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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Koosa with Pomegranate

When I did not live in France, I would always want to eat stuffed tomatoes and zucchini when I came on vacation (tomates farcies).  That was before I tried it the Syrian way.
The mix of cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, coriander (from the five spice) and hint of cayenne takes both the zucchini and the stuffing to an entire different height of serotonin inducing happiness.
The only acceptable addition was pomegranate seeds as garnish.  The sour/sweet crunch of the little seeds pair incredibly with the lamb/beef flavor and helps keep the spices in balance.
Balance is good.
Serves 4-5
5 zucchini or kusa squash, halved and cored, pulp scooped out
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 cube lamb bouillon (or whatever you have on hand)
water to level
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp thyme
fleur de sel for garnish
cooked basmati rice for serving
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (mine were dried)
chopped mint to garnish (I did not have)
450g (1 lb) ground beef or lamb (I used beef)
2 Tbsp uncooked basmati rice, soaked and rinsed
4 garlic cloves, grated
1 red onion, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp fivespice (or allspice)
1 carrot, peeled and finely grated
many grinds black pepper
juice from 1 lime
1 Tbsp olive oil
pulp from 1 zucchini
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch salt
1.  Make the stuffing by mixing all the ingredients with your hands until homogenous.  Stuff the zucchini or squash halves with the mixture.
2.  Heat the olive oil in a very wide heavy based pan (wide enough for all the zucchini to lay in one layer).. otherwise, use 2 pans as I did.  Add the onions and cook until translucent.
3.  Add the thyme, crushed tomatoes, cayenne, and the bouillon cube.  Bring to a boil, then reduce for about 5 minutes.
4.  Add the stuffed zucchini halves along with the garlic cloves.  Add water to level (do not completely submerge).  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 25 minutes, rotating the zucchini halfway through.
5.  Add the dried pomegranate seeds to the sauce before serving.  If using fresh, just add to each plate.
I served over hot basmati rice, which was the perfect vehicle for that exquisitely spiced tomato sauce.
Syrian and Lebanese cuisine will always hold a special place in my heart.. and this recipe totally dethrones the French version.  I feel like that was a confession I should be ashamed of, but I'm not...

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