Saturday, February 27, 2010


This month (well, on Monday) our gourmet group is venturing into Middle Eastern/North African territory. My assigned recipe is Kousa Bil Bandora. Essentially zucchini boats, stuffed with seasoned rice and beef, in a tomato based sauce. It is similar in concept to something my mother made when I was young. Her roots are Italian, though, so the seasoning was obviously different (though there is some African influence in a few parts of Italy).

For those who don't know what my gourmet group is all about, a group of 9 of us gals gets together once a month or so. The hostess sets the menu. There doesn't have to be a theme, though often there is. We've done an autumn feast, Greek, and Indonesian so far. The hostess gives each person a recipe. We have a schedule of courses and we move through from hosting to dessert. On gourmet night we each bring our assigned dish, and we all sit down and tuck in. The hostess provides beverages and any extras that she likes (condiments, for example).

So, back to my recipe. This could easily be a main course, but instead it is a side. The recipe comes from Lebanon, apparently. It is seasoned with allspice and black pepper, and is pretty straightforward. Cooking it in the tomato sauce is different from what my mother did. She precooked the rice and meat and stuffed the mixture into hollowed out zucchini and baked them covered with cheese. I'm looking forward to trying this version. I will report back on the evening and let you all know how this turned out.

Kousa Bil Bandora

6 medium yellow or Clarita zucchini (6 to 8 oz each) (I got green)
1/2 cup long-grain rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 lb ground beef chuck (not lean)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups canned diced tomatoes including juice
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1/2 lemon


Hollow out each zucchini, working from both ends with a small melon-ball cutter or an apple corer, removing all seeds and leaving shells about 1/3 inch thick. Discard pulp and seeds.

Wash rice in several changes of cold water in a bowl until water runs almost clear, then drain in a sieve. Heat oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion, stirring, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute, then remove skillet from heat.

Transfer 1/4 cup onion mixture to a bowl and cool slightly. Add rice, meat, allspice, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and mix well with your hands. Stuff zucchini shells with meat mixture, being careful not to pack tightly (rice will expand during cooking).

Add tomatoes with juice, stock, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper to onion in skillet and bring to a simmer. Put stuffed zucchini in tomato sauce and simmer, covered, until rice is cooked through, 1 to 1 1/4 hours (cut 1 zucchini in half crosswise to check).

If sauce is watery, transfer zucchini to a plate and boil sauce, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes, then return zucchini to sauce. Squeeze lemon over dish before serving.

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