Spiced-Lamb-Stuffed Zucchini

This recipe, also adapted from one by Mohammed Antabli, is called kussa mehshi in Arabic. Cooks stuff zucchini shells with a mix of tender cumin-spiced ground lamb and rice, then braise them on a bed of sliced tomatoes. The dish is delicious served with creamy Greek-style strained yogurt, known as lebneh in Syria.

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  • Servings: 4


  • 4 medium zucchini (2 1/4 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup short-grain rice, such as arborio, soaked for 20 minutes and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 pound tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

How to make this recipe

  1. Halve the zucchini lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving 1/4-inch-thick shells. Reserve 1 cup of the zucchini flesh and finely chop it.

  2. In a large bowl, mix the drained rice with the turmeric. Add the chopped zucchini, lamb, butter, cumin seeds, ground cumin and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Using your hands, gently knead the mixture until blended. Add 1/4 cup of the water and knead until evenly moistened. Stuff the zucchini halves with the lamb filling.

  3. Line the bottom of a large, deep skillet with the tomato slices and season lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange the stuffed zucchini halves on top of the tomatoes in a single layer. Add the remaining 1 cup of water to the skillet and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderately low heat for about 25 minutes, until the lamb is cooked through and the rice is tender.

  4. Transfer the zucchini to a platter. Cook the tomatoes over high heat, mashing them, until thickened, about 4 minutes. Spoon the tomatoes over the zucchini and serve.

Make Ahead

The zucchini can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.

Serve With

Plain Greek-style yogurt and warm pita.

Contributed By Published May 2009

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