Monday, January 16, 2017

Kusa Mahshi (Levantine-Style Stuffed Squash)

Introduction
A little contradiction. I don't really care for the zucchini family, but I heart Kusa Mahshi, which literally translates to stuffed squash. Arabs like to stuff a lot of things from chickens, bell peppers, onions, potatoes, so the phrase mahshi, meaning 'stuffed', is used obscurely. Stuffed food, that is. ha..

In the case of stuffed kusa, or squash, you can use any type but a favorite for this recipe is the Mexican Squash. Why? Because the Mexican Squash is mild in flavor, totes a tender edible skin and is relatively small in size - making it easier to handle. 

Mexican Squash is Perfect for Kusa Mahashi (Levantine Stuffed Squash)

Palestinians love to pair these kusa with similarly-proportioned eggplants (betenjan mahshi). You can apply the same cooking directions to the eggplants if you choose to coalesce the vegetables. (I know, they are technically fruit...)

As for the broth-base for this dish, there are generally two versions of Levantine-style broths to submerge stuffed vegetables: 

(1) Tomato-based and (2) Yogurt-based. 

The recipe below is the tomato-based. I infused lamb chops and beef broth as the flavor nucleus and minimized the spices (Just salt, pepper and allspice). I do not add garlic, because I personally have not found it to be necessary and why waste time mincing fresh garlic if it does not substantiate the end-result? I learned to cut back on unnecessary ingredients so here is my recipe.


For the Kusa Mahshi...

Stuffed Mexican Squash, Kusa Mahshi

Ingredients

Produce
10 small Zucchini/Squash
2 Lamb Chops, dried and seasoned (optional)
1 Roma Tomato, sliced
1/2 an Onion, sliced

For the Filling
1/3 lb of Ground Beef
1 cup of short-grain rice
2 teaspoons of 7spice
2 teaspoons of Salt
1/4 teaspoon of Ground Black Pepper
1/3 teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon 
1 teaspoon of Vegetable Shortening
2 teaspoons of Beef Broth

Soup
3 Tablespoons of Tomato Paste
2.5 Cups of Water
1.5 Cup of Beef Broth
1 teaspoon of 7spice/Allspice
Salt to taste

*

10-Step Simple Recipe

1. Thoroughly wash kusa with warm water, cut stems and core.

2. Place in salted water for 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, prepare filling. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, rice with the shortening, broth and spices.

4. Begin filling each kusa with a teaspoon of filling, ensuring sufficient separation to avoid over-fill keeping in mind the rice and meat expand when cooked. Close the opening with a finger and shake, to get a sense of filling 'movement'. 

5. Prepare the soup. In a bowl, add 3 tablespoons of tomato paste and 1.5 cups of broth. Mix well, Add 3.5 cups of water and the spices. Mix and microwave for 15 seconds. (taste and adjust to your preference)

6. Place the two lamb chops on the bottom of a large pot, nestled between the chopped onions and tomatoes. 

7. Add kusa over the bed of lamb chops, tomatoes and onions - building layers. Turn on the heat to Medium-High.

8. Diligently pour the soup mixture right over the kusa. If the soup does not cover all the kusa, add more water or divide between two pots. (too much water will dilute the flavor, adjust seasoning/broth)

9. Allow for a roaring boil, cover and continue cooking on medium-high for 20 minutes.


10. After 20 minutes, slightly remove the lid to allow some steam-pressure out and reduce heat to medium/low-medium. Add more boiling water at your disposal. Cook for additional 20 minutes or until fork-tender.

Enjoy!

Stuffed Mexican Squash, or Kusa Mahshi Levantine Style

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