Today was another active day – I finished our grocery shopping for the week. As much as I hate traffic and pushing carts, I love shopping for food – I get to daydream about all the upcoming weeks’ recipes as I stroll through the isles at Whole Foods and at the farmer’s market. Besides daydreaming, I also get to sample free food – which is great especially when the food is healthy… Whoever thought of free samples was a business genius!
A few weeks ago, I went to a grocery store out in the suburbs that sold all kinds of interesting global foods, even in the produce section! When I came across the calabacitas (looks kind of like a cross between a yellow squash and a green zucchini, but is shorter in length and larger in diameter – also called ‘marrows’), I was reminded of my grandmother’s stuffed Egyptian squash (Kousa Mahshi), and I knew I had to buy some to try making the recipe at home.
Egyptians – and other Middle Easterners – like to stuff all kinds of vegetables with rice and meat: examples of such stuffed vegetables are grape leaves, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, artichokes, and of course, this squash. The difference between the squash or zucchini we usually see in the grocery store and a calabacita (literally a “little squash” in Spanish) is that the Spanish version is sweeter (with no bitter taste) and juicier – making it the perfect type for stuffing!
Typically, Egyptian kousa mahshi is stuffed with rice, onions, ground beef, and spices. Although Sherif and I eat white rice from time to time, we prefer the health benefits that brown rice (or even sprouted brown rice) offers, so we eat that more often. Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), which is a highly nutritious seed from South America. Called the “gold of the Incas,” quinoa is usually thought of as a grain, although it is actually a seed from the same family as spinach and Swiss chard (WH Foods). Thinking that it would work well with the calabacitas (are you catching on to the Latin American theme? :-p ), I decided to substitute the rice with quinoa – and the result was fantastic!
Here are some of the nutritional benefits of quinoa that are written on the back of the packet:
[Quinoa's] mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it a terrific subsitute for rice or couscous. Quinoa, hailed for its excellent nutritional profile, is an exceptional source of protein, containing all eight essential amino acids and is high is iron, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins and fiber.
That’s a whole lot of minerals and vitamins! The protein especially is useful for vegans and vegetarians who don’t consume animal protein. Also, since quinoa is gluten-free, even those with certain dietary restrictions can enjoy it. Finally, quinoa is very versatile, working in both sweet and salty dishes. If you’re sold and can’t wait to try it, this recipe is a great start.
Here’s what you’ll need to make Stuffed Calabacitas (Kousa Mahshi) and Quinoa Meatloaf:
1 lb organic, grass-fed ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
3 cups organic beef broth, preferably homemade
1 small glass jar organic tomato sauce
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 tablespoon of salt & pepper
- After slicing the top off each calabacita, use a vegetable corer to remove the pulp. Try to remove as much pulp as you can without puncturing the calabacita. Put the pulp aside in a separate bowl to use later (yes, it will go in the meatloaf! )
- In a bowl, add 2 cups of quinoa to 1 lb of ground meat.
- Chop onion and parsley, mince garlic, and add to mixture. Season with ghee, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Mix well.
- Using a spoon, scoop the meat and quinoa mixture and stuff inside of each hollowed calabacita, until all are stuffed. Set the rest of the stuffing aside.
- Place the stuffed calabacitas in a pot and add 1 cup of beef broth, 1 cup of water, and half a small glass jar of tomato sauce. Cover the pot and cook on high heat until it boils, then turn temperature down to medium. Cook for about 30-35 minutes, rotating the calabacitas a few times, but be careful not to let them break!
Meanwhile, make the meatloaf:
- Add the pulp of the calabacitas (which was set aside earlier) to the the leftover meat and quinoa mixture and mix well.
- In a separate pot, add 2 cups of beef broth and 1/4 jar of tomato sauce to the mixture and mix well. Leave on medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Preheat the oven to 375° F. Then, transfer the mixture to a baking dish and use the back of a spoon to even it out. Add 1/4 can of tomato sauce on top and bake for 20 minutes.
- Serve hot with stuffed calabacitas on the side. Pour the sauce from the calabacitas pot on the meatloaf and calabacitas for extra juice and flavor. Enjoy!
What is your favorite stuffed vegetable? Also, what’s your favorite recipe using quinoa? I have a whole bag to use, and I’d love some suggestions for creative recipes!