As I sit down to write this recipe article, I am filled with nostalgia and a sense of warmth that only traditional Lebanese cuisine can bring. My grandmother’s Lebanese Koosa, also known as Stuffed Yellow Squash, was always the centerpiece of our family gatherings. The gentle aroma of mint filled the air, while the soft yellow squash was stuffed with a mouthwatering blend of ground lamb and rice mixture that would melt in your mouth.
Lebanese Koosa is a dish that has been enjoyed for generations in our family, and it has also become a staple in Lebanese cuisine. This dish is beloved for its simplicity and rich combination of flavors. It’s perfect for summertime when fresh squash is abundant, or during colder months when you want something hearty and comforting.
The beauty of this recipe is that it can be served as a main or side dish, making it a versatile choice for any meal. And while it may seem intimidating to create such an authentic Middle Eastern dish, I assure you that it’s much simpler than it may seem.
In this article, I’ll guide you through the steps to create your own Lebanese Koosa that will have your friends and family raving about your cooking skills. From the carefully selected ingredients to the detailed instructions for stuffing each squash perfectly, every aspect of this recipe has been thoughtfully chosen to ensure success.
So join me in my kitchen as we embark on a culinary journey inspired by generations of our Lebanese ancestors. Your taste buds will thank you for it!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Close your eyes and imagine the aroma of juicy, spiced meat and rice gently cooking inside a yellow squash. Can you smell it? Now open your eyes and discover Lebanese Koosa, also known as stuffed yellow squash, a traditional Middle Eastern delight that will transport you to the heart of Lebanon with an explosion of flavors.
What makes this recipe so special? First, it combines beautifully seasoned ground lamb or beef with white rice to create an irresistible stuffing. Then, this savory mixture is packed into beautiful light green and yellow summer squash, also known as kousa or zucchini, which are cooked in a rich tomato broth until tender. The result is a mouth-watering dish that melds sweet hues and tangy tomato sauce with perfectly cooked squash for an explosion of flavors in every bite.
But that’s not all. Lebanese Koosa is perfect for busy weeknights because it requires minimal prep and cook time. You can easily freeze kousa ahead of time and have it ready whenever you need a quick meal. Plus, with its impressive presentation and texture, Lebanese Koosa is also an ideal vegetarian alternative by substituting the meat with mushrooms or chickpeas to make a vegetarian stuffed version.
In other words, Lebanese Koosa is a versatile dish that can fulfill any preference. This Middle Eastern classic will take your taste buds on an exciting journey and satisfy everyone at the table while being perfect for a simple weeknight meal or an elegant dinner party.
So, whether you’re feeling adventurous or want to impress your guests with an exotic dish, Lebanese Koosa is sure to become your new favorite way to enjoy summer squash.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make Lebanese Koosa (Stuffed Yellow Squash), also known as Kousa Mahshi. This traditional Lebanese dish is a Middle Eastern favorite and full of delicious flavors.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Yellow squash or zucchini
- Garlic cloves
- Diced tomatoes
- Tomato sauce
- Ground lamb or beef
- White rice
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
Make sure to have all ingredients ready before you start cooking for a smoother process. Most can be found at your local grocery store, but if something is not available, don’t worry – I will provide some substitutions and variations in section 5.
The Recipe How-To
Now, it’s time to get started with the Lebanese Koosa recipe preparation. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you make this delicious stuffed squash dish.
- 8 medium-sized yellow squash or zucchini
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 pound ground lamb or beef
- 1 cup white rice, rinsed and drained
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/4 tablespoon black pepper
- 1/4 tablespoon allspice
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 cups diced tomatoes
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 3 cups water
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cut off the top of each squash or zucchini and carefully carve out the flesh with a spoon or an apple corer, leaving just enough lining to maintain its shape.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until hot. Add onion and stir for about two minutes or until slightly browned. Then add the minced garlic and stir for another one minute.
Afterwards, add the ground lamb or beef to the pot and stir consistently until it has browned completely.
Combine rinsed and drained rice with salt, black pepper, allspice, fresh mint leaves and lemon juice in a mixing bowl.
Stuff your cleaned squash or zucchinis with the meat/rice mixture until they are full but not overflowing.
Fill a large pot with diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and water, and place your stuffed squash into it making sure that their opening is facing upward.
Cover the pot of stuffed squash tightly with a lid and bake in the preheated oven for around one hour or until liquid has been absorbed by the rice mixture.
Once cooked, remove from oven and let cool for about five minutes before serving onto plates.
