Literal translation: Zucchinis in yogurt. Growing up kousa bil laban was what I used to consider comfort food; I loved it (anything with a yogurt sauce really). This classic Lebanese dish might seem complicated, but once you master a few tricks (stuffing the zucchini and cooking the yogurt), it is a dish you will make over and over again. I just recently asked my mom to teach me how to make it and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it actually was to cook.

The What: 

The stuffing

  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup short grain rice
  • 1  teaspoon Lebanese 7 spice mix
  • 1/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 10-12 small green zucchinis (to be stuffed)

The sauce

  • 1 egg
  • 1 kg jug plain yogurt (4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons dried mint

 

The How: 

Place the onion and garlic of the stuffing in a blender and mix until they form a puree.

Wash the rice exactly three times. That’s how my mom told me to do it, so that’s how it’s done. Drain and place the rice in a bowl, add the onion/garlic pure, the Lebanese spice mix, ground beef,  pinch of pepper, generous pinch of salt, and vegetable oil.

Knead all the ingredients together until homogenous. That’s right, I’m using my big words today.

Now it is time for the scary part, hollowing out the zucchinis to stuff them. Arabs have a tool specifically for hollowing out zucchinis (pictured above). They are sold at Mediterranean supermarkets or online. A small melon baller could also do the trick.

Scoop out the insides of each zucchini being careful not to poke any holes through the skin. Also do not go too far to the end, this helps the zucchini keep its shape.

Once they are all hollowed out, wash the zucchinis inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels; they are ready to be stuffed.

Stuff the zucchinis with the rice mixture using your fingers to coax it in gently a little at a time. Tap the bottom of the zucchini to your palm to help the filling settle in. The rice will expand as it cooks, as rice does, therefore some space needs to be left empty. Stick your pinky finger inside the stuffed zucchini to check the level of the rice. You should be able to stick it in half way. The video of my mom stuffing the zucchinis above will clarify any questions you may still have.

Empty the yogurt in a large bowl add the egg and a pinch of salt. Devolve the corn starch in the water and add that to the yogurt bowl. Whisk everything together.

Strain the mixture though a fine sieve and into a large pot.  Little pieces of corn starch and other impurities will be left behind. Don’t skip this step if you want a creamy yogurt sauce.

Place the pot of yogurt on medium high heat and whisk continuously until the mixture begins to bubble. It is important here to continuously be whisking the mixture otherwise it will brake, as in, not be smooth but rather have hard pieces of egg in there.

Once the mixture has bubbled whisk for another 2 minutes and then lower the heat to as low a it will go.

Place a small frying pan on medium heat, add the vegetable oil and crushed garlic. Fry for about 2 minutes. You want to smell the garlic but NOT brown it.

Pour the garlic oil mixture into the yogurt pot and add the dried mint. Rub the mint between your palms as you drop it in.

Place the stuffed zucchinis  in a deep pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Once it boils, lower to medium heat and simmer for 20 minutes uncovered.

Strain the zucchinis from the water and add the yogurt sauce. Simmer on low for 5 minute.

Carefully remove the zucchinis  from the pot and pour the yogurt into a serving bowl.

Once everything has cooled down you may join them together again, they are separated so that the rice does not overcook.

If you are serving immediately, you can serve it right away, all together. This dish is delicious at room temperature; well that’s how I eat it anyways.

 

Lebanese Kousa bil Laban (Stuffed Zucchinis in Yogurt)

Lebanese Kousa bil Laban (Stuffed Zucchinis in Yogurt)

Literal translation: Zucchinis in yogurt. Growing up kousa bil laban was what I used to consider comfort food; I loved it (anything with a yogurt sauce really). This classic Lebanese dish might seem complicated, but once you master a few tricks (stuffing the zucchini and cooking the yogurt), it is a dish you will make over and over again. I just recently asked my mom to teach me how to make it and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it actually was to cook.

Ingredients

  • The stuffing
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup short grain rice
  • 1  teaspoon Lebanese 7 spice mix
  • 1/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 10-12 small green zucchinis (to be stuffed)
  • The sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 kg jug plain yogurt (4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons dried mint

Instructions

  1. Place the onion and garlic of the stuffing in a blender and mix until they form a puree.
  2. Wash the rice exactly three times. That's how my mom told me to do it, so that's how it's done. Drain and place the rice in a bowl, add the onion/garlic pure, the Lebanese spice mix, ground beef,  pinch of pepper, generous pinch of salt, and vegetable oil. Knead all the ingredients together until homogenous. That's right, I'm using my big words today.
  3. Now it is time for the scary part, hollowing out the zucchinis to stuff them. Arabs have a tool specifically for hollowing out zucchinis (pictured above). They are sold at Mediterranean supermarkets or online. A small melon baller could also do the trick.
  4. Scoop out the insides of each zucchini being careful not to poke any holes through the skin. Also do not go too far to the end, this helps the zucchini keep its shape.
  5. Once they are all hollowed out, wash the zucchinis inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels; they are ready to be stuffed.
  6. Stuff the zucchinis with the rice mixture using your fingers to coax it in gently a little at a time. Tap the bottom of the zucchini to your palm to help the filling settle in. The rice will expand as it cooks, as rice does, therefore some space needs to be left empty. Stick your pinky finger inside the stuffed zucchini to check the level of the rice. You should be able to stick it in half way. The video of my mom stuffing the zucchinis above will clarify any questions you may still have.
  7. Empty the yogurt in a large bowl add the egg and a pinch of salt. Devolve the corn starch in the water and add that to the yogurt bowl. Whisk everything together.
  8. Strain the mixture though a fine sieve and into a large pot.  Little pieces of corn starch and other impurities will be left behind. Don't skip this step if you want a creamy yogurt sauce.
  9. Place the pot of yogurt on medium high heat and whisk continuously until the mixture begins to bubble. It is important here to continuously be whisking the mixture otherwise it will brake, as in, not be smooth but rather have hard pieces of egg in there.
  10. Once the mixture has bubbled whisk for another 2 minutes and then lower the heat to as low a it will go.
  11. Place a small frying pan on medium heat, add the vegetable oil and crushed garlic. Fry for about 2 minutes. You want to smell the garlic but NOT brown it. Pour the garlic oil mixture into the yogurt pot and add the dried mint. Rub the mint between your palms as you drop it in.
  12. Place the stuffed zucchinis  in a deep pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Once it boils, lower to medium heat and simmer for 20 minutes uncovered.
  13. Strain the zucchinis from the water and add the yogurt sauce back in. Simmer on low for 5 minute. Simmer on low for 5 minute.
  14. Carefully remove the zucchinis  from the pot and pour the yogurt into a serving bowl. Once everything has cooled down you may join them together again, they are separated so that the rice does not overcook. If you are serving immediately, you can serve it right away, all together.
  15. This dish is delicious at room temperature; well that's how I eat it anyways.
http://www.foodosopher.com/kousa-bil-laban/

 

Now that you know how to stuff zucchinis, try this recipe 👇