Stuffed Zucchini: We Love it in Many Ways!
Stuffed Zucchini is a culinary preparation of ours, locally known as Mehshi Koussa. Its recipes vary, so do some of the stuffing mixtures.
Widely prepared are:
- Stuffed Koussa bil-Banadoura, cooked with ample Tomato Sauce;
- Stuffed Koussa bil-Laban, cooked in hot yogurt, and
- Stuffed Koussa, cooked with our famously delicious Stuffed Grape Leaves.
Stuffed Zucchini Gratin: Frenchly Lebanese
Our Stuffed Zucchini Gratin differs from all the above dishes in many ways. To start with, it is not a purely Lebanese dish. It is the Lebanese variation of the French Gratin.
Gratin is a french term that means: a culinary preparation covered with cheese and baked to golden. For some reason, that term has also come to indicate The Elite. I certainly wonder why. That culinary M.O. must have been so praised.
Or was it because of the golden surface? Go figure it out! 🙂
Let me put it this way:
Our Stuffed Zucchini Gratin was inspired by the Gratin of the French Cuisine, using the same Béchamel Sauce, and the baking method. Other than that, the stuffing is made of our very Lebanese meat mixture, which is the known component of numerous of our local dishes: Cooked with onions and pine kernels, and seasoned with Lebanese spices.
Moreover, the Zucchinis are not cut in thick slices. Instead, they are hollowed from their heart-flesh, the way we do with our other Lebanese Zucchini recipes. They are then cut length-wise in boat-style.
Since the Lebanese hollowing tool, mankara, is not widely available in North-America and most Europe, my recipe here does the cutting then the hollowing. I even find it easier!
The preparation of this dish generates another dish by cooking the flesh with onion, garlic, and lemon. Check the light and refreshing side dish: Zesty Sautéed Zucchini for the recipe.
The Zucchini Nutritious Benefits
- Provides you with an overall cardiovascular protection
- Acts as antioxidant
- Keeps you free from diseases caused by vitamin C deficiency
- Promotes men’s health
- Helps reduce blood pressure and heart rates
- Helps with Weight Loss
- Controls cholesterol
- Helps reduce constipation
- Maintains optimal health
- Promotes eye health
- Helps cure asthma
Stuffed Zucchini Gratin with Bechamel
- 4 Green Zucchini (large)
- 400 gr Ground Beef
- 1 Onion (small)
- 1 clove Garlic mashed
- 3 tbsps Pine Kernels toasted or fried
- 1/2 cup Shredded Cheese I use a Frozen Mix of Mozzarella and Emmental
- 2 tbsps Fresh Parsley chopped
- 1/4 tsp Salt or as desired
- 1 tsp Lebanese 7-Spice
- Vegetable oil to cook
For the Bechamel Sauce
- 1/4 cup All-purpose Flour
- 1 cup Milk
- 4 tbsps Unsalted Butter
- 1 pinch Ground Nutmeg
- `1/4 tsp Salt or as desired
- 1/2 tsp Lebanese 7-Spice
Cutting the Zucchini
Gently slice off the Zucchini heads and dry bottoms.
With a sharp knife, proceed with a lengthwise cut in half.
With a teaspoon, remove the hearts, down and around. (Refer to photo). Proceed with cautious to not perforate or break the skin.
Place the zucchinis in a glass baking pan; Pyrex-style.
Preheat the oven to 375 F while you prepare the stuffing:
Preparing the Stuffing
Tenderize the onions over medium heat.
Stir in the mashed garlic until fragrant, and then mix in the Meat and pomegranate molasses.
Cook over medium-high heat, while mixing randomly, for 8-10 minutes.
Preparing the Zucchini for the Oven
Spoon the meat mixture into each Zucchini to fullness. Press gently the meat to ensure the Zucchinis are well filled, and even the surface.
Sprinkle shredded cheese on each.
Preparing the Béchamel Sauce
Warm the milk. I use the microwave. It's faster and less messy.
Melt butter over low heat and add the flour gradually while stirring to ensure a smooth paste. Keep the heat very low.
Pour the milk little by little, at first, always stirring, to develop it into a creamy texture.
Melt the butter, remove, and add the flour gradually like above.
Pour the warmed milk little by little while stirring then move to continue on the stove at low heat.
Simmer for few minutes for the cream to thicken. Do not boil.
Add a pinch of nutmeg, stir and remove from heat.
Spoon the Béchamel sauce generously over each stuffed zucchini.
Pour the remaining sauce in the baking pan, around the zucchini and in the gaps. This will allow the cooking of the zucchinis, and the blending of flavors.
Sprinkle more grated cheese over the surface.
Baking and Serving
Bake for 35 minutes. The surface of the dish should also turn golden.
Bring the Gratin pan as is, from the oven, onto the table.
Eat it with white rice, and a green salad.
AND THE REMAINING ZUCCHINI FLESH?
I always cook the hearts of the zucchini as a side dish while the Gratin bakes. It is super delicious and a quick-make.
Look up for my Zesty Sautéed Zucchini recipe:
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