If you're familiar with Lebanese food (and Middle Eastern cooking in general), you may have noticed it is really big on stuffing things: vegetables, sweet and savory doughs, leaves… You name it, we find a stuffing for it.
When we were kids, our dad used to bring fresh tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and eggplant from the garden. Then our mom would stuff them with a traditional mixture of rice and ground meat and cover it with some sort slightly sweet, sour sauce with lots of lemon juice and pomegranate molasses. The smell of all those ingredients cooking and blending together slowly in the oven was just amazing…
As we got older and everyone (except for our dad, of course) pretty much stopped eating meat, she got a little creative and found great vegetarian alternatives for us. Anything from chickpeas to mushrooms and nuts… she even tried using "fake" meat when she would come here to visit (and yes, our dad was absolutely thrilled with it…)
Inspired by her creative ideas, we came up with a dish that is not only fun, super tasty, and delicious, but also a bit different.
*Note: Use scooped potato pieces for breakfast by sautéing them in olive oil until tender. Add 2 eggs, salt, and pepper and cook until the eggs are done. Serve warm. Remember to keep the potato pieces in cold water so they don't turn brown!
Set up 2 bowls of cold water. Using a metal melon baller (or a spoon if you don't have one), scoop out the center of the potatoes and place the centers in 1 bowl and the prepped potatoes in the other. (Reserve the centers for future use.*)
In a 4- to 6-quart deep sauté pan with a lid, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over high heat. Add the mushrooms, half of the garlic, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Sauté until the mushrooms are dry, stirring often, for 7 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to medium, add the parsley, and cook for 2 more minutes. Set aside.
Add the remaining olive oil to the same pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Sauté the shallots and remaining garlic until the shallots are translucent, for about 7 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and carrot, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the crushed tomatoes and continue cooking for about 3 minutes. Add the remaining salt, saffron, cinnamon, and cumin. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 5-7 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill each potato half with cooked mushrooms. Arrange them on the sauté pan, mushroom side up, over the tomato sauce.
Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 1 hour. Garnish with parsley and serve warm.