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A Yummy Gyro-- Plant-based, Gluten-Free

Wonderful, yummy, messy, spicy, tasty, creamy, crunchy, crisp,
chewy, savory, plant-based, gluten-free Gyro

 Our son, Philip, went on a high school trip in 1988 to Greece. He came back exuberant and so happy to share all the details of his trip with us, even the experience of eating in a country that did not impose alcohol restrictions on minor-age boys in the various eateries they visited.  What he did enjoy was the Greek food, particularly the simple, delicious pita sandwich of beef or lamb on a bed of fresh sliced onions, and tomato, and laced with creamy tzatziki sauce. He was so enthused he actually took a Greek cooking class.  I think
he ate quite a few gyros (pronounced either Jee-rrroh or Yee-rrroh depending on the speaker's background) during his University days and until his marriage. 

 We also loved the gyro he introduced us to. It is so wonderful to know that it is possible to eat the meaty food we enjoyed in a kinder form. This post contains three recipes, two that replace the animal foods, meat and dairy, with plant-based  and fungi foods in the gyro recipe: a non-dairy sauce that is similar Tzatziki, a chewy, spicy mushroom stands in for "meat" and a simple gluten-free flatbread/wrap recipe for the usual wheat-based pita. 

The  No-Dairy-Creamy-Sauce for the Gyro

The sauce recipe here is a replacement for the yogurt (either cow's or goat's milk) sauce traditional to the Tzatziki cucumber salad/sauce/dip many of us swooned over in our non-vegan days. It is so refreshing. Our version includes an overnight soak of raw sunflower seeds, joined in the blender the next day with coconut or soy, or other non-dairy yogurt, lemon juice, and various Mediterranean herbs (or herbs of your own desire). And no cucumbers (sorry to the Greek traditionalists)-- we include fresh cucumber slices in the salad that makes up the middle of the gyro.

You are, of course, at freedom to use a ready-made traditional tzatziki from your local store or deli, or one made how you like to make it.  Any leftover sauce can be refrigerated and used as a dip for french fries or crudites, etc.

The Gluten-Free Quinoa Flat Bread for the Gyro

Quinoa is a nutritious small starchy seed, not a grain, so does not contain gluten. It makes for a soft flatbread that makes a nice wrap, but not the pocket of a pita, alas.  I make my flour in a Vitamix in a couple of minutes, and then toast it for about 5 minutes in a hot (medium burner) dry wok until it is toasted-- I don't take any chances of letting it burn so flip it for the whole five minutes. Then I let it cool before using it for a recipe. The toasting removes the slight bitterness that turns some people off quinoa. The toasted quinoa smells so lovely. You will want to try it just for the fragrance (I'm kidding-- you'll also want to eat it). If you aren't planning to use it immediately after toasting and cooling it, put it in a jar with a lid, label it and put it in the fridge.

There are only three ingredients in the quinoa flatbread. See the recipe below!

If you want a regular whole wheat pita bread recipe, find one HERE.

The I-Don't-Eat-Meat Gyro

For those of us who no longer include hunks of animal in our diets-- or dairy, for that matter-- the Gyro is pretty adaptable. There are lots of substitutions for beef and lamb online: everything from Mediterranean-spiced seitan to mushrooms. I was particularly taken with some of the things I read about using "meaty" (chewy, easily absorbing a meaty marinade) Pearl Oyster mushroom.  I purchased this particular Oyster mushroom (there are many varieties-- the Pearl is the most amenable to preparing the 'meat' for a gyro.) The pearl oyster mushroom grows on a tree, so there is no worry about bacteria from other mushroom-growing media. If you grow oyster mushrooms, you will likely use a particular kind of wood chip vs. an actual tree. 

