Nutrition and Fitness with Randa

Cooking with Zucchini Lebanese-Style

It is the season for summer squash! While this dish is also great in the winter, it uses that extra zucchini in your garden very nicely!

One of our favorite Lebanese dishes is called Koussa. It is a tomato-based meat and zucchini stew served over Arabic rice*. My mother, cooked this satisfying, delicious meal for us growing up and I now cook it for my kids.

There were four of us siblings aged within 4 years of each other, so my mother wisely altered the original recipe to one that was easier to make and took a lot less time. This is the version I am sharing with you....... (You're welcome!)

It is an easy weeknight meal, and I have also served Koussa to guests on many occasions with a side of toasted pita bread, hummus, and cucumber mint yogurt**. Once again, it is a meal that takes few ingredients to make and not much time.

Let's get started!


  • 4 medium zucchini, cut in 4 lengthwise and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 lb. ground beef (I have used turkey, but preferred lean beef for a more authentic flavor)
  • 1 medium or large onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 18. oz. V8 juice (if you use low-sodium, add a little more salt at the end to taste)
  • 1/2 -1 cup toasted pine nuts (if you are a member at Costco, if is much cheaper to buy in bulk)

1. In a large pan, sautée zucchini in 1tbsp butter on medium heat with the lid on until zucchini is tender but not overcooked.

2. While zucchini cooks, season with spices and saute the meat and onions in 1Tbsp butter for 10-15 minutes until onions are tender and meat is browned.

3. When meat mixture is done, add in zucchini, V8 juice, and pine nuts. Bring to a boil, then simmer with lid on for 20-30 minutes.

4. Serve over Arabic rice and a dollop of laban, or plain, non-fat yogurt on top,  or a side of cucumber mint yogurt.

ARABIC RICE: Rice with Vermicelli (ruz bi shirieh)

  • 1 cup uncooked rice*
  • 2/3 cup vermicelli broken into small pieces
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp salt

1. Melt the butter on high heat and toss the vermicelli until golden brown (be careful not to scorch!)

2. Add the rice and stir until it is well mixed with the vermicelli. Pour in the water and add the salt.

3. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until rice is done.

*White rice is typically used in Lebanon, and while not as authentic,  you can certainly use brown. My friend made this recipe with brown rice to try and "convert" her 5 year old from eating white, and he loved it. He now asks for "Randa's Rice"!

CUCUMBER MINT YOGURT: A refreshing addition to any meal or snack

  • 3 cups plain yogurt (I use non-fat)
  • 1 cucumber, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed, or 3 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried mint leaves

1. Stir yogurt until smooth. If using Greek Yogurt, add a little water to thin it. Blend in the garlic or garlic powder.

2. Add cucumber.

3. Season with salt and dried mint leaves and mix well.

4. Serve chilled sprinkled with fresh (or dried) mint leaves.

Enjoy! Sahtan!

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Comments (6) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I don’t have any zucchini right now. Could I substitute yellow crook neck squash? I’ve used these two ingredients interchangeably before…

  2. Sure! Let me know how it is as I have never tried that before. Good thinking : )

  3. The yellow squash seemed to work perfectly! It was quite lovely to look at as well. I used roughly chopped almonds rather than pine nuts because I decided to let my husband live another day (he’s allergic). I didn’t have V8 so I substituted a can of tomatoes. A hint to others who substitute can tomatoes: salt to taste after adding the tomatoes.

    Oh and the rice rocked!

  4. Well, I will have to try it with the yellow squash – I do imagine the colors would be beautiful together. Isn’t the rice wonderful? I used to make it in college in big batches and have it with yogurt for a few dinners in a row! Glad you liked it, Sarah.

  5. BIG thumbs up from our family! The boys really enjoyed it (without the nuts due to allergies). I also didn’t have V8 and used tomatoes with success, but was curious as to whether or not the V8 adds flavors that would otherwise be missing… so I used Spike instead of straight salt.

  6. Fantastic! I am so glad your boys enjoyed this Lebanese dish -more to come! The original recipe actually calls for just tomatoes – my mom used the V8 as means for making this dish into a stew. The original recipe you core the squash (not actually a zucchini but like Mexican squash) and stuff the squash with the meat, rice, nuts and pour the tomato over, and sometimes do it au gratin (with cheese on top). It is really good, just takes a longer time to make! Thanks for trying!

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