With the summer approaching, I thought there is no better time to start skewering. Even though I’ve been vegan for 20 years, I still get excited about grill season. As soon as the weather is warm enough (and even sometimes, when it isn’t quite yet!), I am ready to fire up the grill.
Souvlaki is a popular fast food meat skewer from Greece. It can be eaten alone, thrown on a pita, or covered in a red sauce. If served on a pita, it is often accompanied by fried potatoes, sliced tomato and tzatziki sauce, a yogurt-based sauce with cucumber, garlic and herbs. For today’s recipe, I tried to make a veganized version of the souvlaki pita. I marinaded tempeh overnight in fake chicken broth, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic cloves, fresh oregano and a touch of hot sauce. I fried up some potatoes and sliced some tomatoes. And brought it all together with a simple, delicious vegan tzatziki sauce.
Tempeh works great on the grill, because it’s a bit heartier than other plant based alternatives. Cover the grill with some non-stick foil, and brush the tempeh with a bit of olive oil, and you’re good to go. Unlike meat, plant based alternatives don’t need to cook to a certain temperature or cook for a specific length of time. Although they do tend to grill rather quickly, so it’s important to keep a close eye on it during the process.
If it isn’t grill season where you are, place the marinaded tempeh on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment, drizzle with some olive oil, and then, broil it on high for about 10 minutes before flipping it for 10 more minutes. As a variation, enjoy the tempeh souvlaki skewers over a bed of pilaf with some mixed grilled vegetables on the side.
Tempeh Souvlaki Pita
Tempeh Souvlaki Marinade:
2 8 ounce packages of tempeh, cubed
¾ cup fake chicken broth
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
¼ cup fresh oregano, chopped
½ cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp hot sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil (plus more olive oil to brush on skewers)
½ cup water
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 cup English cucumber, pulsed in food processor and excess water drained
⅔ cup vegan sour cream
¾ tsp garlic powder
¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
2 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
3 medium potatoes, sliced
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium tomato, sliced
4 whole wheat pitas
Fresh parsley, optional (to top)
1. In a sealable container, add everything EXCEPT the tempeh listed under “Tempeh Souvlaki Marinade”. Mix well. Add the tempeh, seal with a lid, and refrigerate overnight.
2. The next day, it’s time to make the vegan tzatziki sauce. Drain as much water out of the cucumber as you can; otherwise, your sauce will not be quite so creamy. Add everything listed under “Vegan Tzatziki” in a mixing bowl and combine. Taste, and adjust seasonings. Set aside until you are ready to assemble pitas.
3. TO GRILL TEMPEH: When tempeh is marinaded, add to skewers. Brush with olive oil. Place non-stick foil over grill. When the grill is hot, add skewers and grill until it’s at your preferred level of charred. I did 10 minutes on one side and 10 minutes on the other side. TO BROIL TEMPEH: If you don’t have access to a grill, place the marinaded tempeh on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment, drizzle with some olive oil, and then, broil it on high for about 7 minutes before flipping it for 7 more minutes on the other side. Watch it closely while it’s broiling to make sure it doesn’t burn (unless you like it that way!).
4. In a large skillet, add sliced potatoes and olive oil over high heat until it starts to sizzle, then turn down to low. Over low heat, fry until the potatoes are at your desired level of crispness. I fried for about 17 minutes.
5. Assemble pitas using marinaded tempeh, fried potatoes, sliced tomatoes, and vegan tzatiki sauce. Top with fresh parsley, and serve.