Thom and I share a love of many things culinary related, but absolutely nothing matches his love of lamb. One night when we were out to dinner with my Dad and brother my brother started to ask Thom a question and Thom, the most mild-mannered man I know, actually shushed him and said, "shhh! I'm lambing."
Thom likes lamb.
When my Mom hosted an engagement "meet the future in-laws" dinner for us she made a delicious lamb stuffed phyllo dish. She worked on that menu for weeks, wanting everything to be perfect, and it was incredible. Flaky, buttery phyllo stuffed with savory lamb and salty, tangy feta. I was inspired by that dinner when I developed this recipe which can be made ahead in bite sized pieces and frozen, unbaked, until you need to pull a tasty appetizer out for unexpected guests. Or just, you know, because it's delicious. I made mine into larger portions, two of which form a reasonable portion with a salad or another side dish.
This recipe uses preserved lemons; if you're not familiar with them, these are lemons that have been pickled in a brine. They are common in Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisine and impart a very subtle flavor. I purchase mine, but you can make them yourself using any one of a number of recipes online. Since many of the other ingredients are salty already be cautious about adding extra salt. The filling is best made a day ahead and held overnight in the refrigerator before stuffing the phyllo.
Lamb Stuffed Phyllo Packets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1.5 cups fine diced onion
2 cups frozen spinach
1.5 cups zucchini, diced
1 lb ground lamb
1 tablespoon minced preserved lemon
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
salt & pepper to taste
phyllo, defrosted according to directions on package
unsalted butter, melted for brushing
Heat a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add olive oil and heat, coating pan. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add zucchini and spinach, stir to combine. Add ground lamb, minced preserved lemon, minced garlic, tomato paste, and dried herbs. Combine and cook lamb thoroughly, breaking up big pieces. Remove from heat and stir in cheeses and olives. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cut phyllo in half lengthwise. Brush each piece with butter, stacking five pieces together. Place a small amount of lamb in the lower corner and fold over in a triangle shape, like you're folding a flag. Brush top with butter and place on a cookie sheet.
You can either freeze the packets on the cookie sheet before transferring to a freezer-safe bag or preheat oven to 350º F and bake 17-20 minutes or until golden. Serve with tzatziki sauce.