Garlic-Free (Part 1)

Anyone who knows me well knows that — gasp! — my father hates garlic. Gary Coates HATES garlic. I have fallen far from the taste-bud tree, and consequently it is difficult, often downright disastrous, for me to cook in the Coates folks’ kitchen.

That kitchen, by the way, resembles little of my own. It’s orderly and spotless, utterly free of experimental ingredients of unknown origin or purpose. Cooking does not particularly please my mother, and my father eats to live rather than lives to eat.

I on the other hand love to linger and dabble over a glass of wine, a forkful of this, a dribble of that. Food, music, drink, company — the makings of memories and life, to me. But my father’s take: serve it, eat it, and move along. Quickly.

My mother, who holds dominion over said Coates kitchen, falls somewhere between, loving the idea of new food but satisfying a meat-and-potatoes husband of 50 years.

On the night before Jerry and I departed Wisconsin, we cooked. We raided the supplies of Helen’s kitchen with the difficult task of creating a pleasing last-night meal for all. And we succeeded. We concocted two eminently edible, sufficiently aromatic, garlic-free dishes: Jerry’s kusherie (based on his mother’s modified recipe) and an off-the-cuff tilapia (based on a notion I had in my mind and nose). Here, in two installments, you get the recipes.

Thank the Buddha my dad likes onions.

Kusherie

Kusherie (Egyptian rice and lentils)

4 tablespoons oil
2 strips chopped bacon
1 1/4 cup lentils
2 cups water
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 cups rice

Sauce:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 cups tomato sauce
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped celery leaves
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed chilies
3 onions, sliced thinly

Mix water and stock together and set to boil. In heavy saucepan or skillet heat half the oil and bacon. Add the lentils and brown over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir often but keep the mixture covered.Be careful when browning as the lentils burn easily. Let the mixture cool, then remove bacon.

Add roughly 3 cups of the water and chicken stock to the lentils and bring to a boil. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes over medium heat. Stir in rice (rinsed well if using Asian rice) and remaining water/stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 25 minutes without stirring.

As the rice and lentils are cooking, heat tomato sauce, green and red pepper, celery leaves, salt, cumin, chilies and cornstarch as needed to thicken sauce (be sure to mix the cornstarch with water first). Boil the sauce, reduce heat and simmer 20-30 minutes.

In a small skillet, heat remaining oil and bacon. Saute the onions in this over medium heat until brown. (This is where you’d add garlic if you’re not up for Gary’s garlic-free diet.)

To serve, place rice and lentil mixture in a large bowl. Pour tomato sauce over the mixture and top with browned onions.

6 thoughts on “Garlic-Free (Part 1)

  1. God, no garlic is a tough one! My own non-foodie family doesn’t sound too different, though. When I go home I normally have to brush a year’s worth of cobwebs off the pots and pans, and the only experimental ingredients on the shelves (e.g. everything apart from ground cinnamon, cooking spray and jars of Paul Newman spaghetti sauce) I know I must have bought myself last time I visited. And it drives my German husband crazy that even when we go to the trouble of cooking a nice meal the only ones left at the table after twenty minutes are the two of us. But at least they eat garlic 🙂

  2. Melissa,
    I know what you mean about the family fleeing the table. Jerry has always been the slowest eater, and the rest of my family is always serving dessert or moving on to other things while he’s still working on the main course! The two of us have long, lingering meals when we’re eating at our place.

  3. Karen,
    My former in-laws would merrily cover my cooking with salt and pepper before trying any of it, being a chef for over twenty years it used to make my blood boil! Now when I visit my parents I watch my Father drench his roast lamb with every conceivable condiment much to the annoyance of my mother. It must be a generational thing!

  4. Karen and Jerry,

    Both dishes sound wonderful, despite the lack of garlic. And I must set a small point straight: The Moosewood cookbook has been used so long in our kitchen that my copy is falling apart. But the kusherie recipe came from friends Conni and Charlie Ess, and I think they Ess’s found the recipe in a Mennonite cookbook, back in the days in Montana when we were happy to be able to afford rice and lentils, tomatoes and onions. And garlic.

    In contrast to Gary’s aversion to garlic, there’s Bob, who loves it, but still puts peanut butter on garlic bread.

    Mom in CA

  5. Karen, Jerry and Jenny,

    What a surprise to find my name on this web-site! Yes, the recipe is from me, from the cookbook More with Less, from our Montana days. We first ate it at a pot-luck gathering at what was then Eastern Montana College, down the street from Rocky Mountain College in Billings. And, yes, we do use garlic.
    I’m glad you enjoy the dish. It’s still one of my favorites, many years later.

    Conni Ess

  6. Whoa! Blast from the past! Glad to hear from you. If you check back here, drop us a line and say where you are these days (and what all the boys are up to).

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