Koosa in Yogurt Sauce

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Koosa in yogurt sauce is light green squash cored and filled, then poached in a rich, savory sauce of yogurt and mint. Kibbeh in Yogurt Sauce is also wonderful made this same way.

Koosa cooked in yogurt sauce and served in a blue dish

When I think about my kitchen goals, my thinking naturally veers toward Sitto.

And when I say Sitto, or grandma, I mean that both specifically, thinking of my own grandmothers, but also generally, to the idea of grandmother, of Sitto.

Because pretty much everything I do now and have ever done in the way of my culinary/life journey is about becoming … more like them.

Light green Lebanese koosa, kousa, coosa squash
Homemade yogurt, or Lebanese laban, MaureenAbood.com

They grew up in an era of no waste; throwing food away simply was not done. So if a chicken was roasted, next day there was chicken stock simmering on the stove. If koosa was cored, the cores were given their own special treatment, usually with eggs.

Foods that could be made at home, were—but even when convenience was on offer, Sitto still made her own. Case in point: the yogurt, the laban. Making yogurt was a weekly or biweekly practice, ensuring that there was always starter to get a new batch going, and always homemade yogurt and the thicker labneh in the refrigerator.

The batches of yogurt Sitto made were hefty, and the more I’ve cooked, the more I’ve realized why. Yogurt had many uses in a week of cooking and baking, not just to eat for its own wonderful sake or mixed with a bowl of cucumbers.

Koosa squash stuffed with rice filling

Yogurt was the basis, the sauce, for the most delectable soups and kibbeh and koosa.

I strive for the frequent yogurt-making, and Dan helps keep that on track as laban is one of the few things he actually asks about, wondering if I’d make another batch soon. We both know that the homemade has so much more flavor, more tang and complexity, than anything we can buy.

I strive as well to make good use of the yogurt in lots of ways—just not as frequently as a sauce, which is surprising to me because kibbeh or koosa cooked in yogurt is so divine, one of my favorites.

Yogurt sauce with dried mint
Koosa squash cooked in yogurt

As with many recipes, when I bring them to life here for all of us to share, that dish takes on new life in my own kitchen. Frequency plays a big role of course; there is all of the recipe testing to perfect a dish for you–and with that frequency comes familiarity, so that the dish, as here with koosa cooked in yogurt, becomes more top-of-mind, and easier to execute for having done it many times.

That right there is one of the Sitto-secrets we want in on: the more we do cook, the more we will cook. And the more we want to cook, because it gets so much easier the more we do it.

Get your koosa (or zucchini or yellow squash; it’s all good), pull out your corer and a batch of yogurt (whether you made it or not), and know that the Sitto-secrets are yours for the taking.

Koosa cooked in yogurt sauce and served in a blue dish
Koosa cooked in yogurt sauce and served in a blue dish
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5 from 2 votes

Koosa in Yogurt Sauce

By Maureen Abood
Koosa (or kousa, cousa, coosa) is a light green, smaller-sized Lebanese summer squash, also known as tatume here in Michigan at our Meijer grocery store. If you can’t find koosa, use zucchini or yellow squash, both delicious. Just be sure to cut the neck low enough to create an opening large enough to insert corer. Use either a meat or vegetarian filling for the koosa. Watch my video on koosa-making here. Get an heirloom quality koosa corer here, at MaureenAboodMarket.com.
Servings: 12 koosa

Ingredients 

  • 12 koosa squash

For the filling, choose one:

For the yogurt sauce:

