Turkish Stuffed Squash: A Hearty and Flavorful Meal Bursting with Middle Eastern Aromatics

Turkish Stuffed Squash: A Hearty and Flavorful Meal Bursting with Middle Eastern Aromatics

Turkish Stuffed Squash (Dolma) is a delicious and satisfying dish that perfectly marries the flavors of fresh vegetables, aromatic spices, and savory filling. Hollowed-out squashes are generously filled with a mixture of ground meat, rice, and herbs, then slowly cooked until tender. This traditional Turkish recipe is sure to become a favorite family meal, offering comforting textures and a rich infusion of Middle Eastern tastes.

For the Filling:
– 4 medium zucchinis or small squash
– 1 cup rice (preferably short-grain)
– 250 grams ground beef or lamb
– 1 onion, finely chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tomato, finely diced
– 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
– 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
– 1 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1 teaspoon paprika
– Salt and black pepper to taste
– 1/4 cup olive oil

For the Cooking Liquid:
– 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
– Juice of 1 lemon
– 2 tablespoons tomato paste

1. **Prepare the Squash:**
– Cut off the tops of the zucchinis or squash and set them aside.
– Hollow out the insides of the squash using a small spoon or a vegetable corer, leaving about 1/4 inch of the shell. Be careful not to pierce through the skin. Discard the insides or save them for another use.

2. **Make the Filling:**
– In a large bowl, combine the rice, ground meat, chopped onion, garlic, tomato, parsley, mint, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, salt, and black pepper.
– Mix well until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

3. **Stuff the Squash:**
– Fill each hollowed-out squash with the meat and rice filling, packing it in tightly but leaving a little space at the top for the rice to expand during cooking.
– Place the tops of the squash back on.

4. **Prepare the Cooking Liquid:**
– In a medium bowl, whisk together the chicken or vegetable stock, lemon juice, and tomato paste.

5. **Cook the Stuffed Squash:**
– Place the stuffed squashes in a large pot, standing upright so they don’t tip over.
– Pour the cooking liquid over the squashes.
– Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let simmer for about 1 hour or until the squash and rice are tender. If needed, add a little more stock or water during cooking to keep the squashes immersed.

6. **Serve:**
– Carefully remove the stuffed squashes from the pot and place them on a serving platter.
– Spoon any remaining sauce over the top and garnish with additional chopped parsley and mint.

7. **Enjoy:**
– Allow the stuffed squash to cool slightly before serving. This dish can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature, accompanied by a side of yogurt or a fresh salad.

This Turkish Stuffed Squash is not only a treat to the taste buds but also a nutritious and wholesome meal perfect for any occasion. Buon appetit!