked beans and potatoes to a mini food processor and puree with a little water to achieve a thick, soup-like consistency. Use a strainer to remove pieces of skins and other solids. Return strained mixture to pot and add coconut milk, cinnamon, and cloves. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat, until mixture reduces a bit and is creamy.
Serve: Serve warm or at room temperature.
Excerpted from Around the World in 80 Purees: Easy Recipes for Global Baby Food by Leena Saini. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.