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posted: 8/11/2010 12:01 AM

Stuffed Zucchini - Qoussa Mahshi

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8 medium zucchini, cored

1 cup short-grain rice

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1 pound lean ground beef

cup olive oil

¾

teaspoon ground pepper, and a pinch

½

teaspoon ground allspice, and a pinch

1 teaspoon salt, and a pinch

2 medium tomatoes, diced

2 lamb shoulder chops, bone-in

2 ounces tomato sauce

2 cups water

Cut off the stem end. With an apple or zucchini corer (see note) slowly work your way through the center, removing the pulp a half inch at a time, gradually pushing deeper into the core. (It is important to proceed delicately against the sides off the zucchini and the bottom so as not to pierce it.) Soak the cored zucchini in salted water for half an hour; remove from water and drain thoroughly.

Wash rice under warm running water for several minutes; drain. Transfer to a large bowl and add beef, oil, ¾

teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon allspice and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix thoroughly.

Fill each zucchini with the rice and meat mixture until you can fit your little finger inside the zucchini up to the first knuckle. Do not over-fill or pack the stuffing; the rice will expand during cooking.

Cover the bottom of a 4-quart pan with the tomatoes, top with the lamb. Sprinkle with the pinch of pepper, allspice and salt. Place stuffed zucchini on top of the lamb, pour tomato sauce and water over all. Cover pot and bring to a boil, cooking 10-15 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is mostly absorbed and thickened, about 40 minutes.

Serves eight.

Cook's note: Middle Eastern stores carry zucchini corers (they're longer than apple corers) or look for them online.

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