Stuffed veggies are fun to make but even funner to eat. This stuffed zucchini dish was a staple in my home growing up, especially on Shabbat and around Sukkot time. During Sukkot, it is a tradition to eat stuffed foods, which is symbolic of an abundant harvest season.
There are many different variations of stuffed vegetable such as stuffed peppers, stuffed eggplant, stuffed carrots, stuffed tomatoes, stuffed beets…but this dish is my favorite of all, mainly because the sauce is amazing. The Lebanese tradition is to eat stuffed zucchini with a tomato sauce, but today I am making the Syrian version with a tamarind, apricot, and prune sauce. The prunes and apricot add a sweetness, while the tamarind adds a tanginess to the dish. It is overall delicious and I highly recommend you try this gluten and dairy free recipe at home. A little secret is that it tastes even better the next day!
For this recipe, I highly recommend investing in a manakra tool which will help core the zucchini. They are also fairly inexpensive and will help tremendously. You can also use this tool to core other vegetables for stuffing.
Kousa Mahshi AKA Stuffed Zucchini with Tamarind, Apricot, and Prune Sauce
12 medium green zucchinis
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup medium grain rice
1 lb chopped meat
2 tablespoons canola oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons tamarind paste (available in Middle Eastern markets)
2 tablespoons apricot preserves (I use my homemade apricot preserve but the store bought one should work good too!)
1 teaspoon sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup water
1 to 2 handfuls of dried prunes (I used about 15 dried prunes)
The first thing you want to do is cut the tops off the zucchinis and slice off the dried tips at the opposite ends without removing too much flesh. You can toss the ends into the garbage because you won’t be using them again.
Remove all the inside pulp from the zucchinis with the manakra tool/zucchini corer. Hold the zucchini in one hand. Center the tip of the corer over the zucchini flesh and apply gentle pressure to pierce the zucchini. Begin pushing down and twisting the corer along the sides of the zucchini. Stop short of the bottom to avoid piercing through. Continue scraping the corer along the inside walls of the zucchini and scoop out the pulp. When preparing zucchini for stuffing, leave a thin wall of flesh intact. When done, rinse off the zucchinis with water.
Side Note: I don’t like to throw away food so I keep the inside pulp in a separate bowl and cook them up in a pan with some onions and olive oil–so delicious with a nice warm piece of pita bread!
To prepare the stuffing, wash and drain the rice good in a bowl and then add the chopped meat, oil, salt, and pepper. Mix together with your hands until all ingredients are incorporated. Handle the meat very gently and not too hard. When you squeeze the meat too hard, it tends to toughen up when cooked.
To fill the zucchini, start gently placing a little bit at a time into the zucchini. Tap the bottom end of the zucchini onto a countertop to settle the stuffing down. Make sure not to press down the meat too hard with your fingers when stuffing because this will toughen up the meat once cooked. If you have any leftover meat you can make them into meatballs or you can freeze it for another time.
In a large pot, add about 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil. There needs to be enough oil at the bottom of the pan to slightly fry the zucchinis. Since my pot is not large enough to fry 12 zucchinis all at one time, I fry about 6 at a time. Fry all sides of the stuffed zucchini for a few minute. It doesn’t need to be cooked all the way through, it is just to add some texture to the zucchini skin and to add flavor to the oil.
In the same pot, place all the zucchinis into the pot and layer them on top of each other if you have to. Cover the zucchinis halfway with water and cover pot with lid. Leave on medium heat covered until the water is absorbed, about 30 minutes.
While the zucchinis are cooking in the pot, make the sauce. In a cup or bowl, mix together the tamarind paste, the apricot preserves, lemon juice, water, sugar, salt and pepper.
Check on the zucchinis after 30 minutes. If your water disappeared completely, add a 1/2 cup more water. If you still have water in there, then just leave it as is. Lower the fire to low and cook for another 30 minutes.
After one full hour of the zucchinis cooking, add the tamarind apricot sauce to the pot. Spread the dried prunes over the zucchinis. Cover and let cook on low for another 30 minutes.
Do not try to mix the zucchinis with any tool because you will puncture the skin. The only way to mix the sauce around is to lift the two handles of the pot and carefully shake the pot around. When you are ready to serve, gently pick up each zucchini one at a time, place on plate, and then cover with the sauce.
Enjoy and please share any comments or questions you may have. I would love to see how yours turns out! Make sure to tag me @lizskosherkitchen if you share it on social media so I can see your masterpiece!