Stuffed Summer Squash (Cousa) with Bulgur in Tomato Broth
- 8 cousa or other small summer squash or zucchini, 4 to 5 inches long (about 4 pounds)
- Kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 ounces ground lamb or lean beef
- 1 tablespoon Baharaht Spice Blend, recipe below, or store bought
- 1 cup coarse bulgur wheat
- 5 pounds ripe tomatoes
- Pinch sugar
- 1 small jalapeno, optional
- 2 to 3 teaspoons pomegranate molasses or lemon juice
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro or mint leaves, or a mixture, torn
- 8 pocket-style pitas, for serving
- Baharat Spice Blend
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Cut the top of each squash off and reserve the ends. Use a squash or apple corer and remove the inner flesh of the squash, leaving a 1/4 to 1/2-inch wall, taking care not to pierce the skin. Reserve the tops (save the flesh and toss into soups, frittatas or other egg dishes, or pastas.) Place the squash in a bowl of salted ice water to firm it up.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the lamb, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and the baharat spice blend and cook, stirring, until it loses its pink color, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add the bulgur and 1 cup water and mix together. Set aside to cool and hydrate while you prepare the tomato broth.
Halve and grate the tomatoes on a coarse box grater into a large Dutch oven or skillet. Discard the skins. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil, the sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, pepper to taste and the jalapeno, if desired. Bring to a simmer over medium-low while you stuff the squash.
Drain and pat dry the squash dry. Loosely stuff the filling into each squash (leave enough headroom that you can stick your finger about 2 inches into the squash.) Turn the reserved squash tops so the narrow ends, when tucked into the squash, plug it closed (if needed, trim the tops so they fit snugly).
Layer the squash in the Dutch oven, adding water if needed so the sauce comes three-quarters the way up the squash. Cover with a circle of parchment paper. Cover with a lid and cook over medium-low heat until the squash are tender, about 50 minutes.
Carefully remove the squash to a lipped bowl. Add the pomegranate molasses or lemon juice to the tomato sauce and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the broth into bowls. Serve the squash in the broth, whole or cut crosswise as desired. Scatter the herbs on top and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with pita bread.
Cousa Mutabbal, a salad served like hummus, can be made by simmering the contents of the cousa in a small saucepan until cooked. Add a little tahini, yogurt, salt and pepper. Serve with olive oil and crushed dried mint on top. Eat with pita bread.
Combine all spices in a mini food processor or spice grinder. Grind until well pulverized.
Per serving (includes 1 pita per serving): Calories 479; Total Fat 18 grams; Saturated Fat 4 grams; Protein 17 grams; Total Carbohydrate 67 grams; Sugar: 13 grams; Fiber 11 grams; Cholesterol 16 milligrams; Sodium 432 milligrams;