My mother-in-law, Suzy, is an amazing cook. This lady lives and breathes cooking.
She grows much of her own produce, right in the backyard, and is continuously finding new and flavorful ways to cook up those homegrown veggies and fruits. Lucky me, she’s very generous with bags of fresh tomatoes, figs, grapefruits, cucumbers, lemons, oranges, passion fruits, guavas and even pineapples!
Suzy was born in war-torn Armenia, then grew up in Syria in the 1940’s, and moved back to Armenia to marry Joe and raise a family before immigrating to America in the early 80’s, where she devoutly watches the Turkish cooking channel. Each of her geographical homes show their influence in her cooking style.
Her youth, in Syria, was spent living in an Abbey, where she watched nuns cook mostly vegetarian food — the only meat she remembers was boiled and discarded, the broth was used in soups. To this day it’s a rare occurrence to see Suzy eat a bite of meat! The Abbey grounds were covered with fruit trees that she viewed in rows from her window, and she cherishes the memory of a fancy English chocolate that an aristocratic woman shared with her. Today when friends and family stop by for a visit, Suzy piles her coffee table high with a bounty of fresh fruit and fancy chocolates 🙂
Back in Armenia, as a young bride, her focus was on getting the best fresh fruits and vegetables available. Venders would go door-to-door selling their homegrown, seasonal produce and Suzy got so excited about the sweet smelling fruit that she would buy it all, even when that meant hiding some of the fruit under the bed when her kitchen was filled! Today her kitchen is filled (literally) with piles of her very own organic, seasonal fruits. (Joe is relieved that all this produce is available free of charge – lol!)
Her kitchen is the most active room of the house, its tempting aromas give you a warm greeting, along with her friendly shooneeks (doggies), as soon as you step inside. No one leaves her house hungry. No. One.
You’ll see Suzy’s influence in my cooking in dishes such as grape-leaf dolmas, catfish and cabbage, and exotic passion fruit recipes (like this sorbet and this mousse and this sweet loaf). And, of course, this recipe for Stuffed Zucchini. My recipe is a few shades different that the one that she expertly cooks up (hers involves white rice and pat or two of butter! and she prefers to cook this on a stove while I choose the ‘set it and forget it’ oven method) but she’s cool with my, as she puts it, “skinny lady” versions of her favorite foods.
You’ve just got to love her 🙂
You’ll need a zucchini corer (like the one here) in order to hollow out the zucchini before filling with the meat stuffing. It’s a handy tool to have in the kitchen.
In order to cook these Stuffed Zucchini in the oven, I placed them upright in a loaf pan and used wedges of onion to help hold them in place. This is important so that the stuffing stays inside the zucchini. I then filled the bottom of the pan with a cooking liquid and covered the whole thing tightly with foil.
If you’d prefer to cook over the stove top, you can do so by stopping up the end of each zucchini with a smaller piece of onion, then lay all the zucchini on their sides in a large pot. Fill the pot with salted water, just until it covers all of the zucchini, and place a plate on top, pressing the zucchini down. Place over medium heat until the liquid begins to boil, then reduce to low heat. Cover partially with a lid and continue to cook on low for 40 minutes.
Alright, here’s my skinny lady recipe for Stuffed Zucchini… 🙂
- 6-8 zucchini
- 1 lb ground beef
- ¼ cup yellow onion, minced
- ¼ cup quinoa (uncooked)
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced
- 2 Tablespoons fresh dill, minced
- 2 Tablespoons fresh basil, minced
- 2 Tablespoons black raisins, minced
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup boiling water
- *piece of onion if needed
- Wash and trim the zucchini ends. Cut in half (width-wise) and use a zucchini corer to hollow out each piece, leaving a ¼ inch wall. Set aside.
- In a large bowl combine all of the stuffing ingredients. Mix well until fully combined.
- Fill each hollowed zucchini with the stuffing, leaving ¼ inch space at the top. Place the zucchini upright in a loaf pan (see photo above) and use wedges of onion as needed to keep the zucchinis securely in place. Cover with foil and place in the fridge for at least an hour, for the flavors to mingle.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the Cooking Liquid ingredients together and pour into the bottom of the loaf pan. Cover the zucchini tightly with foil. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until the filling is cooked through and the zucchini is tender. Slice and serve. Enjoy!