When I travel to Greece each summer, my parents are already there as they are both retired and they do like to plant and tend to a vegetable garden. One of the vegetables they plant are zucchini (or courgettes) and in Greece, they usual kind are the light green skinned ones they are called marrow vegetable or summer squash (not thedark green skinned variety found in North America).
This dish is as “down-home” Greek cooking as they get. It utilizes herbs that are prevalent in Greek cookery. You have parsley, dill and mint – all lending each other a hand in flavouring yet their individual taste can be recognized.
Each year that I arrive in Greece, I have to make this dish, using fresh herbs from the garden and the zucchini that’s sweet and the stuffing is a mix of rice and mince beef, much like my stuffed peppers recipe. Essentially, the zucchini are hollowed out with a vegetable corer then stuffed with rice/meat/herbs mixture and then baked with stock in the oven. To finish the dish, the hot stock is tempered into an egg/lemon mixture to make Avglolemono sauce. The tangy/creamy sauce complements the savory meat and rice filling and you also can really taste the sweetness of the zucchini.
Stuffed Courgettes ( Kolokithakia Gemista) With Avgolemeno Sauce
(serves 4 – 6)
10-12 medium sized but thick marrow style zucchini, cored
(you may wish to peel the skins of your zucchini if you can’t find marrow vegetables)
2 medium onions, finely diced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup of chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup of chopped fresh mint
2 lbs. of extra lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups of long grain rice
2/3 cup of fresh grated ripe tomato (or 1 tsp of tomato paste diluted in hot water)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp, black pepper
- Clean, peel and wash the zucchini. Cut a small slice from along one side and hollow them out using a vegetable corer. Reserve the courgettes in a large pan you use for a roast.
- Place a large pan on medium heat and pour in olive oil, onions, garlic, add some salt (to help the onions sweat and reduce heat to medium-low and allow them to soften…low & slow (about 10-15 minutes).
- Add your parsley, dill and mint and stir to warm through and incorporate. Now add your tomato puree (sauce) and about a 1/4 cup of water to rinse out your measuring cup plus the rice and simmer for 10 minutes. while stirring. Now add the ground beef, stir in until well mixed. Make a small meatball and fry and taste-test. Adjust seasoning to taste.
- Using a spoon, scoop and stuff your courgettes with the filling. . Line the roasting pan with the stuffed zucchini in a circular fashion until the whole pan is full. Note: (You might have some extra filling. Take some romaine lettuce leaves, nuke them for a minute and fill and roll the leaves ( like Dolmades) to utilize all of your filling).
- Pour in 3 cups of hot water or vegetable stock, place the lid on the pan and bake your stuffed courgettes into a pre-heated 375 F oven for 45-55 minutes (til rice is cooked).
1 cup of hot stock, ladled from the baked zucchini (tilt the roasting pan to retrieve the stock with ladle)
2 large eggs
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. of flour
2 Tbsp. of butter
salt to taste
- Using a whisk, whip up your eggs and lemon juice and reserve.
- In a sauce pan, melt your on medium heat and add your flour, constantly stirring. Your aim is for a light-brown roux. When this colour is achieved, add your stock to the sauce pan an stir for a few minutes to mix and thicken. Take the sauce pan off the heat. Whip up your white sauce and set aside.
- Whisk your egg-lemon mixture and here’s the tricky part. Put your sauce pan back on the element (low heat) and take 1 ladle of egg lemon sauce and s-l-o-w-l-y pour it into your white sauce and simultaneously stir. Continue to slowly add rest of egg-lemon to white sauce.
- Take off the heat, adjust for seasoning and pour half of your Avgolemono into the roast pan with stuffed zucchini and allow to set with stuffed zucchini for 10 minutes. Pour the rest in a gravy boat for serving extra sauce at the table.
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