Thursday, July 07, 2005

Vegetarian souvlaki

There are no Mediterranean menus that cater to vegetarians. Especially in Pittsburgh. I just sigh whenever the Mediterranean diet is hailed for being healthful and heart-friendly. Besides the ubiquitous Italian fare, Greek food is the most widely available around here. Greek food means the mezze platter and the oily falafel for vegetarians (along with a pasta with feta that has been thrown into the menu as an after-thought).

So when I came across a Greek vegetarian cookbook by Diane Kochilas, I was happy that there were some in Mediterranean countries who ate vegetables as a primary form of nutrition. This great recipe for mock, meat-free souvlaki is amazing. Souvlaki is the hamburger of Greece and seems to have a great fan-following.

Grilled vegetarian souvlaki

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1 inch rounds or half-moons
1/4 th of a large eggplant or 1 long Japanese eggplant, prepared as zucchini
1 large green pepper, cut into quarters
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
8 oz Halloumi cheese or paneer (cut into large chunks)- I added this one
1/4 cup EV. Olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar and 1 T sweet red wine
OR 2 T balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced fine
2 T oregano, finely chopped
Salt, pepper
4 Pita pockets

1/2 cup strained yogurt
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 T mint, finely chopped
1 T olive oil
Salt, pepper, paprika

My additions- pinch of sumac, a tbsp of za'tar

Sauce: Mix yogurt with the other ingredients. Let it sit for at least 20 min before using.

Souvlaki: Mix olive oil, vinegar, wine, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the vegetables and cheese to the dressing. Mix with your hands and let them marinate for at least 20 min. Keep mixing now and then.

Heat whatever form of grill you have (even a broiler will do except you won't get the smoky taste). Brush with oil. Insert the veggies onto skewers and grill away until done. The veggies should not be falling apart but should be a little firm.

Grill the pita slightly. Place the grilled vegetable souvlaki on top of each pita (not inside). Hold it like a taco. Add a tbsp or two of sauce. Roll it all up tightly or eat as you would a taco.

It can be messy but if the yogurt used has drained well, then there should be no problem at all.


  1. How d'you strain yogurt? What sort of yogurt can be strained? I buy actual Greek-style yogurt sometimes... can that be used?

  2. Shammi- homemade yogurt or low fat yogurt has too much water. When salt is added, it becomes too wet. Actually the sauce you see should be more like sour cream. I did not have time to drain off the liquid. Greek yogurt works perfectly.

  3. Almost any yogurt can be strained and made much thicker and drier. Put it in a square of cheesecloth and hang it over the sink or a bowl for an hour up to 8 hours. What comes out is very thick. The longer it hangs, the thicker it gets. This is called yogurt cheese.