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Shawarma Police

 chickwheat shawarma cucumber salsa tofeta sauce vegan vegetarian radiohead
“Karma police arrest this man. He talks in maths. He buzzes like a fridge. He’s like a detuned radio”

Theme song by Radiohead “Karma Police” from OK Computer
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“There’s a shawarma joint about 2 blocks from here.”

I once saw Radiohead open for Live at Pine Knob in Michigan. Radiohead went on to be superstars. Live did not. Through the years, I’ve kept up with the ever downward spiral Radiohead has taken into the abyss of art-rock, but I rarely listen to them. I honestly had not listened to OK Computer in like 5 years. It’s really a bit too much for me. I mean – I get it – but damn! Do ya have to be so art-fuck?!? Year after year I sort of hope maybe I’ll come to grips with what Mr. Yorke & Co. are doing musically, but that has yet to happen. Still, this is one of the few math-rock Radiohead tracks I actually really dig. 

This recipe went through many iterations (including being called Shawarma Chameleon), starting with a traditional chicken version in a flatbread. As Thom Yorke is a vegan, he clearly would not actually chicken shawarma but would likely eat a seitan gyro with vegan feta & tzatziki. So the culinary creep in me ultimately decided to make a vegan taco and that’s surely a reason to get hauled in by the shawarma police. Despite my crimes against authenticity here, this is pretty spot-on in its shawarma-osity.  Chickwheat, a seitan variation cut with chickpeas, stands in beautifully for roasted chicken. Even the vegan variations on the sauce and feta, at least in flavor, stay mostly true to traditional shawarma. I will admit the tofeta is more like queso fresco than feta, but in the case of a taco remix of a flatbread dish, that’s not a bad thing.

Chickwheat shawarma, Sort Of Shawarma Sauce, Tofeta, cucumber salsa,  and baby spinach on flour tortillas
Makes 6-8 tacos

Chickwheat (see recipe below)
Lemon garlic marinade (see recipe below)
2 teaspoons Shawarma Spice (see recipe below)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cucumber, diced
1 tomato, cored & diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup baby spinach, chiffonade
Sort Of Shawarma Sauce (see recipe below)
Tofeta (see recipe below)
6-8 flour tortillas

Shred the chickwheat into bite-size chunks (not fine shreds). Place in a ziplock bag and pour the marinade in. Toss to coat the chickwheat. Allow it to marinate for at least 1 hour and up to four hours.

Take the marinated chickwheat and place it in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons of shawarma spice and toss to coat thoroughly. Set it aside.

Combine the tomato, cucumber, red onion, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

chickwheat shawarma frying

Put the olive oil in a skillet (preferably cast-iron over medium heat). Heat until shimmering. Place the seasoned chickwheat in the pan and spread it into a single layer. Cook until chickwheat gets crispy and lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. You can leave it in the skillet.

Toast a tortilla over a gas flame (if you live dangerously) or in a skillet. Drizzle a bit of shawarma sauce on the toasted tortilla. Place some of the chickwheat on the sauce and top with tofeta,  spinach, and salsa. Drizzle a bit more sauce on top. Repeat for the rest of the tortillas.


Makes about 1 pound

1 cups cooked chickpeas (cold, don’t use warm)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white miso paste
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2  teaspoon kosher salt (or 3/4 if not using MSG)
1/4 teaspoon MSG (optional)
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup vital wheat gluten

Blend everything up to cider vinegar in a food processor until completely smooth. Add vital wheat gluten and process until dough comes together. Turn out onto a clean work surface and knead for 2-3 minutes. Form into a ball, cover with a clean towel, and let rest for 20 minutes.  

After the dough has rested, knead it again for 4-5 minutes. Form into a rectangular loaf about 1/2-inch thick. Wrap in foil and steam for 1 hour. Remove from the steamer and let cool, in the foil for 10 minutes. Unwrap and cool completely on a cooling rack. Place in an airtight container and rest in the fridge overnight before using. 

1/3 cup olive oil
2 lemon, juiced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine in a bowl. Pour over shredded chickwheat in a ziplock bag. Marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

Makes about 4 teaspoons

1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

7-ounces vegan Greek yogurt
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon white miso
2 teaspoons hot sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried dill (or 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend for a minute.

Makes about 1 pound

14-ounce block of super-firm tofu, pressed
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon white miso paste
5-ounces refined coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Press your tofu to remove excess liquid and place the tofu in a blender or food processor. Blend into the tofu is smooth. Add the nutritional yeast, miso, coconut oil, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, salt, and onion powder. Puree until very smooth, scraping down the sides. Taste and salt as needed.

Place tofu mixture into an airtight container, preferably square or rectangle. Cover and place in the fridge to firm up overnight.

Posted in bushwick, chickwheat, comfort food, cooking, food, foodmusic, grillclub, music, musicfood, recipe, sandwich, sauce, taco, vegetarian


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