Koosa is the Arabic word for Squash.
In my parents home growing up we had two very distinct cultures blending my father’s Lebanese-Syrian culture and my mother’s British culture. The food ranged from whipped short breads and scones to Koosa and Yabrah. I appreciate it more now knowing how different the two cultures are.
In an effort to share some of my favorite dishes with you I have started posting them. My cousin posted this recipe this week for us to enjoy. Please feel free to send me yours to share.
Koosa is stuffed squash. It can be stuffed with rice and meat or fried meat. The sauce can be a tomatoe or yogurt bechamel.
Note: This recipe calls for the tiny green summer squash which measure about 3 inches in length. The reason we use such small squash is that they are stuffed with meat. It would take a huge amount of heat to stuff any of the varieties of the larger squash.
KOOSA BI LABAN
2 dozen small summer squash, washed and emptied from pulp**
1- 1/2 pound (750 g) minced lamb (preferable large cut) or beef
½ cup (125 mL) pine nuts (a handful), lightly toasted on medium heat in non stick skillet
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ tsp (1 mL) allspice
¼ tsp (1 mL) nutmeg
¼ tsp (1 mL) cinnamon
1 tsp (5 mL) salt or to taste
¼ tsp (1 mL) pepper
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
Directions for Squash
**You will need to empty out the marrow (pulp) of the squash for this recipe. Pulp can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen and kept for another use or discarded. I have attached a picture of the tool you can use to empty the squash. It is called a zucchini corer or squash picker and can be found online or purchased at Middle Eastern grocery stores. There is a special technique to emptying squash that you can perfect only through practice. Be careful not to pierce the bottom of the zucchini/squash as you empty the pulp.
Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC)
1) Brown the meat and onions in butter, add spices. Add toasted pine nuts to meat mixture. Set aside.
2) Take emptied squash and stuff with meat and pine nuts mixture leaving ½ inch (1 cm) space from top.
3) Lightly coat 9 x 13 inch (3 L) glass or ceramic dish with vegetable oil. Add stuffed squash to dish turning the squash to coat them all around. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until the squash is tender and pierces easily with a fork.
While squash is baking prepare the bechamel sauce and rice pilaf below:
Yogurt Bechamel Sauce
3 cups plain, natural yogurt
1 – 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup water
1 tbsp (30 mL) cornstarch
1 tbsp (30 mL) crushed dried mint
Directions for bechamel sauce
In small saucepan, sauté garlic for about one minute. Add yogurt, water and cornstarch all at once. Consistency of yogurt should be not too thick at this point. If it is, add a bit more water. Stir on medium heat until sauce thickens and is a nice consistency. Do not boil sauce. Remove from heat. Add dried mint. Set aside.
½ cup (125 mL) Vermicelli cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups (500 mL) rice, Uncle Ben’s style, washed and soaked in hot water for 45 minutes
¼ cup (60 mL) unsalted butter
1 ½ tsp (7 mL) salt
2 ½ – 3 cups water (or enough to just cover rice)
1) Brown vermicelli noodles in the butter in saucepan. Add drained rice and mix with vermicelli. Stir in salt and water, just enough to cover rice. Turn to medium high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer; cover and cook for 20 – 25 minutes or until rice is tender.
To serve; Place about 1 to 1 ½ cups of rice pilaf on plate. Add cooked 3 squash on top of rice. Spoon ½ cup of bechamel sauce over squash, reheating sauce if necessary.