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 (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
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.