Mafrum (Libyan Stuffed Vegetables)
The cooking traditions of the Middle Eastern countries as well as those along the Maghreb — the northern coast of Africa — all have stuffed vegetables in their repertoire. Jewish cuisine from these lands abounds with stuffed foods creating a hearty dish that is more reliant on the vegetable than on the expensive meat. Traditionally this is served with couscous but rice, noodles or quinoa work too.
Serves 6 or more as an entrée
2 slices white bread or any firm sliced bread
¼ cup lightly packed parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
15 grindings black pepper about ½ teaspoon
¾ teaspoon baharat spice or ½ teaspoon cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ medium onion, finely grated
2 eggs, size large
1 pound ground beef, 80% lean
2 sweet potatoes or large Yukon Gold
1-2 large zucchini
1 medium or 2 small eggplant
1 cup flour for coating vegetables
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs for coating vegetables
Corn or canola oil for frying
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 or more cups hot water
Salt and pepper to taste
1) To make the stuffing: Place the bread, crust and all, in a 1-quart bowl. Cover with water and let sit for 5 minutes or until soft. Gently squeeze most of the water out of the bread and place in a 3-quart bowl. Add the parsley, spices, onion and eggs to the bowl and stir with a fork to combine. Add the meat and mix well with a fork and then your hands until well combined. Set aside while you prepare your vegetables.
2) Prepare the vegetables: Peel the sweet potatoes and slice crosswise into ½-inch rounds. Place in a microwaveable bowl with 1 cup water. Microwave for 5 minutes, or until crisp tender. Do not let them get soft. Drain and set aside.
3) Slice the zucchini into 1½-inch chunks. Using a melon baller or small knife, scoop out centers of each chunk leaving a ¼ inch edge all around. Reserve the scooped zucchini.
4) Remove the ends of the eggplant and cut crosswise into ½-inch slices.
5) Partially cut each slice of sweet potato and eggplant horizontally leaving the slices intact on one end to later open up and fill with the meat mixture.
6) Fill the zucchini cylinders with some of the meat mixture. Place a portion of meat inside the partially sliced potatoes and eggplant so that they form a thick triangle.
7) Combine the flour and salt in a shallow bowl. Place the eggs in a shallow bowl and whisk together.
8) Coat each stuffed vegetable with flour and then dip into the egg mixture. Place on a platter.
9) Heat about ¼-inch corn oil in a large frying pan (preferably nonstick) and fry the mafrum until golden on both sides. You might have to do this in batches. Return the cooked mafrum to the platter. Set aside while you make the sauce.
10) To make the sauce: Heat a 12-inch frying pan or stovetop-safe wide covered casserole (that can hold all the stuffed vegetable in one layer) for 10 seconds over medium high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat for another 10 seconds. Add the reserved zucchini pulp and any small pieces of unused potato to the hot oil. Sauté for a minute mashing the pulp so it gives up its juices. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and cook for 5 minutes stirring once or twice to combine all ingredients.
11) Place the fried mafrum snuggly in the pan, cover, lower the heat to simmer and cook for 25–30 minutes or until the meat is cooked and the vegetables are very tender. Remove the lid and gently baste some of the sauce over the mafrum. If necessary, add a little more water and cook for 5 minutes more to reconstitute the sauce.