This recipe is from food writer Reem Kassis, who shared corn, eggplant, summer squash and tomato recipes inspired by her childhood in Jerusalem, where many of the Arab world’s culinary traditions have converged.

This is a peasant dish from the Levant called by different names depending on locales, but variations of it are common across the eastern Mediterranean.

Cousa, a summer squash that’s firmer and sweeter than a standard zucchini, is the most common variety across the Middle East. To retain its lovely flavor and texture, the squash is cooked separately and folded in at the last minute.

For a prettier presentation, instead of mixing in the cousa, simply pile it on top of the bulgur in the serving platter and drizzle with more olive oil. The great thing about this recipe is that it tastes just as delicious warm as it does at room temperature, so it is the ideal make-ahead or picnic dish.

Recipe note: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days; reheat gently on the stove with a few splashes of water, or bring to room temperature and eat.

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For the bulgur

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) coarse grain bulgur, rinsed and drained
  • 1 yellow onion (any size), finely diced
  • 1 small green bell pepper or (may be substituted with 3 jalapeños if you prefer it spicy), finely diced
  • 2 large or 3 medium tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 cups water, plus more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoons crushed dried mint

For the cousa

  • 1 pound (2 to 3 medium) cousa squash (often called Mexican gray or Korean squash), or any other variety of summer squash except green zucchini, diced into bite-size cubes
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Plain whole-milk yogurt (optional)
  • Lemon wedges (optional)

Step 1

Make the bulgur: In a large pot over medium heat, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the drained bulgur and cook, stirring regularly, until slightly toasty and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Step 2

To the same pot, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, the onion and pepper and cook, stirring regularly, until the onions soften and start to brown, 9 to 11 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes start to break down and release their juices, and the mixture slightly darkens, an additional 5 to 7 minutes.

Step 3

Add the water, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Return the bulgur to the pot and stir to combine. Lower the heat so the mixture is at a simmer, cover, and cook until the bulgur is fluffed up and tender, 15 to 20 minutes (the timing may vary depending on brand of bulgur you use). Stir periodically to make sure the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom. If necessary, add more water, a few tablespoons at a time, and continue to cook until the grains are soft but not mushy.

Step 4

Make the cousa: While the bulgur cooks, position a rack about 6 inches away from the broiling element and heat the broiler.

Step 5

In a large bowl, toss the cousa with the olive oil and salt, and spread it in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Broil for 10 to 12 minutes, watching carefully, until the cousa is charred in spots and starting to soften.

Step 6

Remove the bulgur from the heat, add the lemon juice, parsley, dried mint and roasted cousa and toss to combine. Transfer to a serving platter or bowl.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with the yogurt and lemon wedges on the side, if using.

Nutrition Information

Per serving, based on 6.

Calories: 374; Total Fat: 15 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 80 mg; Carbohydrates: 54 g; Dietary Fiber: 13 g; Sugar: 8 g; Protein: 9 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

From food writer Reem Kassis.

Tested by Alexis Sargent; email questions to

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