Kousa, a short, wide Middle Eastern squash, is the perfect size for stuffing. It is sometimes called Lebanese squash, Mexican zucchini, or gray zucchini and sports spelling variations like: coosa, cusa, or kusa. Whatever you call it, kousa squash is a true delight.
Although generally treated as a vegetable, kousa squash is actually the swollen center of the flower, making it botanically a fruit. The fact that it is savory accounts for the confusion. No matter how you classify it, this squash is a delightful addition to your summer menu.
Originally hailing from the Ottoman Empire, Lebanon, and Syria, this squash has deep, historic roots in traditional Middle Eastern cooking. Typically stuffed with a mixture of lamb and rice, it lends itself easily to a vegan version of herbed rice. The squash is then covered by a spicy tomato sauce and cooked in the oven or on the stovetop.
I got hooked on this squash a couple of years ago and was delighted to find it at my favorite local ethnic market. The owner asked if I wanted a case lot. I was unconvinced until I saw how beautiful it was – first of the season and every squash was absolutely perfect.
The fact that Sieed told me that I could core and freeze them for later use, sealed the deal! I bought an entire case, paying the equivalent of 25¢ for each squash. That means I can easily feed my family for under $5.00 for an entire meal (including the side dishes)! This is definitely a win-win!
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Preparing the Squash
The thin outer skin never needs to be peeled and is tender and delicious when cooked. Just a simple wash and dry will suffice before coring the squash.
There is actually a small and inexpensive (but, very effective) kitchen gadget made specifically for coring squash. You can buy one at Amazon for under $10.00. It looks an awful lot like a traditional vegetable scraper/corer, but it’s longer.
I use my regular vegetable scraper by inserting it into the middle of the squash and turning until I have hollowed out a small area. Then, carefully inserting a knife, I finish removing the rest of the core.
Don’t waste a thing!
Place the stem of the squash in a plastic bag labelled, “Broth vegetables”. Put the bag in the freezer and the next time you make homemade vegetable broth, throw the stems into the mixture. I keep all of my vegetable scraps in the freezer and make homemade broth every few weeks.
Likewise, reserve the soft, inner core to use in making soup or as a filing for omelets, or casseroles. Be sure you use it up quickly though, it becomes unusable (and slimy) after a couple of days.
Use Now or Freeze for Later
You can actually freeze the squash at this point for later use. Just throw them in a plastic freezer bag, remove the air, and seal. That’s it! I have seven bags in my freezer. Each bag contains nine squash. So, my winter menus will be punctuated by periodic splashes of summer in the form of stuffed kousa squash.
Stuffing the Squash
I found my very favorite recipe at Plant Based Folk. This is, hands down, the tastiest (and easiest) recipe that I have found for kousa squash on the internet. If this doesn’t sell you on plant-based eating, then nothing will!
The rice stuffing is fragrant, with the perfect blend of vegetables, herbs, and spices. I ate the leftover stuffing for lunch the next day and the kids were all standing in line vying for a portion of it.
Cover and Cook
The dish is finished by cooking it in a seasoned mixture of tomato paste, thinned with water.
The end result is, well, divine!
Here’s a link to the recipe from Plant Based Folk. It is absolutely the best recipe that I have found. Believe me, it has my kids asking me, “Mom, when are we going to have kousa squash again?”