The flavors and smells that came from my grandmother’s kitchen are still so deeply etched in my heart and senses. I especially miss her Koosa or stuffed squash. She would always use the long pale or dark green zucchini squash, stuffed with cinnamon scented, rice and lamb, then slowly simmered in garlic and crushed tomato sauce.
A few days ago I was at the Aspen Farmers Market and found some beautiful round zucchini and just couldn’t resist. I grabbed as many as I could carry and decided to work on a carb-less version of my Sitti’s (grandmother Rose’s) Koosa.
I’ll take you step, by step, but I have to confess my dish contained several tears, that began to flow as the smells flooded my kitchen, my heart, and my memories.
Her version with rice is hard to beat but my lower carb dish was delicious and deeply satisfying. For this recipe, I used both long and round zucchini, and I used the remaining meat to make mini-meatballs that I served along side. For a dinner party, I would use the round zucchini for a nicer presentation.
The zucchini can also be frozen and thawed for future use. The trick is to freeze individually placed squash on a sheet pan before storing them together in a freezer bag or vacuum sealed bag; this will help maintain their shape. When thawed they will be soft and wet, simply drain on a paper towel and carefully fill. Portion them off in anticipated serving size.
Softening the finely diced onion, will allow it to melt into the meat.
Mix the onions and pine nuts with cinnamon, salt, and pepper and then gently work in the ground lamb.
Gently stuff the squash, topping the round squash with the reserved lids. If you have any lamb left, make and tuck small meatballs into the pan. Add the garlic and quartered onion and top with the seasoned crushed tomato sauce and dried mint.
Cover the pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the squash is tender, and the meat is cooked through, about 50 minutes. Serve hot with a side of plain Greek yogurt and a simple arugula salad.
I used the extra round zucchini along with some zucchini flowers and filled them with some herb filled ricotta and some torn mint leaves and slivers of garlic.