Zucchini Stuffed with Lamb and Toasted Chickpeas in Yogurt-Tahini Sauce

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    4

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

This dish, served to me in a home in the small, southern Anatolian town of Kilis on the Turkish-Syrian border, is a quintessential slow-cooked Mediterranean dish: juicy, unctuous, delicious.

When I first ate it, I was especially intrigued by the fact that the outside of the vegetable was soft, while its stuffing remained slightly crunchy. Toasted chickpeas endow the stuffing with a warm, nutty flavor. Toasted chickpeas are available from Middle Eastern and Indian grocers.

This recipe may be prepared in advance, then reheated just before serving.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted toasted chickpeas (see Mail Order Sources)
  • 8 small zucchini, about pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces lean lamb shoulder, coarsely ground
  • ½ teaspoon ground Middle Eastern Spice Mixture, or use pinches of ground cinnamon, cloves, and allspice
  • ½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeño or other mildly hot green pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Yogurt-Tahini Sauce
  • Turkish red pepper or Aleppo pepper

Method

  1. Wash the chickpeas and soak in hot water for at least 2 hours. Drain before using.
  2. Meanwhile, gendy scrub each zucchini. Cut off and reserve ½ inch from the rounded end. Gendy roll each zucchini back and forth 4 or 5 times on a work surface to soften. Hollow out the zucchini with a vegetable reamer or an apple corer. Put a pinch of salt and pepper in each zucchini and let stand for at least 1 hour to remove the excess moisture.
  3. Wipe the zucchini with paper towels. In a large heavy skillet, fry the zucchini shells in the hot olive oil until lightly browned all over. Drain on paper towels and allow to cool. Set the skillet aside.
  4. Reheat the oil in the skillet, add the onion, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat, add the lamb, and cook until it is no longer pink, about 3 minutes longer. Add ½ teaspoon salt, the spice mixture, and the chickpeas. Cook, stirring, until the chickpeas are nicely glazed, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and jalapeño pepper. Remove the stuffing to a dish. Pour ¼ cup water into the pan and bring to a boil, stirring up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour over the stuffing. Correct the seasoning and set aside to cool.
  5. Stuff the zucchini, using your fingers or a funnel or small spoon. Trim the reserved zucchini ends so they just fit the openings and use them to plug the stuffing in. Pack the stuffed zucchini into a 4- or 5-quart casserole. Dilute the tomato paste with ⅔ cup water and stir until creamy. Pour over the zucchini. Scatter the garlic slices on top and dust with pinches of sugar, salt, and pepper. Place a heavy, inverted plate on top of the zucchini and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gendy for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let rest for 15 minutes before removing the cover.
  6. Add a few tablespoons lemon juice to the pan juices. Serve the zucchini with the yogurt-tahini sauce and a sprinkling of hot pepper.