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Vegetarian Cookbook without garlic?

I realize this post is anathema to the garlic-lovers out there, but here's the point of it: I've got a garlic intollerance. Not a full-on allergy (thank goodness) but unpleasant things happen to my body if I eat more than a trace, and more than a hint pretty much ruins any dish for me anyway because it simply kills my appetite. I discovered this after some vegetarians had me over and there was nothing to eat but thousand garlic lasagna, and, well, it was unpleasant.

Anyway, I have a fairly substantial cookbook collection, but only one vegetarian one because, as I discovered with that book (The Greens Cookbook) and every other one I've looked at since, vegetarian cookbooks seem to equate the words "delicious" and "flavorful" with "contains garlic." And simply substituting or omitting is a recipe for boring food.

Anyone able to point to a vegetarian cookbook where, with the exception of the desserts section, there is not an over-reliance on garlic? I haven't found one with less than a one-in-three percentage containing garlic, and even that estimate seems generous.

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  1. Well, all I can imagine is that you consult cookbooks designed for use by followers of Jainism, as they do not eat any members of the onion family. It's a religion based in the Indian subcontinent, so perhaps there are English-language resources for that?

    1. You may want to try "The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking" by Yamuna Devi. The recipes use no onion or garlic, and are very good, though I must admit to sometimes adding some myself.

      1 Reply
      1. re: phofiend

        Ditto what phofiend said. Good book.

      2. Have you tried substituting shallots in recipes that call for garlic?

        1. Actually, shallots are my standard substitution in most recipes, and I've found that bay, rosemary, lavender and truffles are all pungent enough to take the place while still keeping a flavor balance. That said, I tend to distrust any cook with an over-reliance on a single ingredient. I wouldn't think much of a cookbook that had shallots in every dish either.

          On the Indian cooking end, I've found that if I want garlic flavor without actually having garlic, asafoetida works well, though it's a rather evil spice to have in the cabinet uncooked, at least smell-wise.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Kevin Andrew Murphy

            Yes, asafoetida, and keep it double wrapped. Do you use the powdered stuff or the solid chunks? The powdered usually is cut with starch and may be less stinky in the cupboard. But I have found it a very useful spice for vegetarian cooking in general. That, black salt, and miso are secret weapons for adding 'meaty' flavor to dishes that might otherwise use meat stocks. Smoked paprika gives your bacon action. (Or lox trimmings if you eat fish.)

            Yamuna Devi's book is great, and has changed a lot of my non-Indian cooking too.

            Getting over the garlic-in-every-dish obsession has vastly improved my cooking. I still love garlic, but no longer view it as culinary panacea.

            1. re: noahbirnel

              Ah, my secret weapon to add "meaty" flavor to vegetarian dishes (or more meat complexity to meat dishes) is lovage. Thankfully I've got it established in my garden, though I did once see it for sale in Whole Foods plants for your garden section.

              Lovage is particularly good for soups and stews, since it can take the place of celery leaves, but is also good for salads, really adding complexity.

          2. 2nd Devi's book in that it has no garlic (it's on my to-try list).

            Also, almost all traditional Chinese vegetarian books will have no garlic and scallion based on the Buddhist principles. However most of them are in Chinese, though more and more have English translations. They are photo-heavy, so you know what you're getting.
            Anyways, the main aromatic when there's no garlic is ginger and sesame oil, and/or chili, and herbs (cilantro) is used quite often especially in spicy dishes. If you want I may be able to get some ideas from the books on my shelf.

            1. Why not just omit the garlic from recipes that call for it? I can't imagine any recipe where the absence of garlic would have any significant effect on the finished product, other than the flavour. You can always increase other seasonings to compensate, if you feel it's necessary.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Nyleve

                Well, it's the absence of flavor that's the problem. I'm perfectly good at spicing things to my taste and dressing up a dish. My objection is to cookbooks that are over-reliant on a single herb or spice. Unless that's the theme of the book, I think it's the mark of a poor chef, and I don't see any reason to support them by purchasing such unimaginative books.

                1. re: Kevin Andrew Murphy

                  I agree that for some reason we have become totally obsessed with garlic in North America. I don't know if it's an overreaction to the blandness of 1950's food or a misinterpreatation of ethnic cooking, but you're right - it's everywhere. When you travel in Europe or the Middle East, you definitely don't find garlic to be so assertively predominant, even in dishes that N. Americans tend to overload with garlic - like hummus or pasta sauces, for example. Despite the Italian reputation for being garlic-intensive, I've found Italian cooking in Italy is substantially more subdued in the garlic department. My usual tactic is to simply reduce the amount of garlic in the recipe so that it suits my taste. I don't see any point in discarding perfectly good recipes just because they contain more garlic than I feel is appropriate. You can easily compensate with other seasonings, in most cases.

                  I think that part of the problem may be that we throw extra garlic into a dish to make up for inferior ingredients. If tomatoes are really flavourful you don't need much else to make a great sauce. If you start with a good rich stock, you can make a delicious soup without any garlic at all.

                  I would look for a cookbook that is written by a competent chef or writer - garlic be damned. Then, at least you can be sure you're getting a decent recipe and you can adjust the garlic yourself or leave it out altogether.

                  1. re: Nyleve

                    Close, but there's another reason. American palates, due to the constant saturation of processed foods, have gotten even more accustomed to Big! Bold! Flavors! (Meaning more salt/MSG, more sugar, more hot pepper/sauce and...more garlic (and, increasingly, more cilantro)).

                    1. re: Karl S

                      I'm sure you're right about that. It never ceases to amaze me how processed foods taste so SCREAMINGLY like the thing they're supposed to be. Much much more intense than the natural flavour of the food. So now people think there's something wrong with their cooking when they're just something wrong with their palates!

              2. Have a look around for yogic cookbooks - yogis do not eat garlic or onions, and I've had some recipes from a yogic cookbook that were delicious without containing either one. I can only tolerate a little, well-cooked garlic at a time, so I sympathize with the OP.

                I do the scallion trick as well - I make hummus with it and it's a lovely flavour.

                1. most recipes i see typically call for 1 or 2 cloves of garlic in a dish that will serve 4 or 6. i can't see how omitting that will utterly flatten a dish. if the dish isn't working, there's more likely an imbalance in the salt or acid departments.