Fiction-Food Café

October 29, 2018

Vegetarian Kusa Mihshi (Stuffed Zucchini) | Nightbooks

"I get off the elevator, thinking I'll take the stairs, when I smell the most amazing thing. Kusa mihshi." Yasmin registered Alex's confused look and added, "That's rice and lamb––or chickpeas, if you're vegetarian like me––all mashed together inside squash, cooked with lemon juice, mint, and a ton of garlic."
"Sounds delicious," Alex said, stomach grumbling.
"It is," replied Yasmin. Her voice softened. "My sito––grandma––and I used to make it together."
––Nightbooks by J. A. White

       Kusa Mihshi (also spelled kousa mahshi) is often made with ground lamb meat, but Yasmin in Nightbooks, who loves this food, is a vegetarian and uses chickpeas/garbanzo beans instead.
       I went through a few experiments for this dish (like so many others), to get the method, ingredients, and measurements where I wanted. I made a tomato version first, and then decided that though it was delicious and pretty, I wanted to try to make it closer to what Yasmin seems to describes in the book (lemon-focused). So I made a lemon version (though still put some yellow tomatoes in the broth) and liked it all right, but didn't like the fact that the broth wasn't usable for soup like my previous version, and that I had to discard it (because it was potently lemon). I'm glad I experimented with the lemon version, but I decided to stick to my first recipe because it's tasty and you can use the cooking broth to make soup, no waste. :) (I hate throwing food out!)

       Nightbooks by J. A. White is a wonderful modern folktale with lots of creepiness, fantasy, and food! Check out my pumpkin pie oatmeal raisin cookies and froot loop marshmallow treats + homemade lemonade, all inspired by the book.

Note: Many recipes for kusa mash call for courgettes instead of zucchini, but they are the same thing, only harvested at different times (courgettes are picked earlier and are smaller), and have different names depending on region.
          For a nice color change yould use yellow squash in place of green zucchini. You could also dice up 2 1/2 cups or so of those little yellow and orange tomatoes instead of using diced red tomatoes!
          To make this recipe you'll need to hollow out zucchini but you can save the stuff that you core out and use it for omelets or salads!
          This recipe makes 6 stuffed zucchini halves. If you find courgettes, use 6-8 of them.

Vegetarian Kusa Mihshi

1/2 Cup Uncooked White Rice
3 Zucchinis (or yellow squash)
4 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Large Onion, minced
4 Large Cloves Garlic, minced
3 C Vegetable Broth
1/4 C Tomato Paste
1 Can (28 oz) Diced Tomatoes (or ~2 1/2-3 Cups diced fresh tomatoes)
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. White Granulated Sugar
1/4 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
1 Can Garbanzo Beans/ Chick Peas, drained, liquid reserved
3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 tsp. Cumin
1/2 tsp. Allspice
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Chili Powder
1/4 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
2 Tbsp. Minced Fresh Mint Leaves
2 Tbsp. Minced Fresh Cilantro/Coriander
1/3 C Pine Nuts
1 Cup Greek Plain Yogurt
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
Garlic Salt to taste
Fresh Mint Leaves (whole)
Lemon Wedges

Polish & soak the rice until needed. Polishing means to pour cold water over the rice & rub it between your hands until the water is very cloudy, strain the water, repeat until the water is relatively clear, & then cover the rice in cold water to soak.

Cut the zucchini in half & remove the stems (do not peel). Using a vegetable or fruit corer (like for apples or specifically zucchinis) hollow out the zucchinis, leaving about a 1/4" wall, making sure not to break through the other end.
Place the zucchinis in a large bowl of salted cold water until needed. (If the zucchini are floating up, place a plate on top with a few canned good to weigh it down.)

In a large pot on medium-low heat sauté 2 Tbsp. olive oil with the minced onion & garlic until soft.
Scoop the mixture into a mound & then separate it in half. Leave half in the pot & move the other half to a large bowl.

Raise the heat to high & pour in the diced tomatoes & 3 1/2 cups of the vegetable broth.
Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup of broth with the tomato paste & then stir that into the pot as well.
Stir in 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp. sugar, & 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper.
Bring to a boil & then lower to medium to simmer with a lid on.

In a food processor or blender, combine the chickpeas/garbanzo beans, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, & 2 Tbsp. of the reserved chickpea liquid (aquafaba). Blend until smooth.
Scoop half of the resulting hummus into the large bowl with the onion & garlic mixture & leave the other half of the hummus in the food processor/blender.

Add 1 cup greek yogurt plus 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to the hummus in the food processor/blender & blend until smooth. Sprinkle in some garlic salt to taste. Scoop into a small container & refrigerate until needed.

Into the bowl with the hummus & onion/garlic mixture, stir in 1/2 tsp. salt plus the other spices & minced fresh herbs.
Drain & rinse the rice well & stir it into the hummus mixture along with the pine nuts.

Drain & rinse the zucchini & pat with a paper towel inside & out.
Stuff the zucchini with the hummus/rice mixture, leaving at least 1/2" space at the top.
Stir any unused mixture into the simmering pot.

Using tongs, carefully submerge the stuffed zucchini in the tomato broth (if the zucchini is not completely covered by liquid, add water or more broth as needed).
Bring back to a boil & then lower to a simmer again & cover.
Cook for about an hour, or until the zucchini is cooked through & easily pierced with a fork.

To serve, use tongs to plate the zucchini & spoon some of the soup/sauce over it plus some of the greek yogurt mixture. Garnish with fresh mint & a lemon wedge.
(These stuffed zucchinis are good cold, too!)

*Suggestion: (what's shown in photos)
Use tongs to remove all of the zucchini to a serving platter, & then use an immersion blender to blend the tomato soup (or blend it in batches in a standing blender with a towel over top instead of the blender lid). Serve over the zucchini on individual serving plates or alongside the zucchini in a bowl (you can even slice the zucchini into thick discs & place them in a bowl of the soup).

* Try my Nightbooks Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal Raisin Cookies 

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