Lib al-kousa (core of the zucchini) is an old-school Middle Eastern dish that: tastes delicious, is healthy, easy to prepare, and can be made ahead of time. It’s a fantastic summer side, or dip, that’s best served warm, but which also tastes great straight out of the fridge. Lib al-kousa is normally made together with (or as a result of) cooking the quintessential Middle Eastern dish - mahshi kousa (zucchini stuffed with aromatic rice and ground meat.) Only the rice/meat stuffing is used in the mahshi kousa, so instead of throwing out the core of the hollowed-out zucchini, lib al-kousa was created! The dish however is so good that you don’t need to know how to make mahshi, or use kousa mahshi, as an excuse to make it.
There are some foods in life that are best savored when sopped with some warm, chewy bread. Hummos of course is the gold standard of ‘soppable’ dishes, followed probably by the smoky, roasted-eggplant dip mutabal, and, last but not least, lib al-kousa. A good quality extra virgin olive oil is key to this dish because you’re almost making a confit of zucchini. Assuming that not everyone has an apple corer in their kitchen (or has the patience) to hollow out the zucchini, like it’s traditionally done, I adapted the traditional recipe to use the whole zucchini by chopping it up and creating a nice balance between a mix of chunky small pieces of zucchini, and grated zucchini. The end result is a melt-in-your-mouth, almost sweet zucchini dish, that is going to be a fam-favorite.
Prep Level: Easy
6 zucchini, preferably Mexican zucchini
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cube chicken (or vegetable) bullion
1 teaspoon cumin powder
½ bell pepper, finely diced
¼ teaspoon coriander
3 garlic cloves, pressed or finely chopped
¼ teaspoon all spice
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint or ½ teaspoon dried mint (optional)
Cut off the ends, and grate three of the zucchini on the largest holes of a box grater. Finely dice/chop, the remaining three zucchini. In a medium sized saucepan (with a lid), and on medium heat, pour the olive oil, and add the onions and bullion. Stir occasionally until the onions are almost caramelized, which should take about 10 minutes. Add all the spices, seasoning and bell pepper. Mix the onions for a couple of minutes till the spices bloom. Add the grated and diced zucchini to the saucepan and mix to incorporate everything. Lower the heat slightly and add the garlic and water. Mix slightly. Put the lid on the saucepan and leave the zucchini to simmer for at least 20 minutes. If there is still a lot of water (the zucchini should be tender but most of the water should be cooked out) leave to simmer covered for another 10 minutes, checking and stirring every now and then to prevent the bottom from scorching. Allow the zucchini to cool down slightly and mix in the cilantro. Add the mint (optional) or garnish with a few mint leaves (or more chopped cilantro) and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Lib al-kousa is best served warm, but tastes great also cold.