If there is one dish that sums up Lebanese homestyle cooking, this is it! Humble yet delicious. It can be stuffed with meat and rice or meat only and served with a rice pilaf. I like to stuff it with the rice and meat combo, this way I can just serve it with pita bread to scoop up the sauce and save myself the trouble of making rice. Your call. The dish can also be frozen and reheated so the convenience is there. I remember meeting an elderly gentleman who had lived a long portion of his life in Egypt and who swooned when I served it at a get-together telling me how he had missed eating this dish all these years!
Stuffed zucchini in tomato sauce
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
3 tbsp olive oil
1 pound ground meat lamb, beef, or other
1 large onion, chopped
12 small zucchinis or Mexican calabasas small 5"
1/2 cup rice, medium-grain or sushi
2 cans tomatoes (14 oz) or fresh, peeled, diced, seeded
1 tbsp garlic paste 4 to 6 cloves, mashed
1 tbsp dried mint powder for garnish
1 tsp salt more, to taste
1 tsp black pepper to taste
1 tsp cinnamon to taste
1 tsp allspice to taste
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses optional
4 to 6 bones lamb or beef to add flavor to the sauce
1. Prepare the stuffing by mixing the rice, meat and spices. Drain the zucchinis and stuff them gingerly, leaving one inch at the top to allow the rice to expand Fry the bones till browned in a tablespoon of olive oil and discard the excess oil.
2. Place the stuffed zucchini on top of the bones snugly and add water to the top and place a heavy smaller plate on top of the vegetables, bring to a slow boil and cover the pan. After simmering the pot for 30-45 minutes, uncover and remove the zucchinis and place in a bowl on the counter.
3. Reduce the remaining stock to about 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Put aside. Fry the onion in olive oil until golden, add the tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes. Add the meat broth, the zucchinis, garlic and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes. Right before serving, sprinkle with mint. Present hot with some pita bread. You can also present some rice pilaf as an accompaniment to the dish.
If possible, look for zucchinis in ethnic or Middle-Eastern stores that have been already cored. Otherwise, figure on another 45 minutes to core them. I have posted a video online (youtube, tasteofbeirut channel) showing how.
Another possibility is to cook them briefly, cut them lengthwise, and with a small spoon, core the inside of the zucchinis. The pulp can be recycled by making fritters or in omelets, a traditional side dish in Lebanon.
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