Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini

Kousa mishi bi banadoura: Stuffed zucchini with tomatoes

My mother is Lebanese, and as a kid I never appreciated this dish, nor did I realize the effort it took to make. I saw these lightly colored green zucchinis and instantly thought of the yellow pot my mum used to prepare them in.  Typically this dish is made with ground lamb, but I used chickpeas. Also, you will be hollowing out the zucchini, and you can use the insides for whatever recipe you like, so there’s nothing wasted – my mom would saute them in butter, and make zucchini scrambled eggs the next day – I gave them as treats to my pups.

Stuffed Zucchini with Tomatoes – 4 servings
8 small zucchinis, evenly sized
2 medium onions, diced, separated
1/8 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon pine nuts
8 ounces chickpeas
1⁄4 cup short-grain rice
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Water
2 garlic cloves, minced
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
1⁄4 cup tomato paste
1⁄8 teaspoon cinnamon
Greek yogurt and pita bread – optional

Prepare a salt water bath. Choose 8 small zucchini. Wash well and cut off stem. Using a corer hollow out zucchini leaving rounded end (base) intact. Try not to puncture the skin. Soak the zucchini in the salt water bath while you prepare stuffing.

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute 1 diced onion until softened. Add pine nuts to onions, and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine chickpeas, onion mixture, rice, parsley, allspice, 1/8 cup water, and salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the zucchini, and fill entirely with the chickpea mixture, by packing down, and set aside. If you have any remaining chickpea mixture, just add it to the tomato sauce.

Prepare the sauce in a saute pan by sauteing the 2nd chopped onion in 1/8 cup olive oil, until softened. Add garlic cook until fragrant, then add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste.

Choose a large sauce pan to arrange the zucchini in layers, ladle some of the sauce into the bottom of the pan, arrange zucchini in layers adding sauce to each layer, you may have 2 layers of zucchini. If you need to, add some water to just cover the zucchini.

Cover and simmer gently for an hour and 15 minutes or until tender and rice is cooked.

To serve: You can serve this hot or at room temperature with a dollop of Greek yogurt and pita bread.

Happy Cooking!

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