As I mentioned in my last post, Mr. Foodie and I have been learning how to make different Palestinian recipes because we love them so much! This week we returned to Maashi (meaning “stuffed”) which consists of vegetables stuffed with a rice and meat mixture and cooked in a broth. I say “returned” to Maashi because we tried this one before and it tasted so. very. bland. Like steamed-veggie-with-no-seasoning bland. So we tried again. I’m happy to report that this time our Maashi was mother-in-law approved (no really, she dropped by unexpectedly and said we did well!).
There are as many recipes for Maashi as there are people who make it, but the following is the one my in-laws make. I think it is a great way to use up end of season summer produce which tends to be a little watery and tasteless this late in the year. It is also a hearty, hot dish – perfect for the cooler weather we’ve been having.
Maashi looks somewhat involved because of the preparation of the vegetables, but honestly all it takes is a few practice zucchinis and you’ll be an expert corer. The trick is to hollow out enough of the vegetable without poking a hole through the side or bottom of it. On the one hand, you don’t want to leave a bunch of vegetable flesh at the bottom because it will likely go uneaten. On the other hand, poking holes in the bottom and sides will result in a very messy rice-meat-tomato soup because it will fall apart in the pot. You might be able to find this coring tool in a kitchen supply shop, but I found mine in our local halal store.
Once the coring is done, it’s pretty easy. We use the same meat mixture for these as the dawali (steak cut up by food processor, melted salted butter, allspice, salt and pepper). Mr. Foodie wants you know that using already ground meat is too fatty for this dish and will result in a too-greasy mixture. Leave a little room in each vegetable to allow the meat-rice mixture to expand as it cooks. Pile them in a pot and pour water in to just below the top of the veggies (there will be a steam effect with the lid on). Then put 6 oz of tomato paste into the water as well as two chopped fresh tomatoes, some salt, and some pepper. Bring to a boil. Then let simmer with the lid on for 30-45 minutes depending on how much you are making. You can check for doneness by opening the top veggie. Spoon a little of the tomato broth into your bowl along with the veggies to flavor the dish.
You can core the zucchini and squash ahead of time as part of your weekly meal prep if you want – just seal in an airtight container for 2-3 days. You can also make a big batch of the meat mixture and freeze what you don’t use for future dishes (like dawali) if you want (I hate wasting this delicious stuffing!).
6-8 medium/large zucchini and/or squash
1 lb of steak (I use stew meat)
1/2 cup of salted butter
2 cups white rice, uncooked
allspice, salt, and pepper to taste*
6 oz tomato paste
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
water, salt, pepper
Begin by cutting off the tops and coring each of the squash/zucchini with a coring tool like the one pictured above (for yellow squash, you might have to cut the skinny “neck” off completely to be able to core/stuff properly). Take care to avoid piercing the outside flesh of the vegetables with the tool. Hollow each vegetable out, leaving enough flesh so that the vegetable won’t fall apart in the broth. Next, chop the steak in a food processor using the S-blade until it resembles ground beef. Mix the chopped steak with the rice, melted butter, and allspice, salt, and pepper (*Note: we eyeball the amounts, but I estimate that we include 1 tsp – 1 1/2 tsp each of allspice, salt, and pepper. The allspice should be lightly visible throughout the mixture). Fill each cored vegetable with the steak mixture, leaving a little room (1/2 inch) at the top of each vegetable to allow the filling to expand. Pile the stuffed vegetables into a large pot and cover with water until just below the top vegetable. Season the water with salt and pepper. Add 6 oz of tomato paste to the water. Bring the pot to a boil, then simmer with the lid on for 30-45 minutes depending on how many/size of your vegetables. Check for doneness inside the top vegetable. Serve each stuffed vegetable with some of the broth for flavor.