Mamoulaim (Stuffed Vegetables)

During the Choueka family's sabbatical in Urbana in 1974, Sarah taught me to prepare delicious Syrian-Egyptian Sephardic dishes. Sarah prepares stuffed vegetables, both with a variety of vegetables together, as in this recipe, and singly, as in her stuffed artichokes. She uses a special knife to hollow the zucchini, called a kishouan, but you can use an apple corer, being careful not to cut the outer wall of the zucchini. The best grape leaves for this recipe are those packed in brine, in a jar, from California.

This dish has a unique and pleasant flavor from the sour apricots and lemon in combination with the salted meat and grape leaves and the sweet wine. Mamoulaim is an impressive main dish for a festive occasion or a Sabbath meal. Be sure to serve the vegetables carefully arranged to display their colors and distinct form.


Clean all the vegetables. Using a narrow sharp knife, an apple corer, or a kishouan (special middle-eastern knife for this purpose), hollow the zucchini. Reserve the pulp. Remove the stems of the tomatoes, and carefully spoon out and reserve the pulp. Remove the stems and seeds of the peppers, but leave them whole. Mix the beef with the pulp from the zucchini and tomatoes. Combine this with the rice, grated carrot, and juice of 1 lemon (you can combine these in a food processor to give a better texture, but don't grind the rice). Stuff the vegetables (cut the zucchini in two crosswise if you are using medium ones). Fill the grape leaves, and roll them to close. Layer the stuffed vegetables in a large pot with the apricots, wine, remaining lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over a low flame for 20 minutes. Add 1 cup of water, and cook covered for 2 hours, checking frequently to be sure that the vegetables do not dry out.

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