My Worst Nightmare

My Worst Nightmare

One of my personal chef clients just told me something that gives me the shivers. It’s not like I haven’t heard it before, but it’s always like having the rug pulled out from under me. What she told me is that she’d like me to cut out garlic completely for the next few months. One of her children is experiencing migraines and she thinks it may be some sort of food allergy. They already do without dairy and gluten, as well as most nuts except for pecans. But no garlic too?

It’s not like I use the stinky rose in all my recipes, but since their diet already limits my options, I’ve got a real challenge on my hands to come up with strong enough flavor in some of their favorite dishes. Lasagna, for instance, is something they order every week. I usually make it with ground turkey, red sauce (with garlic), pesto tofu (with garlic), soy cheese, and rice lasagna noodles.

For starters, I think I’ll toast the pecans and use lemon juice in the pesto. To make a rich and flavorful red sauce without garlic, I’ll add a little more olive oil than usual to saute plenty of onion. When the onion is soft and starting to stick, I’ll add shredded carrots (for sweetness) and saute them till they start to melt. Then I’ll add oregano and basil and some good balsamic vinegar and let it cook off for a few minutes. In will go the crushed tomatoes and some salt and pepper and I’ll let the whole thing simmer for a couple of hours on low with a flame tamer underneath.

When it comes to their favorite chicken and lamb stews, I’ll use great stock of course, plus Worcestershire sauce, wine, balsamic vinegar, and/or tamari to create deep, earthy flavors. I’ll add one or more of them to the caramelized onions, leeks, and/or sauteed mushrooms as a base for a flavorful broth, or near the end of the cooking time for more tang.

They also love meatloaf and cutlets. Sauteed shallots can go in with the meat and for the gravy, I’ll use nutritional yeast in place of the garlic. To make a gluten-free version, I’ll cook minced onion until soft in plenty of olive oil. Then I’ll add potato starch or rice flour to make a roux. When the roux smells nutty, I’ll add strong beef, turkey, or lamb stock (made with herbs like thyme and rosemary) a bit at a time. When the stock has been fully incorporated and whisked until smooth, I’ll melt in the nutritional yeast along with some salt and pepper and maybe a dash of tamari.

Toasted sesame oil may save the day as well. Their beloved noodles with roasted tahini citrus sauce won’t miss the garlic (too much)with a dribble of the dark and nutty oil and the kale, green beans, collards, or broccoli I usually saute with garlic for one of their side dishes can be laced with it too, along with toasted seeds, a dash of cayenne, and sprinkle of rice vinegar.

Okay, I’ve talked myself down from the ledge. It’s just another COG (culinary opportunity for growth). I’ve got to reach into the depths of my own culinary education and see what I can come up with.