The Pearl Oyster Mushrooms I bought looked like the mushrooms in the image below:

Pearl Oyster Mushrooms.
You can grow your own via Etsy.ca Go HERE

To replicate the tasty meat used in a gyro, you will tear (not slice) the oyster mushrooms into shreds and bake them with a Mediterranean marinade. I baked mine in a small, on-counter oven for 20 minutes and they came out as below (and so delicious I could have eaten them all right then and there-- but didn't): 

Delish "meat" for the Gyro
Shredded, baked Pearl Oyster Mushrooms

INGREDIENTS: (4 servings, about 6-8 gyros)

-1 cup raw sunflower seeds
-filtered water to soak seeds
-2 juicy lemons
-1 454 g./14 oz. container of plant-based yogurt, plain 

(salt, pepper, choice of spices such as Italian or Greek blends, garlic, (onion, thyme, oregano, parsley, mint, dill, cinnamon, smoked (paprika

-1 cup quinoa flour, toasted if desired
-1 1/2 cup water
-2-4 large clumps of mushrooms (about 2-4 pounds) depending on your budget and appetite
-5 tablespoons of olive oil
-1 teaspoon soy sauce (or liquid smoke if that is your preference)
-splash of maple syrup
-sliced or chopped cucumber, tomato, pitted olives, roughly chopped Romaine, chopped or sliced red onion, red bell pepper, radishes

The Tzatziki-like  Sauce
  1. Soak raw sunflower seeds in a generous amount of filtered water in a bowl for about 6 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse, and blot slightly dry with paper towel.
  2. Combine sunflower seeds, juice of one lemon (5-6 Tablespoons), yogurt (we used coconut-based Yogu!) in Vitamix (or other high-speed blender) and blend until creamy smooth. 
  3. Mix in about 1+ teaspoons of your choice (or available) spices. 
  4. Add a dash of salt, pepper, and some chopped green onion, mint or parsley if desired
  5. Set aside, or store in a jar with lid in the fridge
The Quinoa Flatbread
  1. You can buy quinoa flour or make it in your Vitamix blender. You will need 1 cup of flour for the recipe. 
  2. If you wish to toast the flour, put it on medium heat in a dry (oil-free) wok or large cast iron fry pan and stir and flip for about 5+ minutes until you begin to smell a delicious fragrance and the flour is turning a light toasty gold-- you may not see any color change, so it is best just to turn off the heat at around 5 minutes. Stir constantly to ensure that it does not burn.
  3. Mix in 1 teaspoon of onion powder and/or any of the Greek/Italian listed seasonings above. Keep the total seasoning level to around 1+ teaspoons.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit/200 degrees Celsius
  5. Blend with 1 1/2 cups of water. Let it sit for about 5 minutes. 
  6. Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet and carefully pour batter. Spread to even it out.
  7. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven.
  8. Remove and cool for 5 minutes or so
  9. Flip the bread and very carefully peel off the parchment. 
  10. Use a pizza wheel or knife to slice rectangles (6-8)
  11. Recipe for regular whole wheat pita bread HERE.
The Gyro Mushroom "Meat"
    1. Because the Pearl Mushrooms are grown on wood, they do not need to be cleaned up with water. In fact, mushrooms are usually best NOT exposed to too much water. You could wipe off the mushroom with some olive oil on a paper towel if you feel so inclined. 
    2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit/220 degrees Celsius
    3. In a medium size bowl, combine the marinade ingredients: Juice of 1 lemon, 5 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon gluten-free soy sauce (or liquid smoke and a splash of maple syrup), 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon Mix well to blend.
    4. If the stems are soft, just trim off the tips and scrap. Then, using your fingers, tear and shred the mushroom into pieces. Mix into the marinade well so that all pieces are enrobed.
    5. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread the marinated mushrooms out as evenly as possible. Bake for 25-40 minutes depending on your oven and how thick your mushrooms are piled on the cookie sheet. Check at the 20 minute mark if you are using a counter-top oven to cook them since the smaller oven definitely does a quicker job.
The Salad Fixin's (what ever else goes into the Gyro)
  • Bring together on a platter whatever quantities of whatever salad veggies you enjoy that might include: sliced or chopped cucumber, tomato, pitted olives, roughly chopped Romaine, chopped or sliced red onion, red bell pepper, radishes 
  • Put together your wraps at the outset of the meal, or have people choose their own salad ingredients.
  • Enjoy!
NOTE; You can make this much simpler by using only 3 seasonings, say salt, pepper, and oregano or a teaspoon of Italian seasoning.  And the 3 veggies you could include might be the traditional tomato, cucumber and red onion along with the spicy mushrooms! You could also eat it without the wrap as a salad bowl! Perfecto!

I would love to read your comments about this Greek wrap! What did you add? How did it turn out?