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zucchini dolma | dolm’it koosa

Ingredients

To prep the zucchini:
8 large Lebanese zucchini *
Special equipment: zucchini corer **
1/4 teaspoon salt

To stuff the dolma:
1 cup green onions
3/4 cup parsley
3/4 cup dill
3/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup minced, seeded hot peppers (from about 1 banana pepper)
4 cloves garlic, crushed through a press or finely minced
28 ounce can diced tomatoes, strained, juice reserved
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup uncooked medium grain rice, rinsed (e.g., Calrose)
3/4 pound sirloin, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 medium potato, sliced thinly
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preparing the zucchini: Cut each zucchini in half (into 2 shorter pieces), and then core the zucchinis, *** leaving the uncut side closed. Core them so that the zucchini shell is very thin (see photos). I do this by gouging out 3 big circles from the middle, and then using the side of the zucchini corer to whittle the insides down until they’re the right thickness.
  2. Evenly sprinkle the carved insides with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let them sit for about 30 minutes and then pour out and discard the water that’s collected inside them. You can even do this step the night before, and let them brine in the fridge overnight.
  3. Making the dolma: Combine the green onions, parsley, dill, cilantro, hot peppers, garlic, strained diced tomatoes (but save the juice for later), melted butter, rice, sirloin, and salt.
  4. Spread the potato slices over the bottom of a medium dutch oven or stockpot.
  5. Stuff the zucchinis with the filling and place them vertically in the dutch oven. If it isn’t a snug fit, let them lean to the side slightly, so that there aren’t any big gaps. ****
  6. Slowly pour the reserved tomato juice directly over the tops of the stuffed zucchinis (some of it will seep into the stuffing and some will overflow down the sides). Next do the same with the lemon juice. Then pour the water through a gap between the zucchinis. Drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over the tops to finish.
  7. Place the pot over medium-high heat. As soon as it starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 50 minutes. You should maintain a good simmer, not a bare one; it should be as close to a boil as possible, without making the dolma bounce around too much.
  8. Once 50 minutes are up, keep it covered, and let them rest for about 15 to 20 minutes, or longer.
  9. Uncover and serve.

Notes

* Any other variety will work fine, but you might have extra stuffing or zucchini left. Lebanese zucchini are also known as Korean zucchini. Look for zucchini that are approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide.

** You can easily find zucchini corers online, and in some Middle Eastern grocery stores. In addition to making dolma, they can be used for lots more. For instance, cut a cucumber in half and then cut a small slice off each end so they can stand up on their own, core the inside (leaving the bottom closed), salt it lightly, and fill it with water (my grandmother would make these for us all the time when we were children). Use a zucchini corer as part of your jack-o-lantern tool kit around Halloween. Use one to core and stuff mini-cupcakes.

*** If you’re looking for a way to use up the leftover zucchini guts, try my recipe for zero waste zucchini bread.

**** The key here is to get them to fit snugly, so you need to choose the right size pot. If you only have a gigantic stockpot / dutch oven, just increase the recipe accordingly.