Instructions 

  • Trim the koosa by cutting the stem end off, and if your squash is bent at the neck, cut below the bend. Shave off the dark point at the other end of the koosa.
  • Insert the corer in ¾ of the length of the squash and twist. Pull out the core. Do this a few times, scraping against the edge of the squash with gentle pressure until the squash is hollowed, leaving about 1/4-inch of koosa all the way around and taking care not to puncture the squash. If you do puncture a squash, it’s still useable. Just serve that one, the ugly duckling, to yourself and no one will know….
  • Fill each koosa with the stuffing, making sure the entire koosa is filled, but not packing the filling in too tightly. Fill only to about 1/4- to 1/2-inch depth at the opening of the koosa, leaving room for the filling to expand without pushing out of the koosa. You may have leftover meat stuffing that you can form into meatballs to be cooked with the koosa.
  • In a medium saucepan, par-cook the koosa (this is to avoid over-cooking the yogurt sauce by reducing the cook-time in the yogurt). Cover the koosa with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • In another large heavy saucepan, begin to warm the laban over medium heat. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water. Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the yogurt, along with the crushed dried mint, and lemon juice. Taste and season with salt as needed.
  • Carefully transfer the par-cooked koosa from the poaching water to the pot of yogurt sauce, using a big slotted spoon (to leave behind as much water as possible).
  • Simmer the koosa in the yogurt for another 15 minutes, or until cooked through.
  • Serve the koosa immediately in bowls with yogurt sauce ladled over them, and finished with another dusting of dried mint salt.

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Author: Maureen Abood
Servings: 12 koosa
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14 Comments

    1. Yogurt wants to curdle when heated; the low temperature and addition of corn starch stabilizes it; I’m not sure what happened on your end to cause it–perhaps the temp was too high?

  1. Hi Moureen,
    I love your recipes! Have you ever tried to freeze the koosa with yogurt sauce?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Diane, thank you! I have not frozen the yogurt sauce, that could work. I’ve tried freezing koosa but I don’t love how the squash breaks down after freezing….

  2. Hi Maureen.
    Thank you so much for your delicious recipes. They remind me of holidays throughout my childhood. We would congregate at my aunt’s house (my father is Egyptian) and eat so many of these delicious meals that you have on your website.
    I have a question regarding koosa in yogurt. Do people ever make this with garlic? If so, where would it be in the recipe? I was little and don’t trust my child tastebuds to include it unless I know that some regions use garlic in this dish. But, this was my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE dish!

    Thank you for your help.

    1. Thank you Christiane–you can add garlic to the yogurt at any stage really, just crush your cloves and stir them in, giving them a little time to permeate the yogurt with flavor.

  3. Would buttermilk work as a partial substitute for some of the yogurt? I have a half carton waiting to be used up in my fridge! Either way, can’t wait to make this, thank you!

    1. That’s an interesting idea Kerry–I think the flavor will be great and well worth a try!

    2. Dear Mureen,

      My grandmother, Hafeeza, was born in Lebanon. I am 81 years old and she passed away many years ago but I still have wonderful memories of her making and teaching me how to make leban and so many other dishes.

      She use to make a dish using ground lamb, garlic and celery in a tomato sauce. She served it over long grain rice that was cooked in browned egg noodles and spices. We call it “Peas & Rice” but I have no idea what the Lebanese name for it is. Do you?

      I also make my homemade lemajune and Za’tar bread. But my all time favorite is a soup made with Kishick powder, onion, lamb and cabbage.

      Lucky to live near an ethnic market that has the best pita bread, Syrian cheese, leban selection. Amazon is a great source for unpitted Alfonso olives and other hard to find items.

      I do have you book which I purchased many years ago. It is not only a great reference to recipes but a must for any perso who loves Lebanese food,

      Thank you so much, Verna

      1. Verna this is so special…beautiful memories and recipes passed down. The lamb dish sounds something like the green bean tomato dish, lubieh. My dad always had it with peas growing up and loved it that way. That kishk soup is divine! I have not added cabbage before, will try that. Thank you so much Verna for your kind words about my book too!

  4. You might want to mention what to do with the extracted kousa. I simmer it until tender. No need to add water. Strain and cool. Chop large pieces and then dress with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt and mint. Serve as a salad along with the stuffed kousa.

    1. Wow Ann, that’s a new one for me and I love it, thank you! My family makes a kind of omelette with the cores, and I’ve seen many recipes such as as saute with onion. Can’t wait to try your recipe out.

  5. Do you have a laban recipe? My grand mother and I use to make this, I have most of her recipes as she is now gone. But I never learned about the laban. I often remember her talking about the starter.

    1. Absolutely! You’ll find laban recipes in a couple of installments here on my blog and in my cookbook. Hope you do try it, very fun and satisfying to make your own yogurt.