Monday, September 3, 2012

Kousa Sahel (Stuffed Squash or Zucchini)

National "Leave a Zucchini on your Neighbor's Doorstep Day" was August 8th. Did you miss it, this opportunity to do something with the unseemly vigorous harvest of your garden?  Or did you ignore your squash until it grew to the size of your baby?

Even if you've managed to stay ahead of the squash production with zucchini bread and stir-frys, don't give them all away.  Hold on to the small, tender ones at least and do as the resourceful Arab cook does. The zucchini or "kousa" indigenous to the Middle East is a fairer variety, in color and texture. The favored size is small,  6-8 inches in length and about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. The squash are hollowed out with an implement that I call a zucchini corer (amazon: but a combination of apple corer and paring knife can effect an approximate result - a hollow tube with seeds removed and the soft pulp scraped out to leave a shell as thin as possible. (The zucchini pulp can star in frittatas or the fritter recipe included below).  Traditionally Kousa are cooked in a large pot among layers of sliced tomato (again, your garden provides!) stuffed eggplant, with chunks of beef or lamb to infuse the kousa with flavor. The technically correct name for this dish is "Kousa Mahshi".  This version, "Kousa Sahel", is richer with a silkiness provided by the frying of the onions and zucchini.  Don't forget the lemon juice in the sauce!  It perks up the whole with a vibrant fresh contrast to the creamy sweetness of the fried onions.

Kousa Sahel (stuffed squash):
12 small zucchini squash                   1 large onion, slivered
1 lb. ground lamb or beef                  oil for frying
¾ cups rice, pre-soaked in water        4 cups fresh tomato sauce or
1 tab. salt                                                  paste to make sauce
1 tsp. pepper                                      juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup chopped parsley                      1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice

-Brown ground meat and season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice. Drain well and set aside.
-Hollow out washed squash.  Mix drained rice with meat and parsley.  If the meat is fatty, you will not need more fat.  If not, add a tab. or two of corn oil to the mixture.  Add salt and pepper.
-Over a large bowl, stuff the squash with filling until it is loosely full to ¼ inch from the top. Lightly fry the squash in oil until the skins are browned and bubbly.
-Meanwhile, brown the onions in oil until brown.  Add the tomato sauce and lemon juice and boil for 10 minutes at a rolling boil.  Reduce the heat to simmer. Carefully lay the squash in the sauce and cook 20-30 minutes.  Cover and stir carefully from time to time.
-To serve, transfer the squash with a slotted spoon on to a platter.  Pour the thickened sauce over the squash and garnish with chopped parsley.



  1. This sounds delicious! I've bookmarked it to try later. I love the picture with the baby--it's amazing how big the zucchini get if you let them!

  2. Persnickety/Michele, I love this version of stuffed zucchini. I'll definitely have to try it when zucchini season rolls around again. Thanks for stopping by my blog - nice to meet you.