Most couples in Lebanon work and have hectic lives. The days of dangling a basket from one’s balcony to collect veggies from a street cart vendor are pretty much over. I know several restaurants in town with names like “your mom’s cooking”; they offer traditional, homestyle foods that most people no longer have time to prepare.
One such place is a tiny kitchen down the street from where I live; I called and asked “what did the chef cook today?” and was told he made a mussaka with zucchini instead of the usual eggplant; I was also informed that he did not fry it, but grilled it instead. (This chef is keen on healthier cooking). Mussaka in the Lebanese kitchen is basically a stir-fry of eggplant, onion, tomatoes, garlic with a sprinkling of chickpeas. The whole lot is stewed slowly until the eggplant is silky tender.
Here is the zucchini version:
- 1 lb zucchini, preferably small variety , cut into chunks
- 2 onions, sliced
- 1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and drained again
- 1 lb tomatoes, chopped
- 1 head garlic, peeled
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- salt, pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven; fry the onion slices till golden, adding the garlic cloves and zucchini chunks the last five minutes. (You can also grill the zucchini and add to the pot). Add the tomatoes and drained chickpeas and season to taste. Cover the pot and stew over very gentle heat for about 30 minutes, adding one cup of water if needed. Uncover and simmer a few minutes longer to reduce the sauce if it is too thin. Serve at room temperature.
NOTE: You can chop 3 or 4 cloves and mash them in a mortar with salt and add them to the stew towards the end of cooking; dried mint powder is sometimes added as well as a diced green pepper.
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