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Playing Meat and Herb Stuffed Zucchini


For the Tomato Sauce:
  • For the Tomato Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, grated or finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/3 palmful
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 32-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small piece cinnamon stick
For the Stuffed Zucchini:
  • For the Stuffed Zucchini:
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 to 8 small, firm zucchini, halved and seeds scooped out
  • Olive oil, for drizzling plus about 2 tablespoons
  • 1/2 pound 80% lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon (1/3 palmful) cumin
  • 1 vine-ripe tomato, grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped plus a couple of stems, leaves stripped
  • A small handful of dill, finely chopped (3 tablespoons)
  • A small handful of cilantro, finely chopped (3 tablespoons)
  • A fat handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
  • Garnishes such as chopped herbs used in the stuffing, garlicky buttered breadcrumbs, grated Parm or crumbled feta (optional)


Serves: 4 as entrée 8 as appetizer


For the sauce, add olive oil, 1 turn of the pan, to a medium pot over medium heat. When oil is hot, melt butter into oil. When butter foams, add grated onion and garlic, and season with salt, pepper and cumin. Stir 1 minute, add bay, stock, tomatoes and the cinnamon stick. Bring to a bubble and simmer 20-30 minutes so the flavors combine. Remove bay and cinnamon, adjust salt and pepper. 
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F and bring stock to a simmer in a saucepot. Add rice and cover; cook to tender, 18 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and fluff with a fork.

Arrange the zucchini shells in a casserole or baking dish and drizzle with oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven.  
While zucchini bakes, heat a skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons oil, 2 turns of the pan. Add beef and brown and crumble; add onion and garlic, and season with salt, pepper and cumin. Once brown, remove from heat, combine beef with rice and add grated tomato and the fresh herbs. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  
Fill the par-baked zucchini with meat and rice mixture and top with a little tomato sauce. Bake to set the filling and sauce, about 20 minutes. Garnish with more chopped herbs, garlic-butter breadcrumbs and a little grated Parm or crumbled feta, if you prefer.