These shapely Mediterranean bell peppers and zucchini lend themselves to being stuffed, steamed and relished. This dish is eaten across the region and each has its own subtle differences, but the Libyan one is obviously a personal favorite.
- Dice two bell peppers and the extra spinach leaves then mix all of the filling ingredients together—the rice with the tomato puree, cumin powder, salt, red paprika, beef if using, olive oil, onion, garlic, tomato, greens, and lemon juice. Mix thoroughly.
- Shell out the zucchini and two bell peppers, adding these shelled out parts to the rice mix. Spoon the rice mix into the emptied-out vegetable shells. Make sure you only fill up 2/3 of the vegetables to leave space at the top for the rice to fluff, leaving a layer of either a bit of water or the moisture from the vegetables and tomatoes on the top to keep it most.
- Take each spinach leaf and spoon in enough quantity of rice that takes up ¼ of the space. Roll the leaves into cylindrical shapes. If you have any leftover rice, add some water and cook it separately like you would with any rice.
- In a double-layered steamer pot, add the stuffed vegetables and cook until the rice becomes translucent (about 25-30 minutes). For the spinach leaves, layer a pot with the extra spinach. Add about 1 cup of water and place the leaf rolls on top of the leafy bed and leave it over medium heat. Some of the leaves may slightly burn, but this will add a smoky flavor to the rolls. Alternately, the leaf rolls can be simply steamed. The steaming will take about 20-25 minutes and the burning leaves an extra 5-10 minutes.
- Serving: Serve on a bed of cooked rice and some lemon wedges. Use a yogurt-garlic sauce, with some extra zaatar sprinkled on top, to dip the spinach rolls in.
Reema Islam focuses on food and the heritage that surrounds it. Having lived in several countries, she remains footloose, eating her way through different cultures.