Lebanese-Style Stuffed Yellow Squash

Every now and then I’ll find a recipe that just absolutely “wows” the main ingredient. Such is the recipe, “Mrs. Elias’ Stuffed Yellow Squash.” Yellow squash is plentiful in the summertime; I’ve been looking at it in the grocery stores for a while now. It’s a good vegetable to include in meals while in season.

Lebanese- Inspired Stuffed Yellow Squash - IMG_6145_1

 

There are so many creative ways to cook yellow squash–beyond boiled. A local Lebanese diner serves stuffed baby yellow squash on their cafeteria-style menu every day. I’ve always been curious about how the squash dish was made. I found a similar recipe in a saved newspaper clipping and tried it; the recipe was delicious–one of the best I’ve made in a while.

I’m one of those cooks who cuts and saves recipes. I especially like our local newspaper, the Advocate, and the Thursday food section. I’ve got stacks of saved recipes. I saved this page because it tells about my 85 year-old Italian neighbor and his life-long service in the wholesale food and beverage business. It is from August 2012. While shuffling through old newspaper clippings, I turned the page over and found a recipe for one similar to the squash on the Lebanese diner menu. I was excited to try it; a new way to use the yellow squash in the grocery markets.

The combination of spices–cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg–added to the ground beef and sausage made me a little skeptical. But that is what this recipe was all about. And it worked. The spices complemented the squash without overwhelming the other ingredients.

Mrs. Elias’ Stuffed Yellow Squash – Melting Pot

Great recipes are often passed along. This one originated in New Orleans. Mrs. Elias, of Lebanese descent, in the 1960’s (and now we can say “years ago”) cooked Lebanese dishes for her son and neighbors while they were in graduate school. The native New Orleans’ residents had never tasted these spices or dishes. They liked them and passed some of them along. This one reached the Baton Rouge Advocate food writer, Corinne Cook, who wrote a story about the recipe’s origination. (“Fond Memories Come with Squash”, Corinne Cook, The Advocate, August 16, 2012.) The recipe was published in the food section of the paper. I tried it; loved it and received permission to reprint the recipe on my blog. Perhaps you will like the recipe, too. We become a melting pot of flavors and dishes.

Does yellow squash grow in Louisiana?

Yes, yellow squash grows in Louisiana, but I’ve not had much success growing squash. The plants I started this spring grew to large beautiful ones with lots of blossoms. I’d get squash, but they never matured. Guess I’ll have to figure it out. Fortunately, there is an abundant supply in grocery stores in the summer.

plate of yellow squash - IMG_6113_1

Lebanese-Style Stuffed Yellow Squash Recipe Notes

In the recipe, this squash is stuffed with beef, sausage and dry rice. The spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger give the squash a middle eastern flavor. I followed the original recipe as written except that I baked rather than boiled the squash. The original recipe shows that the squash is boiled on the stove in the tomato sauce. I baked the dish in the oven so I could just “let it cook” and not have to check the stove so often..

Dry rice is added to the meat as a binder and to absorb the juices from the beef and sausage. I frequently end up with dry crunchy rice. I added a little tomato sauce to the meat to help give more moisture so the rice would be puffy.

I’ve made this recipe several times. A variation is to replace one of the cans of tomato sauce with a can of diced tomatoes (using tomatoes and juice). I added a few seasonings–(a tsp each of basil, thyme, sugar and a dash of black pepper and dried crushed red pepper flakes)–to the tomato sauce “gravy” to give it a some flavor. In Mrs. Elias’ recipe a dish is placed on the squash and pressed down so the meat flavors the tomato gravy.

To stuff the squash, it must be hollowed out. I thought this might be a challenge, but it turned out to be easy. The instructions say to use an apple corer or potato peeler. The apple corer worked well. (Save the squash pulp.)

yellow squash with apple corer - IMG_6116_1I used a paring knife to hollow the squash out further.

yellow squash hollowed out with knife -IMG_6117_1

The squash are stuffed; the top is place back onto each squash. Since I was baking the squash, I placed the squash in a casserole dish and added the reserved squash pulp around the squash. Otherwise, place the stuffed squash and squash pulp in a heavy dutch oven.

yellow squash with meat stuffing - IMG_6122_1

 

Add onions and bell pepper.

yellow squash with vegetables - IMG_6123_1

Ladle on tomato sauce, cover tightly with foil and bake for an hour at 350 degrees. Alternately, add all ingredients to the dutch oven, weight down with a plate, cover and boil on the stove for 30-40 minutes until the squash are tender.yellow squash with tomato sauce ready for oven - IMG_6125_1

 

Here’s my finished squash recipe. Delicious!casserole of Lebanese-Inspired Baked Yellow Squash - IMG_6140_1

Recipe

Mrs. Elias' Stuffed Yellow Squash submitted by Sylvia Spaht

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

  • 6 – 8 medium yellow squash
  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 lb. lean ground pork (I used Jimmy Dean mild sausage)
  • 3 Tbsp uncooked rice
  • 1/2 tsp. each cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Gravy

  • 2 (15-oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped

Instructions and Steps

  1. Wash and dry whole squash. Cut a small cap off the bulb end, leaving the rest of the squash intact. (That’s where you will go in and make a small cavity to stuff with meat filling.)
  2. Using a potato peeler or apple corer, remove center of squash, making a small cavity to hold meat filling. Reserve the squash pulp.
  3. In medium mixing bowl, combine beef and pork, rice, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Loosely pack the meat mixture into the cored squash and place in a large skillet or Dutch oven (that has a cover to fit it).
  5. Add the two cans of tomato sauce, onions, bell pepper and reserved squash pulp over the stuffed squash and cover. Spaht weighs the squash down into the tomato sauce mixture with a small platter or plate so that the spicy flavor of the meat adds subtleness to the gravy mixture.
  6. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for at least 30-45 minutes or until the squash is tender and the meat is cooked through.

Reprinted with permission from the Baton Rouge Advocate at theadvocate.com

My modifications and notes:

  1. I found that 6 – 8 squash was about 2 pounds.
  2. I used mild pork sausage for the ground pork–Jimmy Dean brand.
  3. A variation is to substitute a can of diced tomatoes for a can of tomato sauce (adding a tsp each of basil, thyme, sugar and a dash of black pepper and dried crushed red pepper flakes).
  4. I added 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce to the meat/pork/rice mixture prior to stuffing the squash and replaced squash caps on squash.
  5. I baked the squash in a oiled, tightly covered casserole dish, using aluminum foil to cover the dish, at 350 degrees for one hour.

Perhaps you will try and like this recipe, too!

 

 

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