“We don’t need another hero / We don’t need to know the way home / All we want is life beyond the Thunderdome”
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I prefer Ike & Tina era Tina Turner to solo Tina Turner. I understand that may not be a politically correct opinion, but the music she made then is far superior to the shlocky Top 40 pseudo-soul/pop of her 80’s and 90’s work. I acknowledge that, regardless of era, Turner is one of the finest performers to ever come out of Nutbush, TN. Her appearance as the Acid Queen in Ken Russell’s Tommy is one of a handful of standout performances in an otherwise mess of a film. I have mixed feelings about her scene chewing Aunty Entity in the film that provides this recipe inspiration. To be honest, chewing scenery is pretty much the sole acting option for a Mad Max film, so to that end, she performed brilliantly. Bonus points, she also got to make the theme song music video with a hunky shirtless saxophone beefcake.
The one piece missing from most post-apocalyptic films is cuisine. Sure, there’s the whole zombie brains thing or occasional feral gang cannibalism. The random lizard or roadkill roasting on a spit. Often, it appears to be some sort of watery porridge. Granted, I’m guessing menu planning is a low priority when trying to survive zombies, feral gangs and mutated insects. But if our plucky survivors have grain for porridge, then it’s possible then have grain for seitan – and seitan beats watery porridge any day.
Seitan is a vegan protein product made with vital wheat gluten. It has a “meatier” texture than tofu and – like tofu – takes on the flavor of seasonings and marinades quite nicely. I had been curious about seitan for years, but honestly never pulled the trigger on cooking it. For the sake of this project – and due to my new plant-based cooking obsession – I decided to buy a pound at my local supermarket. That it was on sale only sweetened the deal.
The choice to make a seitan gyro mostly originated with having this pun in my notebook but also my long love of gyros in general. They are the sole reason I ever visit a Greek diner. In college, I regularly ate at fast-food gyro joint Olga’s Kitchen despite its questionable quality. Over the years of professional cooking, I’ve made gyro specials when doing lamb roasts. As I have not roasted a lamb at home, I have never made gyros at home. With a craving for a gyro and seitan in the fridge, I wondered if I could make a passable plant-based gyro.
Much to my amazement, the answer is a hard yes. This tastes EXACTLY like a traditional lamb gyro. The Greek seasoned seitan cooked until crisp in a hot cast iron pan even looks a bit like lamb. The texture was spot on and the end result was a perfect meat-free version of a gyro. This not only is going into regular dinner rotation at BGC but has even gotten me researching making my own seitan.
WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER GYRO
Greek seasoned seitan, tzatziki, feta, tomato, red onion and baby spinach on flatbread
Makes 3 – 4 gyros
1 pound seitan, sliced 1/4″ thick
2 tablespoons Greek seasoning (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Tzatziki (see recipe below)
1 plum tomato, cored – seeded – sliced
1/4 red onion, medium slices
In a medium bowl, toss the seitan with the seasoning. Set aside. Heat a cast iron skillet (or heavy bottom skillet) on medium high for a minute or so. Add olive oil and heat until oil is shimmering. Put the seitan in the hot skillet making sure it is a single layer. Work in batches if your pan is not large enough. Leave the seitan to cook for 4 minutes. Flip the pieces and cook for another 4 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave in the pan – flipping slices to keep from sticking.
Toast a flatbread. I usually do this with tongs over a gas flame but I like to live on the edge. Using a hot pan is far safer. You could also place on a sheet pan in a 400° F oven while you were cooking the seitan.
Place toasted flatbread on a plate. Spread a tablespoon or two of tzatziki onto the flatbread – add about a quarter of the seitan – top with tomato, red onion, and baby spinach – drizzle a bit more tzatziki – finish with feta crumbles.
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 tablespoon sweet paprika powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Place ingredients in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly with your fingers. This makes more seasoning than needed. Store in an airtight container. Works great on chicken as well.
7 ounces Greek yogurt
1/3 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled and seeded
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon dried dill (or 1/2 tablespoon fresh minced dill)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Put the cucumber in a colander and sprinkle with the tablespoon of salt (draws water out). Cover with a plate and set something heavy on top. Let sit for 30 minute Drain well and wipe dry with a paper towel.
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.