Stuffed vegetables are a Middle Eastern cuisine staple. The incredible spices mix with rice as a great vegetarian dish or add ground beef or lamb for a heartier entree. For this recipe, I put my own spin by sautéing onion and garlic and tossing the mixture with toasted pine nuts which adds a crunch, a nice contrast to the cooked vegetable.
I have trialed and errored this recipe many, many times mainly trying to achieve the right cooking times/method. The results have always been tasty and eaten quickly even if I wasn’t completely satisfied with it. Most importantly, I wanted this to be a dish I didn’t spend all day doing (like grape leaves or cabbage rolls) but still enjoy the richness of flavor and tradition of this special meal. I feel confident you can have this meal ready—from start to end—in under 2 hours.
- 10-12 zucchini and/or yellow squash, slice off the ends and cut in half to make a cylinder
- 1 1/2 cups rice, soaked and rinsed
- 1 pound ground lamb (or ground beef)
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 ounces pine nuts, toasted
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon Seven Spice (found in Arabic grocery stores, I use Ziad Brand)
- 1 tablespoon dried mint flakes
- 1 teaspoon all spice
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 large can organic tomato sauce
- Enough water to cover stuffed zucchini, another 2 cups should do it
- Lemon for garnish, sliced in half
- Soak and rinse rice in large bowl until water runs clear.
- Prepare your zucchini and squash by cutting off ends and slicing in half.
- Toast pine nuts on a baking sheet under high broil for 2 minutes—keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, it can happen quite quickly.
- Mince garlic and chop onion finely, then sauté in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pan over medium high heat until translucent. Add toasted pine nuts and cut heat.
- Place ground lamb in a large mixing bowl and add rinsed rice.
- Add sautéed onion mixture to large bowl. Add all of the spices and last tablespoon of olive oil. Mix with fork or by hand until fully incorporated. Add more olive oil as needed but not too much, the mixture should be clumpy, not runny/greasy.
- Core the zucchini and squash with a vegetable corer—this is what I use. Watch my YouTube video to see my technique.
- Stuff the cored vegetables with the rice/meat mixture until about 3/4 full. Do not overfill—rice expands during cooking. Do not overpack—you will risk water not reaching the rice and meat and it won’t cook properly. Just lightly tap your fingers on the rice/meat mixture to make sure it’s in there.
- Arrange top up in a large stockpot or Dutch oven so they are all touching. Cover with tomato sauce.
- In a large sauce pan, bring the broth and water to a boil, feel free to salt the water with 1 teaspoon if desired.
- Pour boiling liquid over the stuffed vegetables making sure it goes inside each vegetable and all around until the vegetables are submerged.
- Cover with heat safe plate that fits your pot and cover with lid leaving a little room for steam to escape.
- Boil for 10 minutes, then lower to a simmer for another 40 minutes.
- Remove lid and plate carefully, both will be hot. Use oven mitts.
- Pour out tomato broth until large pot or glass bowl to serve as soup.
- Arrange stuffed vegetables on large platter or tray and allow them to rest and cook for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Slice lemons as garnish for tray and serve.