I’m back home and back inventing. We love greek food around here, but good vegetarian gyros can be hard to find. So, I invented these. I really did pretty much start from scratch. I’ve known how to make the tzatziki sauce for quite some time (though not necessarily how to spell the name!), but the rest of this is pretty much just me noodling around in the kitchen after trying several recipes from other sources that just didn’t work out at all. Fortunately, we really like this one. The substance of the eggplant helps to make up the texture of the gyro meat that isn’t here. It’ll never be just like a meat gyro, which is of course what most people are fond of, but these do have all the same flavors except the meat, and we really like them. Sean prefers them with a generous sprinkling of cayenne pepper, and I do not, but either way is totally legit. Oh, and often gyros have a whole peppercini stuck into the top that people pull out and eat with the tzatziki sauce on it, but I loathe peppercinis, so this recipe doesn’t have any. Feel free to add them if you like ‘em (you weirdo :D).

Without further ado, vegetarian gyros and tzatziki sauce!

Vegetarian Gyros (serves 4-6 depending on how full you make them)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 lbs or so)
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce (you won’t need it all)
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 nice cucumber (english or standard is fine)
  • 1/2 TBS salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (I use Extra-Virgin, but the thinner stuff should work too)
  • 1/2 tsp dried, crushed oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried and ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp dried, crushed rosemary
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 container tomato-basil feta (you can use traditional feta if you want, but this was really good)
  • tzatziki sauce (see recipe below, my favorite, or buy premade)
  • cayenne (hot red) pepper, ground
  • 4-6 pita breads (I buy them, though making them isn’t hard, just time consuming–no recipe provided here)

Directions:

1. At least an hour before you intend to start in on the eggplant step, combine the oregano, cumin, rosemary, crushed garlic, and olive oil in a small container. Whisk or put a lid on and shake to combine. Set aside to sit and let the flavors blend. You can make this as much as 8 hours or so before (the morning of the day you’re going to make gyros) and it’ll be good.

2.  Peel and slice your eggplant into thick slices. Layer the slices into a colander, salting each layer before placing the next on top of it. Set the colander over a bowl and leave it for 45-60 minutes. You should get some water seeping out of the eggplant into the bowl. This step helps them to have a nicer texture and takes some of the bitterness that eggplant can have out of them.

3. When drained, rinse the eggplant to remove remaining salt, lay them in a single layer on a dish towel and pat dry. Put them in a single layer (preferably not touching) on an oiled metal cookie sheet (I use the herb oil). Turn on your broiler to preheat a little, and make sure the top rack is about 6 inches from the element.

4. Brush the tops of the eggplant slices with the herb oil and place under the broiler until browned (usually just a few minutes). Remove the tray, flip over the slices, and brown the other side. Remove from the oven, brush the now-tops with some more herb oil. It should be noted that you could just grill these, if you have a grill and want to fire it up. Make sure to still brush both sides with the herb oil, though.

5. Slice the onions into half or quarter ring slices while the eggplant is broiling or grilling. Once it’s done, dump the rest of the herb oil (there should be about half of it left) into a frying pan and heat it. Saute the onions until tender and maybe even beginning to brown a little. Remove from heat.

6. Slice the roasted eggplant into strips, toss it in with the onion strips and mix gently to combine.

7. Shred the iceberg lettuce, sliced the tomatoes and cucumbers into thick half-moons, and arrange on a plate. (This can be done while you’re letting the salted eggplant sit).

8. Warm your pitas, if you are so inclined. It makes them more roll-able. You can put them in the microwave or on a warm grill for a few seconds.

9. Serve up! Just put the tzatziki, ground hot red pepper, pitas, fresh veggies, and cooked veggie mix on the table and let people assemble and roll it themselves (much like one would serve tacos). I prefer to go pita, tzazaki (spread it all around), lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, feta and maybe more tzatziki. My husband also sprinkles the cayenne on his, since he likes them spicy. Enjoy!

Tzatziki Sauce Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt (it has to be plain and it has to be Greek, sorry)
  • 1 1/2 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1 medium-large cucumber
  • 1/2 TBS salt (not sea-salt, it needs to be a finer grind. Kosher or table works fine.)
  • 1-ish TBS fresh dill (gotta admit, I just throw in the leaves of a couple sprigs baby dill)
  • salt and pepper to taste (as is the lemon and dill, really, you can add a bit more without hurting it)

Directions:

1. Peel and seed the cucumbers, then cut into large slices. Put in a colander, sprinkle with the salt, and let sit over a bowl for about 30 minutes to draw out some of the extra water (it’ll help keep your sauce from nasty watery-ness). Yes, this is very, very similar to what you’re doing to the eggplant  in the main dish.

2. After 30 minutes, rinse and pat dry the cucumber. Put them in a food processor with a metal blade. Add the garlic, lemon juice, dill, and some black pepper. Blend until pretty much a puree (no chunks!). Add it to the yogurt and mix well. Taste and add more salt or pepper. You can add more lemon or dill if you want, but remember that this will sit and the flavors will blend and change a little.

3. Put the sauce in a tupperware or other seal-able container and put it in the fridge for at least 2 hours. The sit time is very important to the flavor. You can make it ahead, but you’ll probably need to drain excess water off the top if it has been sitting for more than about 8 hours. Leftovers will keep for at least a few days and are great as a dip for veggie sticks or fries or any number of things.