My mother, after my father’s death, tried to keep his shoe repair shop going even though she knew little about the business and her interests continued to be devoted to her concert piano work. Daddy died when I was 4, and for some years, I can remember Sam working behind the counter, methodically shaping the edges on the heels and soles of each shoe while Mom, in time, developed quite an ability with shoe dying especially of the fabric shoes. My oldest brother dyed the leather goods with noisy spray guns that filled the air with fumes that, today, might require environmental masks. This brother also helped with the shoe repairs, while the other repaired horse saddles and umbrellas.
After Sam left, Nick came. Nick was much older than Sam. In fact, I’d venture to say he was already in his 60s or 70s. I don’t remember his last name, but I have such fond memories of him! I can’t quite make out his features in my mind’s eye–certainly not as well as I could Sam’s to this day, but then Sam’s son and I used to play well together. But there was something special about Nick, and it was a quiet kind of blessing that he was in my life, like the Italian grandfather I no longer remembered much. Grandpa had died less than a year after my father.
Nevertheless, as I sit here now, telling you about him, as I always do, I smile with a part of my heart that will always be his.
Nick was Syrian, and he taught me how to make Stuffed Syrian Squash when I was 10. It’s a versatile dish, one that stretches with such ease, you can actually feed 6 or 8 people with this delicious creation, using as little as a pound of ground beef! A few years ago, I asked another Syrian man about this dish and whether it was authentic. He assured me it was.
Summer is here in the Northern hemisphere, and many of you might have fresh vegetables now growing in the garden. If you have tomatoes and zucchini in your crop, you’ll be ready or this treat from heaven. I happen to prefer Roma tomatoes for this dish, but American tomatoes will also work well. If you have large zucchini that simply never got around to being picked quickly enough, this dish is ideal for you as long as you don’t live in the desert areas. In the desert, zucchini is most easy
to work with if it doesn’t get too large. In this case, one zucchini per serving will work here. Of course if those of you who live in the desert would prefer to be as daring as I was one year, and allow your zucchini to grow to 24 inches and more, you’ll be able to imagine the strength of an armadillo shell when you’re preparing this treat! Of course, for those who are vegetarians, the beef can be omitted.
Stuffed Syrian Squash
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Seasoned salt to taste
2 cups long grain rice, washed
1-2 large onions, chopped
4 cups strained tomato or fresh tomato, diced large
If fresh tomato is used, 1 can tomato paste
2 cups water
1 tsp. paprika
Place oil in a skillet or electric frying pan and add beef,
minced garlic and seasoned salt. Sauté beef, garlic
and seasoned salt together until beef is fully cooked.
Without draining the additional oil created by the beef,
add the rice to the pan with the onion, and begin the
cooking process, stirring often and well for about 10
Add the rest of the ingredients, cover and simmer about
one hour until rice is fully cooked and liquids are absorbed.
Use one large zucchini (about 18 inches) per four servings.
Slice zucchini lengthwise, and scoop out the “meat”
of the zucchini, setting this aside.
Parboil the zucchini shell, about 5 minutes, until tender.
Fill the shell halves with the stuffing mixture and place in
a baking dish.
Place in 350º preheated oven till hot, about 15 minutes.
Use the scooped out zucchini “meat” for an easy side dish!
Cut the zucchini “meat” into bite-sized wedges.
1 Tbsp olive oil
Seasoned salt to taste
Heat zucchini with oil, seasoned salt and paprika and cook in
pan over medium heat, gently turning till done to the level you
prefer. Don’t overcook. A salad and crescent rolls will complement this meal well. Till next time, bon appetit!