What is life without garlic and onions?[UPDATE 11.21.16: I am once again eating garlic and onions. They taste so freakin’ good and I just couldn’t help myself.]
This weekend I made the monumental decision to stop cooking with my two favorite aromatics of all time: garlic and onions. Say WHAT?!
It just so happens that I’m married to the most wonderful man on the planet…who (sadly enough) happens to have the most sensitive nose on the planet. You know how potent garlic breath can be, right? Well, due to Troy’s olfactory sensitivity, even the tiniest hint of it is enough for him to take note. And, because Troy is a personal trainer and is therefore always in his clients’ personal spaces, he rarely eats breath offenders – particularly garlic and onions.
Now, the reason I care is that I don’t want to repel the guy who I want to cozy up with at night. He’s never asked me to not eat the stuff, but it’s pretty apparent that it is a struggle for him to enjoy cuddle time when his wife smells sulfuric. So, I decided to give up garlic and onions.
The compromises we make for love…
Cooking without garlic and onions poses some challenges.
While my decision to give up garlic and onions is personal, searching for substitutes led me to realize that many people can’t actually tolerate either. Apparently, garlic and onion allergies and sensitivities are fairly common. Oh, and there are also a reasonably significant number “super tasters” out there who are so repulsed by onion and garlic flavor profiles that they won’t touch ’em with a 10-foot pole.
While some folks advocate “hiding” them or preparing them in ways that “trick” haters into consuming them, I am very turned off by this approach, at least under most circumstances.
*side rant* Ok, so people who refuse to try something under the presumption that they wouldn’t like it are a different story, but if there is the even the slightest doubt over someone’s motivations behind avoiding an ingredient, my rule of thumb is not to fuck with it. Period. *side rant over*
So, what are garlic and onion haters, avoiders, and the like to do? For starters, I’ve pulled together a short list of Figs & Chèvre’s recipes that are readily modifiable and have suggested garlic and onion substitutions and/or omissions. You can download it here. Also, the two dishes profiled in A Simple Supper are naturally onion and garlic-free. *hint hint*
In general, most of the substitutions I’ve found via a Google search are simply other equally pungent ingredients. Now, for folks with allergies, perhaps some of these substitutions will work. But for someone who is trying to escape the readily identifiable allium family aroma profile, leeks, green onions, and chives aren’t going to cut it. I quickly came to realize that I wouldn’t be able to find flavor substitutions that closely mimic either garlic or onion. If I could, I might as well just eat – you guessed it! – garlic and onion. Hmph.
Why not try these garlic and onion substitutions?
When it comes to cooking, onions often function to both add flavor and bulk. For this reason omitting onions poses a greater challenge than garlic, which I’ll simply (if not regrettably) omit. After scouring the internet, I’ve concluded that the following onion substitutions are worth trying. Note that clearly not every item will substitute equally well in a particular dish. Some dishes may be better off simply by avoiding substitutions and re-calibrating the recipe to account for the reduction in bulk.
Aromatic (and bulking) onion substitutions:
- Fennel bulb
- Celeriac, although in moderation because it can mess with some folks’ digestion (like mine)
- Bacon or pancetta
Bulking onion substitutions:
- Bok choy
In addition to the above substitutions, I’ll be relying even more heavily on The Flavor Bible* (Page & Dornenburg) for flavor pairing ideas. [Yes, that’s an affiliate link] I strongly recommend this book for its wealth of information on flavor affinities. Seriously, it’s a treasure trove of information about what flavors pair fabulously together.
But, don’t worry if you love garlic and onions!
I’ll still be including suggestions for both garlic and onions in recipes that I’ve adapted to go without. After all, I’ve cooked with them my whole adult life, and the challenge that I currently face is learning how to cook without them. Plus, I’m sure there will be times when my desire to eat these goodies trumps my desire to kiss my husband (no offense, Troy!), and I’ll undoubtedly deviate from time to time.
I’d love to know if you have to avoid garlic, onions, or any other ingredient. What substitutions do you use? How do you handle social situations where a potentially-offending food is served? Thanks for sharing!
*Note that The Flavor Bible is an affiliate link, meaning that I’ll receive a small commission if you choose to purchase it or anything else on Amazon after clicking the link.