Enjoy your delicious Lebanese Koosa/Stuffed Yellow Squash dish with some warm bread on top at any gathering!
Substitutions and Variations
Are you looking to make this Lebanese Koosa recipe even more personalized? Let me share with you some substitutions and variations you can utilize to spice up this dish!
Firstly, let’s talk filling. While ground lamb or beef is traditional, you can easily substitute with ground chicken or turkey for a lighter take on the classic recipe. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, swap out the meat altogether and use a hearty grain like quinoa or farro mixed with chickpeas and spices for a protein-packed alternative.
Additionally, try experimenting with different kinds of squash. While the recipe calls for yellow squash or zucchini, feel free to use any variety of summer squash that catches your eye. Grey squash adds a unique twist with its milder flavor, while pattypan squash looks particularly stunning with its scalloped edges.
For those who prefer a spicier dish, try incorporating red pepper flakes or hot sauce into the filling mixture. You can also add in some diced jalapenos for an extra kick.
Finally, consider changing up the seasoning. Instead of Allspice, try using Za’atar – a Middle Eastern spice mix – or smoked paprika for robust flavor.
Remember, cooking is all about experimentation and finding what tickles your taste buds. So let these substitutions and variations guide you as you create your own unique version of this delicious Lebanese Koosa recipe!
Serving and Pairing
Lebanese Koosa is a meal that packs a punch of flavors and textures. One of our favorite ways to serve it is with a side of tangy lemon yogurt sauce. To make this flavorful sauce, mix Greek yogurt with some minced garlic, chopped fresh mint, lemon juice, and salt. This sauce not only adds an extra layer of richness to the dish but also helps balance the spiciness from the allspice.
In addition to the yogurt sauce, we love to serve Lebanese Koosa with a crisp mixed salad dressed with a simple olive oil and lemon juice dressing. The salad complements the rich flavor of the stuffed squash and adds freshness to every bite.
If you’re looking for something heartier, you can also serve koosa with a side of toasted pita bread or warmed flatbread. Use a soft bread such as naan or pita to mop up any remaining juices from the stuffed squash.
This recipe is perfect for entertaining friends or family. You can easily double or triple this recipe to feed a bigger crowd. Serve this dish as part of a Middle Eastern-themed buffet along with other favorites such as hummus, baba ganoush, stuffed eggplant or falafel.
Freshly brewed tea, Turkish coffee, or your choice of white wine are great pairings for this dish. They’ll complement the flavors and help enhance the overall experience.
Whatever way you choose to serve Lebanese Koosa, be prepared for the accolades that will come pouring in!
Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating
Lebanese Koosa is a delectable stuffed squash dish that can be easily prepped ahead for future meals. If you want to make this delicious meal ahead of time, stuff the squash as instructed and then refrigerate it for up to two days before cooking.
If you have leftovers, this tasty dish can also be stored in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Simply store the leftovers in an airtight container and reheat in the microwave or oven when ready to eat.
When reheating, add a splash of water or tomato sauce to the bottom of the dish and cover with foil to prevent it from drying out. The steam created will help moisten the dish, keeping the meat and rice filling tender and juicy.
It’s easy to freeze Koosa too, making it a great option for meal-prep or when you have extra squash on hand. After preparing the dish as usual, let it cool down completely before placing it in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag. To avoid freezer burn, be sure to remove as much air as possible before freezing.
To cook frozen Koosa, let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before re-heating per the instructions above. It’s a great way to enjoy a taste of summer all year round!
In our family, we enjoy reheating leftover Koosa from the night before for lunch meals throughout the week. The flavors truly deepen and meld together after spending time in the fridge – it makes for a truly delicious experience!
Tips for Perfect Results
Lebanese Koosa is a dish bursting with flavors, and there are some tips that can help achieve the perfect results.
Firstly, when it comes to the squash, look for light green or grey squash that is firm with no blemishes. These are the freshest and will hold up better during cooking. The next step is to choose good quality ground meat. I highly recommend using ground lamb as it adds more flavor compared to beef.
One of the most important tips for making perfect Lebanese Koosa is cooking the rice beforehand. It’s essential to use either short-grain rice or medium-grain rice as they are more likely to stick together and won’t become mushy during cooking.
Another useful tip is to add lemon juice alongside the tomato sauce when cooking the stuffed squash in the stove-top pan. No need to go overboard with the lemon juice; just a squeeze will give a refreshing tangy taste to the dish.
Lastly, don’t forget to garnish with chopped mint before serving as it adds freshness and balances out heavy flavors from meat and tomato sauce.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to make an impressive and delicious Lebanese Koosa stuffed yellow squash!
