My mother-in-law Suzy is an amazing cook. This lady lives and breathes food.
Suzy was born in war-torn Armenia, then grew up in Syria in the 1940s, and moved back to Armenia to marry her husband, Joe, and raise a family before immigrating to the United States in the early 1980s, where she devoutly watches the Turkish cooking channel. Each of her geographical homes has influenced her cooking.
Her youth in Syria was spent living in an abbey, where she watched nuns cook mostly vegetarian food. If there was meat in a dish, it was boiled and discarded; the broth was used for soups. To this day, it’s a rare occurrence to see Suzy eat meat.
In Armenia as a young bride, she focused on getting the best fresh fruits and vegetables available. They reminded her of the abbey grounds, which were covered with rows of fruit trees that she could see from her window. Vendors would go door-to-door selling their homegrown, seasonal produce, and Suzy got so excited that she would buy it all, even when that meant hiding some of the fruit under the bed! She now grows her own produce right in the backyard. Lucky for me, she’s very generous with bags of fresh tomatoes, figs, grapefruits, cucumbers, lemons, oranges, passion fruits, guavas, and even pineapples. (And Joe is relieved that it’s all free of charge!)
Suzy’s kitchen is always the most active room of the house. Its tempting aromas offer 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, including this recipe for Stuffed Zucchini. My version is a few shades different than the one that she expertly cooks (hers involves white rice and a pat or two of butter, and she prefers to cook this on the 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.
Note: If you’d prefer to cook this on the stove top, you can do so by plugging 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 the cooking liquid, then add extra water, just until it covers all of the zucchini, and place a plate on top to weight down the zucchini. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat, then decrease the heat to low. Partially cover the pot with a lid and continue to cook on low for 40 minutes
8 medium zucchinis
1 pound ground beef
¼ cup uncooked quinoa
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
2 tablespoons black raisins, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Wash the zucchini and trim the ends. Cut the zucchini in half widthwise and use a zucchini corer to hollow out each piece, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick wall. (Depending on the size of the zucchini, a melon baller could also work for doing this; however, the zucchini corer gets the job done in a fraction of the time.) Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients except the onion. Mix well until fully combined.
Fill each hollowed zucchini with stuffing, leaving 1/4 inch of room at the top. Place the zucchini upright in an 8 × 4-inch loaf pan and use pieces of onion as needed to keep the zucchini securely in place. Cover the pan with foil and place it in the fridge for at least an hour, so the flavors can mingle.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the cooking liquid ingredients in a large bowl and pour the mixture into the bottom of the loaf pan. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for 45–60 minutes, until the filling is cooked through and the zucchini are tender. Slice and serve.