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no onion or garlic-need a different savory flavor base!

  • m

Hi, I'm cooking a birthday dinner for a friend who doesn't eat onion or garlic, or anything else in that family. Every time I omit these ingredients, I am not satisfied with the results.

I'll be dressing beans, pasta, potatoes. The extra wrinkle? She's vegan, so I can't add meaty flavors, like bacon, sausage or anchovies. So far, I'm thinking rosemary, sage and lemon. Or maybe a basil or parsley pesto. I also have some fresh horseradish on hand.

Looking for a vibrant enough flavor profile that the onions, garlic won't be missed. Can you suggest alternate seasoning combinations? Particularly anything that will add a meaty/unami note?

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      1. Yep, I third the mushrooms. I would use dried mushrooms to get a depth of flavour.

        1. Smoked paprika tastes like bacon to me. I use it with a heavy hand on everything.

          1. I like sherry, cream, and thyme. Which, incidentally, goes well with mushrooms. . .

            2 Replies
            1. re: jvanderh

              Sadly, the vegan part of the OP's guest's diet nukes the cream. And any pesto will be cheese-free. To be honest, I am at a loss without onions. Could you move into a more Asian direction?

              1. re: smtucker

                D'oh. I changed that to vegetarian in my head. Sorry, OP. I might sweat some thyme in oil and spike with sherry if you go that route. I think Asian is a great suggestion. Sesame noodles or peanut noodles are always good. You could make a big fancy peanut sauce like this one: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2011/01/... you'd have to omit the garlic and fish sauce, but I don't think you'd miss it. The spicy/sweet/sour is very satisfying, the coconut milk adds nice creaminess, and the toasted sesame oil makes it smell great. Summer tomatoes sort of have an unami note to me, too. If you do a bean salad type thing, you might throw some in.

            2. Mushrooms, yes, and tamari sparingly. And chipotles.

              1. Ohhh, I just thought of something else..anchovies (if they eat fish, which I'm thinking not....level 5 vegan that doesn't eat anything that casts a shadow)

                3 Replies
                1. re: monavano

                  no vegan and most vegetarians don't eat fish. I like the mushrooms and smoky paprika direction. And there is nothing wrong with pesto without cheese. a nice fresh pea pesto is lovely and relatively unusual, and great on grains instead of pasta.

                  1. re: magiesmom

                    That's what I thought. Oh well...
                    I agree that dried peppers are wonderful flavoring. I just got a jar of ground ancho and can't wait to play with it.

                    1. re: monavano

                      I meant specifically the pimenton smoked paprika.

                2. How about a chimichurri sauce? I love cooked garlic, but loathe raw, so when I make the sauce I omit the garlic and really don't miss it. It would go great with the potatoes, pasta and beans. Maybe add some of that smoked paprika...

                  1. If you get "vegetarian hoisin sauce" or "vegetarian" oyster sauce, you can use those. They have no onions or garlic in it. I don't think it tastes as good as regular hoisin, but if she likes it you can send it home with her and it adds a bit more depth to seasonings. Definitely mushrooms as others have mentioned.

                    1. Beans: do you mean dried or green beans? If the latter, you could try an Indian seasoning with fresh green chile and ginger, maybe some fresh grated coconut too. For dried such as garbanzos: a tadka of mustard seeds, asafoetida, curry leaves, fresh or dried hot chile and fresh grated coconut.

                      1. curry, gar am Marsala? mustard seed, or basically indian type spices?

                          1. Not meaty or umami really, but you can saute some fennel bulb as part of a flavor base.

                            Or make a romesco sauce without the garlic. This is my favorite recipe....

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: 4Snisl

                              Wow, thanks everyone for the replies! Using the hoseradish with this potato recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... and found a greek black eyed pea salad recipe that somehow doesn't require onion or garlic. Also spiking a green salad with radish. On the mushroom theme, I did give a thought to truffle oil, but haven't experimented with it before. Thanks, fellow CHers! I'll be referring back to this thread for ideas every time I cook for these friends.

                            2. Definitely the shrooms, and the unduly-maligned MSG. I think fermentation in some form will add vibrant complexity. Fermented black beans? Vinegar of some sort? Beer?

                              1. I can't even imagine cooking without some sort of allium...I truly feel for you! That said, I think that ginger, lemongrass and lemon or lime juice could add some much needed brightness to your dishes.

                                1. Wow, a vegan who won't touch onion or garlic-like foods! No leeks? No shallots? Maybe fennel? That person must be accustomed by now to some pretty narrow flavor sets.

                                  Simple preps with very good olive oil and herbs might be your best bet. Grilled 'shrooms and veggies like eggplant and squash, cous-cous, roasted sweet peppers with herbs...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                    It's probably a religious thing. Generally everything in that family is off-limits, including shallots, western leeks, and Chinese leek (garlic chive).

                                    I know it is somewhat limiting (and I would dearly miss these foods if I ate that way all the time), but Chinese and Indian pure vegetarian cooking avoids them and still comes up with some great flavors.

                                  2. This is very common for strict Buddhist vegetarians (especially monks, or lay people on certain days), as well as some other Indian religious traditions. I think the idea is that the "5 pungent spices" (onion, shallot, garlic, garlic chives, green onion), or something along those lines, are "stimulating" - exactly what that means depends on whom you ask, but roughly, I think it means that they make you think about sex. Or maybe it's just distracting to meditate in a room of people who are sweating these flavors out of their pores.

                                    A common substitution in Indian vegetarian cooking is asafoetida (hing). As the name implies, it's *very* stinky in the package, however, a small pinch when cooking is a common substitution for garlic / onion. I'm not sure if it would work with the types of flavors you're working with, but you could experiment - maybe a potato dish with mustard, hing, and some other Indian style spices. Ginger and chili peppers should be Ok - the former may not go well with what you're cooking, but a little bit of fresh or dried red chili might pick up the flavor a bit. Double-check if she eats cilantro, but if she does, it might go well on the potatoes.

                                    Tomato paste might help for savory flavor, as will nutritional yeast, mushroom soaking liquid, or olives, miso, maybe bay leaves. You could make a "poor man's parmesan" with toasted bread crumbs and maybe a little bit of nutritional yeast - better with garlic, but will still add a nice textural component without it. Nutritional yeast would also help with the pesto.

                                    If you're taking suggestions for other dishes, I think Suzanne Goin's slow cooked cavalo nero (tuscan / lacinato kale) would work well minus the chicken broth and onion - the rosemary adds a really nice flavor (take it out before it breaks up too much). My wife browns tomato paste in the dutch oven for an additional savory kick. Should go well with pasta.

                                    1. Just wanted to shed some light on the reasoning for no garlic or onion.

                                      The monks do not eat anything in this family because the sulphone hydroxyl ion in onions, garlic, leeks, is a neurotoxin that causes encephalopathy. It disrupts both hemispheres of the brain and disrupts brain wave activity.

                                      Anyone who has read about Dr. Robert Beck of electric medicine would have heard about this because he too tested individuals with ulcers and who ate garlic for lunch on EEG machines (his students).

                                      I personally ran into this issue when I kept a piece of garlic in my mouth to fight a tooth infection.

                                      Little did I know I would be in the hospital on an EEG being diagnosed with encephalopathy due to garlic.

                                      I love both onions, garlic, and grew up eating a lot of italian.

                                      However like most say. It penetrates the body (why you can rub it on your foot and smell it on your wrist) and if you have an ulcer it will go into the blood stream.

                                      Monks know it makes it harder for them to meditate (encephalopathy).

                                      Sad but true it kills brain cells.

                                      Also very "Ironic" it kills vampires :P

                                      1 Reply