What to do with koosa cores, the centers of summer squash scraped out when you maked stuffed koosa? There are a few great ways to put the cores to use; my favorite is a quick koosa core saute over high heat, with plenty of aromatics for flavor.
It’s like winning a little victory in the kitchen whenever it happens: there is something leftover, something you could easily dispose of, that you transform into something else.
And not just some meh-style duty food. I’m talking a great something else, a truly delicious something else.
How fascinating that among our generations, we get pat-on-the-back satisfied on the occasions when we cook with economy. Whereas the Sitto (the grandma) generation cooked this way as a matter of course, employing their quiet genius every single day.
Never would they toss the solids left at the bottom of a pot of freshly clarified butter; that can enrich another dish. The scraps cored from the koosa, the summer squash prepared to be stuffed and poached: these were stretched with egg and flour and herbs into little pancake fritters, an entire additional meal made on the scraps of another (see my cookbook, page 126 for that recipe), or folded back into the stuffing for the koosa.
I find myself wanting to think and act like a Sitto as much as possible in the kitchen. Sometimes I’ll hold onto my tidbits for a good long while, waiting to see what will inspire their use. I’m talking a quarter of a jar of orange blossom syrup and snack baggies of frozen sugared nuts leftover from the big-batch baklawas of the holiday season; same small quantity of clarified butter from the last round of ka’ik at Easter; etc.
But the koosa cores have shamed me on more than one occasion over the years, especially in recipe-testing mode, when in haste I’ve push them off the counter and into the sink’s disposal so I can move on to the next thing without being hindered by their presence.
Lately, though, I’ve taken to honoring the cores in the style my mom always treated sliced zucchini (which is what koosa is, just a lighter green smaller version): Sautéed on fairly high heat, with all kinds of aromatics like scallions and garlic, to get a caramelized sizzle and to avoid the wet limpness the squash naturally leans toward.
The end result? A perfect little bowl of heavenly flavor. The Sitto-strength comes shining through except for one small thing: that “little bowl.” Even a whole bunch of koosa core, as from my usual batch of 12, once sautéed melts down to a fairly small amount. Not enough to put on the table for any number gathered there.
WWSD: what would Sitto do? She would have either made another dozen koosa (from the garden, no?) to get more core to share, or handed the little bowl of koosa core goodness off to someone else, whoever happens to pass through the kitchen when the sauté is done.
She probably would not sit quietly and eat the whole little bowl herself while the stuffed koosa bubbles away on the stove, the way I do. So I just like to pretend that Sitto handed the bowl to me, which in a way she did, so I can enjoy my cook’s treat in peace.
Koosa Core Saute
This recipe scales up or down with ease, depending on what quantity of cores you have. Other vegetables like mushrooms or red bell pepper would be right at home with the cores in the saute as well. Koosa cores cook way down, so know that the yield is enough for one or two people, again depending on how much koosa you have cored.
- 2 cups cores of summer squash, koosa or zucchini
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- Few grinds black pepper
- Pinch chopped fresh herbs, such as mint, parsely, cilantro, or dill
Remove some of the liquid from the cores by placing the squash cores in a strainer over a bowl or in the sink. Sprinkle with the salt and let the cores drain for 15 minutes. Squeeze the cores to remove even more liquid. Discard the liquid or, if you're like Sitto, find another use for it.
In a medium saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat until it shimmers but does not smoke. Add the koosa cores and scallions and cooking, stirring occasionally, for about three minutes or until the cores are lightly caramelized.
Off of the heat, stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, and black pepper.
Spoon the saute into a bowl and finish with a shower of chopped fresh herbs.