Now that you have learned the basics of making Lebanese Koosa, you might have some questions in mind. In this section, I will provide answers to some frequently asked questions to help you get the best results possible. Let’s dive in!
What kind of squash is a kousa?
The Lebanese Kousa dish is a recipe that involves using squash or zucchini, commonly referred to as Mexican Squash, Mexican Zucchini or Grey Zucchini. These vegetables are perfect for stuffing due to their short and wide shape. The dish consists of spiced ground beef mixed with rice and stuffed inside the kousa. It is then cooked in a tomato broth infused with garlic.
What is a Koosa?
This classic Lebanese cuisine features a flavorful mixture of ground meat (usually beef or lamb), rice, and spices, all stuffed into a hollowed-out squash like zucchini.
Do you peel yellow squash before cooking?
Before consuming squash, make sure to rinse it well and remove its ends. You’ll be delighted to know that the skin is not only edible but also very subtle in flavor. Additionally, you can enjoy squash either in its raw or cooked form.
Can you freeze kousa?
When it comes to freezing kousa, there are a few key things you need to keep in mind. Firstly, it’s important to make sure that the kousa is fully cooked before freezing. Once cooked, you can store the kousa in an air-tight container in the freezer for up to three months. When you’re ready to reheat them, take them out of the freezer and let them thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before warming them up in a pan. Following these simple steps will ensure that your frozen kousa tastes just as delicious as the day you made it.
In conclusion, Lebanese Koosa (Stuffed Yellow Squash) is a wholesome and flavourful dish that will tickle your taste buds and leave your guests begging for more! This traditional Middle Eastern recipe packs all the right ingredients to create a delicious and nourishing meal that will transport you to the streets of Beirut. By following the instructions and tips provided in this article, you can easily prepare Lebanese Koosa in your kitchen, bringing the unique tastes and aromas of this marvelous cuisine to your home.
Whether you are a seasoned cook or a beginner, this recipe is accessible to anyone who appreciates authentic, simple, and healthy food. And if you are a vegan or vegetarian, simply omit the ground meat and enjoy the irresistible flavour of stuffed squash filled with aromatic rice, diced tomatoes, garlic, onions and spices. For those who require gluten-free options or have dietary restrictions, simply swap out regular rice with quinoa or another gluten-free grain.
I highly recommend serving Lebanese Koosa with a side of cool Tabbouleh salad, made from chopped parsley, bulgur wheat, diced tomatoes and lemon juice. Another popular option is to pair it with some hummus, baba ganoush or pita bread as appetizers to create a Middle Eastern feast fit for any occasion.
In summary, Lebanese Koosa is not only an exquisite dish but an excellent representation of Middle Eastern culture and flavours. Whether you are cooking for yourself, friends or family members, this dish makes for an ideal meal no matter what season it is. So why not take a chance on this delectable dish? I assure you; it will leave you feeling satisfied and longing for more!
Lebanese Koosa (Stuffed Yellow Squash) Recipe
- 7 -8 yellow squash (Koosa)
- 1 cup rice (Basmati Preferred, White rice will work)
- 1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
- 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 onion (yellow is milder, white has more bite)
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- lemon juice
- 1 pinch mint
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Cut stems from squash and scoop out seeds. Because of the small size of the squash, you may twirl a knife in the flesh to scrape the seeds. The most effective method is to take a flat handle silver spoon and use the handle end to scrape out the seeds. You may rinse out the inside with water.
- Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat.
- Slice onion and add to hot olive oil.
- Let fry for about 3-5 minutes while you make the stuffing.
- In a large bowl, combine lamb, rice, and spices. The best method is to get in it with your hands and just smoosh and mix without any sort of utensils.
- Add cans of tomato sauce and diced tomato to the onions.
- Stuff squash with mixture. Leave about a half inch to a quarter inch of room at the end as the rice will expand. Also, do not pack too tightly as the expanding rice will break the squash.
- Add the stuffed squashes to the pan.
- Chop the garlic cloves into fine pieces and sprinkle between the squash in the pan.
- Add water to just cover the squash and let simmer over medium heat for 40 minutes.
- Squeeze a few drops fresh lemon juice over squash and sprinkle a pinch of mint.
- Allow to cook another 10 minutes or so.
- **Note** I have made this several more times and revised only the cooking time slightly. I found it somewhat easier to cut the squashes in half from the start. Additionally, I always test the filling to make sure the rice is fully cooked.