I was in the mood for some koossa Mehche …We used to have it once a week, either in tomato sauce or in laban (yogurt sauce). Those were the days…comforting and homey food. The neighborhood’s middle-eastern grocery sells Mexican zucchini and these will have to do. In Lebanon, the zucchini are tiny, no more than 3 inches long, and so sweet and flavorful! That is practically all we eat in the summer, like candy. So this is koossa mehche b’laban or stuffed zucchini with yogurt sauce. Absolutely divine! The dish can be produced in stages over 2 or 3 days even.
15 zucchini preferably smaller ones (no more than 5 inches long)
1/2 lb of ground lamb (90%lean is O.K)
1/2 cup of sushi rice (or medium-grain rice)
1 Tablespoon of mashed fresh garlic (or use already prepared toom)
Spices: 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of allspice, 1 teaspoon of seven spice, 1 teaspoon of salt
1 Large egg, beaten with a fork
2 TBSP cornstarch
1 14 oz container of full-fat yogurt (or lowfat)
1 Tablespoon of dried mint
1 Tablespoon of fresh mashed garlic
1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- Gently wash and dry the zucchini. Place them in a bowl and have another (smaller) bowl handy. Core them by removing the flesh and placing it in the smaller bowl. Try not to break the zucchini and get all the flesh out so that the shells are very thin.
- Cover the bowl containing the zucchini flesh and put it aside to use later for making omelettes. Start making the stuffing by mixing the ground meat with the rice and mashed garlic or toom and spices. It is a good idea to soak the rice for 30 minutes prior and drain it, although not absolutely necessary.
- Fill the zucchinis with the stuffing until they are almost but not quite full; you should allow some room for the rice to expand.
- Place the zucchinis or koossa in a pot and cover them with cold water; place a heavy plate over them to hold them down. Cook on top of the stove till the liquid simmers gently for about 45 minutes to one hour or until the stuffing has expanded and is cooked.
- Meanwhile you can cook the yogurt. Pour it all in a deep pan, add the beaten egg adn diluted cornstarch (in 1/4 cup water) and start heating it and stirring with a wooden spoon in the same direction until the yogurt is cooked and steams, about 15 minutes (or longer if needed)
- When the zucchinis are cooked in the broth, drain them, save the broth for a soup, and add the yogurt sauce to the pot.
- Before serving, fry gently some mashed garlic in olive oil in a small skillet, add about a tablespoon of dried mint and mix it until the fragrance is released. Stir this mint pesto into the yogurt for a delicious flavor.