Friday, December 14, 2012

Greek Phyllo Wraps with Tzatziki

Last year's post: Cuban Paella

These phyllo wraps are a twist on a traditional Greek meat pie that usually contains lamb or beef called Kreatopita.   The wraps are a fun individualized version made fancy by adding herbs between the phyllo layers.  I learned this herb-layering technique years ago and also use it in a chicken recipe where the chicken breast is stuffed with cheese and wrapped with phyllo before baking.  (My Gourmet Club buddies still talk about that one occasionally.)  Anyway, it looks fancy but it's actually easy to do. 

The phyllo wraps have a delicious filling of ground turkey, onion, red bell pepper, lemon, feta, green onions, and an interesting combination of spices: oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  (You could also substitute ground lamb or beef if you prefer.)  The wraps are very good but what makes them really great is the tzatziki (tah-zee-kee) sauce - a yogurt-based sauce with cucumber, garlic, and mint.  Don't skip the sauce.

Although the recipe takes some time to prepare the filling and assemble the wraps, the great news is that you can freeze the unbaked wraps and them bake them directly from frozen for a fast and easy weeknight meal.  If you haven't worked with phyllo before, don't worry.  The key is to keep the layers moist by covering them with a damp towel until you use each sheet, then brushing them with oil so they don't dry out and crumble.  Even if you wreck a couple of sheets, it's no big deal because a box has two bags of about 10 million sheets each. (And by the time they're all wrapped up no one can tell whether a corner split a little here or there.) You'll find phyllo in the freezer case at the grocery store. 

I've usually seen it spelled phyllo but on this particular brand they spell it fillo and then right underneath in small letters it says phyllo pastry sheets, apparently just to confuse us.  Anyway, it's pronounced fee-loh.

As I mentioned, each box has two bags of rolled-up phyllo sheets.  You certainly won't need more than one bag.  Just be aware that the phyllo needs to thaw overnight or for two hours at room temperature before using, so take one bag out and put the other one back in the freezer for another time.

Once the phyllo has thawed, slide the sheets out of the bag and gently unroll them on a cutting board.  Carefully remove one sheet and cover the remaining sheets with a damp towel.  Gently brush the phyllo sheet with olive oil, then place a dill sprig in the top middle of the sheet.  (Notice the operative terms here are gently and carefully. You'll still probably wreck a few but who cares.)

Remove another sheet from the pile (be sure to put the towel back) and place it over the first sheet, then brush with olive oil again.  Place the cooked and cooled filling centered on the bottom of the phyllo, leaving a 1" margin on the bottom and sides.

Start to roll up the wrap by covering the filling.
Then fold in the 1" side margins before rolling the wrap up entirely.

Place seam side down on a baking sheet and gently brush with olive oil, which keeps them from drying out and helps them brown in addition to showing off the herbs underneath.

Now all you do is bake the wraps or freeze them for later.  One last thought - this recipe makes 8 wraps.  If you have big eaters you can serve two per person, but I think one per person is perfectly fine (they're pretty big) along with a salad.  That's why the recipe states the number of wraps it makes rather than the number of servings. 

click here for a printable recipe

Greek Phyllo Wraps with Tzatziki
Makes 8 wraps

Note:  to freeze for later, assemble wraps and freeze, then place in a resealable bag.  To bake, place frozen wraps on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake in a preheated 375d oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.

For the wraps:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1.25 pounds ground turkey
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ green onions, chopped
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
16 sheets (9”x14”) phyllo pastry
Olive oil for brushing
Dill sprigs

 For the tzatziki sauce:
1.5 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
2 teaspoons minced fresh mint
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Stir all tzatziki sauce ingredients together and refrigerate to allow flavors to meld while making the phyllo wraps.

Begin the wraps by making the filling (can be made in advance and refrigerated).  Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; sauté onion 3 minutes.  Add garlic, sauté 1 minute.  Stir in turkey, breaking up with a spoon, and cook 5 minutes or until brown.  Add bell pepper, lemon juice, and seasonings; cook 1 minute.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.  Stir in green onions and feta.

Preheat oven to 425d.

Brush 1 phyllo sheet with oil, keeping the remaining sheets covered with a damp towel.  Add a dill sprig in the upper center of the sheet.  Top with a second phyllo sheet; brush with oil.  Spoon ½ cup turkey mixture on the lower part of the sheet leaving a 1” margin on the bottom and sides. Fold the phyllo from the bottom up over the filling, then fold in 1” on both sides and roll up completely.  Place wrap seam side down on a baking sheet lined with foil; brush with oil.  Repeat with the remaining filling, phyllo sheets and oil.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Let stand 5 minutes to cool.  Serve with tzatziki sauce.

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