Category Archives: beef and lamb

Stuffed Zucchini in a Tomato Broth

stuffed zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini in a Tomato Broth

Zucchini is native to Mexico and Guatemala. It was introduced into Europe in the early 1500s and their popularity spread to North Africa and the Near East. Stuffing vegetables with rice and meat was introduced during the Ottoman Empire.

The tomato, which is native to Mexico, first arrived in Italy at the end of the 16th century but its seeds were not introduced to Greece until 1818, when the country was still part of the Ottoman Empire. The first tomatoes to grow in Greece were on the island of Syros and in Santorini, where they still thrive today. The tomato quickly became one of the main ingredients of Greek cuisine.

10 small zucchini
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
water or dry white wine
Greek yogurt for serving

For the filling:
1 cup long grain rice
½ pound ground beef
1 tomato, diced
½ onion, diced
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
1/3 cup mint, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup dill, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
2 cloves of garlic

In a large bowl, combine the filling ingredients. Cook a small amount in olive oil to check for seasoning.

Cut the ends of the zucchini and scoop out the pulp using a small spoon or the tip of a vegetable peeler. The walls of zucchinis should be about ¼ inch. Sprinkle a pinch of salt inside each of them. (If the zucchini are large, cut in half.)

Fill each zucchini with the stuffing, leaving about 1 centimeter free at the top (or at each end if you cut off both ends) to allow the filling to expand. It’s easiest to fill the zucchini by hand, tapping them on your work surface every now and then to settle the stuffing down.

Place each stuffed zucchini in an even layer a large skillet. Pour the tomato sauce and enough water or wine to cover the by half. Bring to a boil then cover and lower the heat to simmer over for about 40 minutes hour, allowing the sauce to reduce and the rice to cook through. Serve the stuffed zucchini with some tomato sauce and a dollop of yogurt.

Serves 6

Ropa Vieja

ropa vieja

Ropa Vieja

A popular dish in Cuba and around the Caribbean, ropa vieja literally translates into old clothes, which is what the shredded meat may resemble. It’s hearty, delicious, easy to make and always hits the spot. And it’s the perfect dish for feeding a crowd.

2 ½ pounds beef flank steak
2 teaspoons ground cumin
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups beef broth
16 ounces tomato sauce
12 ounces tomato paste
2 tablespoons white vinegar
8 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded & sliced into thin strips
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded & sliced into thin strips
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped (cilantro haters can substitute parsley)

Season the steak with cumin, salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and sear the steak on both sides until golden grown, then transfer to a crock-pot.

In a separate bowl, mix together the broth, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and vinegar and add to the meat. Add the onion, bell peppers and cilantro. Stir again and pour mixture over steak in crock-pot.

Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for up to 10 hours. The meat is ready when it falls apart when pierced with a fork. When cooked use two forks to shred, return to the pot and serve with white rice, black beans and fried plantains.


Serves 8 to 10
(Recipe is adapted from Eva Longoria’s cookbook, Eva’s Kitchen)

Kibbeh with Lemon Pickled Red Onions and Yemeni Hot Sauce


Kibbeh with Lemon Pickled Red Onions and Yemeni Hot Sauce

This dish made of bulgur, minced, onions, finely ground spiced meat is considered to be the national dish of many Middle Eastern countries. The word kibbeh is Arabic for “ball”. It is a popular dish in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, which has a large Lebanese population.

There are three species of cultivated chiles in ancient America, one of which was found in Mexico, wild, in cultural deposits in the Tehuacan valley dating from 7200 to 5200 BC. The use of chiles in the New World was not confined to food. Chile smoke was used as a fumigant, as a means of chemical warfare, and the Aztecs disciplined their children with it!

Christopher Columbus introduced chiles to Europe after his first trip to the Caribbean and called them peppers because he likened them to the peppercorns he was familiar with, though they are from a different family. Shortly thereafter they were cultivated around the globe and were quickly assimilated into the foods of other cultures, including those of Asia and the Middle East.

For the Lemon-Pickled Red Onions:
1 red onion, small dice
2 large lemons, juiced (preferably Meyer lemons for their sweetness)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
salt to taste

For the Yemeni Hot Sauce:
2 to 3 dried hot red chiles
2 to 3 roughly chopped, stemmed, fresh green serrano or jalapeño chiles, or more depending on how spicy you want it)
⅛ teaspoons ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems trimmed off
3 peeled garlic cloves
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

For the Kibbeh:
1 pound lean ground beef
1 ½ cups fine bulgur
½ yellow onion
about 30 leaves fresh mint
about 10 leaves fresh marjoram or oregano
2 teaspoons allspice or Lebanese 7-spice
2 teaspoons salt, to start off, then can season to taste
2 teaspoons pepper
vegetable oil for frying

Make the lemon-pickled red onions. Dice the red onion and place into a bowl. Pour lemon juice over the onion until it is submerged. Add vinegar and salt to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least an hour or until ready to serve as a garnish for kibbeh.

Make the hot sauce. Soak red chiles in a bowl of warm water for 30 minutes, then drain. Remove and discard stems from chiles, then put in the bowl of a food processor. Add green chiles, cardamom, cloves, and cumin, and process until finely chopped, scraping down sides as needed. Add cilantro and garlic cloves. Process. It will not be a fine paste, but more like a thick relish. Season with salt to taste.

Prepare the kibbeh. Rinse bulgur in water then steep in until it becomes soft, about 30 minutes. Once it has softened, drain and squeeze out excess water as much as possible.

Meanwhile, put the onion in a processor and pulse. Add the beef, herbs, spices, salt and pepper until mixture looks homogenized and onion has been incorporated. Take meat mixture out and place into a bowl. Add the drained bulgur and combine with hands. Form one small pattie and fry in oil until crispy and brown, flip over, drain on paper towels and taste for seasoning. Adjust seasoning and form the remaining meat into thin, round patties about 3 ½ inches across. Fry in oil until crispy and brown, then flip over. Drain on paper towels and serve with Lemon Pickled Red Onions and Yemeni Hot Sauce.

Makes 12 or more patties
(recipe adapted from Stephanie Parra)

Za’atar Meatballs with Fresh Herbs and Yogurt Pomegranate Sauce

zatar meatballs

Za’atar Meatballs with Fresh Herbs and Yogurt Pomegranate Sauce

Lately I can’t get enough of za’atar. An aromatic spice blend of oregano, sumac, cumin, thyme and sesame seeds, it has been eaten in the Middle East for centuries. The 12th century philosopher Maimonides is said to have prescribed it to his patients to treat a variety of ailments.

I love it tossed into roasted vegetables or mixed with olive oil and spread over warm bread or feta cheese, but the flavor it gives to these meatballs might be my favorite use for it yet.

For the meatballs:
1 pound ground beef
½ small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons parsley, minced
3 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
1 tablespoon za’atar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon pepper
lettuce leaves

For the pomegranate yogurt sauce:
seeds of one pomegranate
2 cups plain whole Greek yogurt
2 scallions, finely chopped
juice of one lemon, or to taste
½ teaspoon salt

Make the yogurt sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, scallions, lemon and salt. Gently fold in all but 2 tablespoons of the pomegranate seeds. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with reserved pomegranate seeds. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Light a grill.

In a medium bowl, gently mix the ground meat with the onion, garlic, parsley, mint, za’atar, salt, cumin and pepper. Form the meat into 1 1/2-inch balls and flatten them to 3/4 inch thick patties. Grill the meatballs over medium high heat until cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Wrap the grilled meatballs in lettuce leaves and serve with a dollop of the pomegranate yogurt sauce.

Serves 4