The Middle Eastern Diet is very healthy especially the Lebanese diet (I can be partial here, lol). We tend to eat many vegetarian meals that are delicious and filling. When it comes to eating stuffed zucchini (koussa mehshee) as we refer to it, I prefer the vegetarian kind and my family likes the zucchinis stuffed with meat. Whichever kind you like, the process of hollowing and stuffing them is the same. Once you get the hang of it, it’s really a piece of cake to make this fresh and flavorful dish. I made it with stuffed Japanese eggplants and grape leaves using the same mixture. You just need a special tool called the zucchini corer that you can find cheaply in all Middle Eastern stores around the country and it looks like this
(you can tell that my zucchini corer is getting old because I use it quite often)!
- 1 kg baby zucchini or Lebanese squash (you can use medium size too)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Juice of 2 lemons (add more if you like the tangy taste like me)!
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 4 medium size tomatoes diced
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 medium size onion finely chopped
- 5 pieces on vine tomatoes (finely chopped) or any other kind of tomatoes
- 2 cups fresh parsley (finely chopped)
- Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2/3 cup short grain rice (uncooked, washed and drained)
- 2 bunches fresh mint (finely chopped)
- 1 medium size potato (cut to close the top of each zucchini)
First, to make the stuffed zucchinis, you have to cut the tops off, dip each top in a bit of salt to soften it so it doesn’t break on you when you try to hollow it,(it’s a trick that mom taught me and it never fails)!.
Insert the corer in ¾ of the length of the zucchini and twist. Pull out the core. Do this a few times, scraping against the edge of the zucchini with gentle pressure until you’ve hollowed it out. If you puncture it, don’t throw it away in a huff because it’s still usable, just serve that one, the ugly duckling to yourself and no one will know, lol! The taste is the same anyway and you’ve worked hard to make it!
- Wash the zucchinis well before coring.
- Cut off the tops and the small end of the zucchinis.
- Dip the tops in a bit of salt to soften them (to avoid breaking the zucchinis on you).
- Hollow from one end of the zucchinis with the corer leaving about 1/4 inch thick shell all around.
- Wash them thoroughly and place them upside down in a strainer to drain the water out. Set aside till you finish the filling.
- To make the filling, mix the ingredients in a bowl, leaving out the vegetable stock & tomato paste till later.
- Season with salt, allspice, pepper & cayenne pepper.
- Stuff the zucchinis up to three-quarters full (do not fill to the brim as the mixture will expand when cooking and leak out).
- Peel the potato and cut it the size of the zucchini tops.
- Close each zucchini with the potato so it won’t leak the rice mixture out while cooking.
- Bring the vegetable stock or water to a boil in a saucepan and adjust the salt & pepper to taste.
- Add the tomato paste to the liquid.
- Taste the liquid and season to your taste.
- Slowly place the stuffed zucchinis in the pot.
- Put the pot to cook on high heat and bring it to a boil.
- When it comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer gently for 1 hour or until the zucchinis are tender.
- When done, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top before you serve them hot or cold.