Lately I feel like I’m in the middle of a baby boom, with many friends and colleagues becoming new or expectant mothers. That made me think about my first weeks home with my sons and the support I received. While I valued the cards, visits, flowers and baby clothes, I think what I most appreciated were the gifts of healthy, prepared food that allowed me to just reheat and eat. As any new parent knows, there are days when shopping and cooking are not on your baby’s agenda.
If you are planning to bring food to a new mother, remember she needs lots of fiber, iron, protein, folic acid and calcium. Nursing mothers need to introduce certain foods slowly to make sure their babies are unaffected. Whenever possible, choose pesticide-free ingredients, and check with the new parents in case they have any special requests.
Chickpeas are considered good for new mothers. They also have a long tradition of being served at brit milahs, naming ceremonies and other rites for Jewish newborns. One reason given is that an angel teaches all of the Torah to the infant in the womb and then makes the child forget before birth. The infant is said to be in mourning for the lost knowledge. Chickpeas are said to be a mourning food, since their round shape exemplifies the circular nature of life.
Here the chickpeas are used to make a dish with mild Sephardic flavors. Dried fruit is also recommended for new moms, and this versatile Ashkenazi compote can also be served with oatmeal or mixed with yogurt.
Chickpeas and Spinach with Yogurt Mint Sauce
This makes a mild dish. For a spicier one, double the garlic, black pepper and cumin and add a dash of ground cayenne red pepper.
1 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbs. minced fresh mint leaves
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. olive oil
1⁄2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1⁄8 tsp. salt
1⁄8 tsp. ground black pepper
1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄8 tsp. ground cumin
1 15 oz. can cooked
chickpeas, rinsed well and drained (about 13⁄4 cups)
12 oz. fresh spinach leaves
1 cup vegetable broth
21⁄2 cups cooked brown rice
Combine yogurt, mint and lemon juice in a bowl. Stir well and set aside for an hour.
Heat oil in large fry pan over medium high heat. Sauté onion until softened, add garlic and sauté until just brown. Add salt, pepper, cinnamon and cumin and sauté for a minute. Add chickpeas, stirring well. Place spinach leaves on top of chickpea mixture, packing down if necessary. Add vegetable broth. Cover. Cook until spinach is cooked, stirring occasionally so spinach and chickpeas are thoroughly mixed. Taste and correct seasonings. Serve on brown rice topped with yogurt sauce.
Stewed Fruit Compote
I used a combination of prunes, apricots, cherries and figs for my compote, but any selection of dried fruits will work.
1 lb. mixed dried and pitted fruits
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1⁄2 cup water
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
In a small pot, mix fruit, lemon zest and water. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until just simmering. Cover. Put heat on low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until fruit is soft and most of the liquid is evaporated. (Cooking times may vary depending on fruit.) Remove from heat, stir in juice. Serve warm, room temperature or cold.
Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs her food at www.clickblogappetit.blogspot.com. Contact her at