There are many dishes I associate with my Savta Zahava, and although others make, fish and kubbe and ejeh and all manners of foods, this dish is unique to my grandmothers family and aside for her and her sisters I haven’t encountered others who stuff the zucchini the way she does or calls them medias, the Ladino word for socks. I had the great pleasure of meeting famed cookbook author Claudia Roden, whose knowledge of Sephardi food is unparalleled, she told me that it’s highly likely that my family recipe originated in Livorno, as only Jews of that town made their stuffed zucchini in this way. It felt like a little bit of the puzzle of my family heritage clicked into place.
*This amount feeds a crowd, feel free to half the recipe
- 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) ground beef
- Salt and pepper
- 5 medium zucchini (courgettes)
- ½ cup flour
- 3 eggs
- Oil for frying
- 140g (½ cup) tomato paste
- 1 clove garlic. minced
- 4 cups water
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, roughly chopped, to serve
Combine the ground beef with 2 teaspoons salt and ½ a teaspoon pepper, mix well.
Trim the ends off the zucchinis, and slice down the center horizontally, so you have two long-boat shapes, cut each boat down the center vertically, using a teaspoon, scoop out the center of the zucchini and reserve the pulp.
Fill each zucchini boat with the ground beef mixture, it should for a bit of a mound.
In a large frying pan, add enough oil so that it goes about 2 cm (1 inch) up the sides. Once oil is hot; make a chain. Start by coating the zucchini boats in flour, then in egg and then straight into the hot oil, beef side down. Repeat until the pan is full but not crowded. Once the beef is browned on one side (about 4 minutes), turn over and fry on the zucchini side for a further 4 minutes. Remove to a plate to drain on a paper towel, while you finish frying the remaining medias.
Once all fried, start on the tomato sauce. In a large pot combine the reserved zucchini pulp, tomato paste, minced garlic, and water, season with salt and pepper and bring the mixture to the boil. Once boiling add the fried medias, lower the heat so that the sauce is on a slow boil, cover the pot and cook for a further 30 minutes until zucchini has softened and beef has cooked through.
To serve, lay the medias on a plater cover in tomato sauce, squeeze the juice of one lemon over the top and sprinkle with fresh parsley.