Stuffed Zucchini with Lamb Merguez, Rice, and Walnuts

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  6 servings
Prep Time:  15 minutes Cook Time:  45 minutes

Stuffed Zucchini with Lamb Merguez, Rice, and Walnuts

This spicy, fragrant dish makes a lovely centerpiece for brunch, lunch, or light supper. Serve with a mild sesame tahini sauce or cooling yogurt cucumber salsa or both. Brimming with the flavors of the Maghreb and Southern Spain and the kiss of Urfa pepper, this is smoky meal is held together not by breadcrumbs, but by flavorful and healthy walnuts! It's a dairy free, kosher meal that's as delicious as it is easy.

Ingredients

3 medium zucchini

2 teaspoons olive oil

½ medium onion, peeled and diced (about 1¼ cups)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

5 links (½ pound) lamb merguez sausage, Neshama brand beef and lamb, Moroccan Style or Tunisian Style  preferred

1 cup cooked white or brown rice, medium-grain preferred

6 dried apricots or 2 tablespoons chopped dried apricots

2 tablespoons finely ground walnuts

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon Urfa pepper

3 egg whites, lightly beaten

¼ cup low-sodium chicken stock

2 tablespoons roughly chopped walnuts, optional

Instructions

  1. Halve the zucchini lengthwise,  and scrape out and discard the seeds and flesh , leaving a ½-inch border around the edge.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium-sized nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 4 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and smoked paprika and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Remove the lamb meat from the casing and add to the skillet. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring and breaking up any large pieces, or until lamb is cooked through.  Add the rice, apricots, ground walnuts, salt and pepper. Stir to combine; then transfer to a mixing bowl to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  4. Add the egg whites to the cooled sausage and rice filling and mix well. Spoon it into the zucchini shells, dividing it evenly, and place them in a shallow baking dish. Add the stock to the bottom of the pan. Bake, uncovered, 30 to 35 minutes, until the zucchini is cooked and the filling is hot.
  5. Garnish with walnuts, if using, and serve.

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