Zucchini Soup {Koosa Soup}

ALERT.  This. tastes. so. good!  And Ayla, my 2 year old loved it and we all know how she's a little food snob!  Don't try to feed her something that doesn't taste amazing or any leftovers.  Sigh.

So it's been a little chilly in Southern California, you know 60 degrees haha.  Sorry, everyone living in cold places :) There was light drizzle the other day and its as if I iimmedietly forgot that I was raised in New Jersey and my body is supposed to be able to handle all types of cold weather conditions being that I dealt with rain, snow and freezing weather.  But nope, my body pretended it was the first time experiencing rain and I immediately pulled out my umbrella, winter jacket, boots, forgot how to drive in the rain, and made soup.  It actually felt quite nice and cozy! 

Every time I make another dish from my childhood I am amazed at how healthy and well rounded the dishes are.  The core of every dish is vegetables, vegetables and more vegetables.  And this is no exception.  Zucchini and eggplant might be tied in Middle Eastern cuisine as the most commonly used vegetable.  Let me know if there is another one.  We do so much with zucchini, most famously core it and stuff it with rice and meat and cook it in a tomato broth called Koosa Mahshi which translates to stuffed zucchini, so original right haha.  Among the many things we make with zucchini, this might be one of my favorites even though I'm not really a soup kinda girl.  But the flavor of the zucchini as it caramelizes with the onions and simmers in the chicken stock is just so good!  My mom never made it with chicken but I happened to have some cooked chicken so I threw it in there at the end and it automatically made the dish dinner worthy.  

I didn't intend for the milk drizzle to look like a strange looking Pac Man, but hey, art at its finest :) 

I didn't intend for the milk drizzle to look like a strange looking Pac Man, but hey, art at its finest :) 

Sumac Cumin Crusted Salmon

Ok so confession, I didn't necessarily love salmon until recently.  Anyone else feel this way? Anyone?  It used to always taste kinda bland to me.  For a while the only way I would make it, (and the only reason I only did make it is because I knew of the health benefits), was with a touch of olive oil, lemon juice, and rosemary baked in the oven.  It was good but I needed more.  I then did a little Asian switch it up and started adding vegetables and soy sauce and some other flavors and that was good.  Salmon was on its way up for me. BUT then my husbands cousin, who happens to be a male foodie that loves to cook and experiment in the kitchen (lucky wife) told me about this recipe and this has been my go to salmon recipe ever since!  The combination of sumac, cumin and yellow mustard seeds creates this super flavorful crust that is the perfect crunch texture contrast to the melt in your mouth salmon.  It's so good, and it's so easy.  Seriously.

Sautee the kale in the same sumac, cumin, honey mustard rub for a few minutes

Sautee the kale in the same sumac, cumin, honey mustard rub for a few minutes

Today was a particularly long day for me.  I'm in the middle of production for one of the Sweet Pillar products (can't tell you which one yet :) and there is just so much that goes into producing a product that it's so non stop.  It's like conducting an orchestra, every piece has to be played correctly at the correct time in order for it all to work smoothly and successfully together.  But I digress.  I can talk about this stuff all day I worry I bore people with this food production talk haha. 

I was almost going to pick up take out as it was such a long day AND it was drizzling in Orange County, which means everyone was panicking and it was extra chaotic and busy.  I'm so glad I didn't order take out and made this instead.  I always get my salmon from Whole Foods and it tastes amazing and dinner in its entirety ends up taking 10 minutes from start to finish.

This particular dish is not a Middle Eastern classic that I grew up with although the sumac and cumin are very much staple spices in any middle eastern spice cabinet.  If you're feeling fancy but don't have the time, this is what you should make. 

Yellow mustard seeds

Yellow mustard seeds

Ground up yellow mustard seeds

Ground up yellow mustard seeds



Sautee in a tablespoon of olive oil

Sautee in a tablespoon of olive oil

"Eggplant Upside down" Rice, Eggplant, & Tomato dish called "Ma'loubay Betinjan"

Upside Down aka Ma’loubay

The name of this dish, ma’loubay literally translates to “upside down” because of the way it is served by first flipping it upside down like a beautiful cake with layers of rice, meat and vegetables.  

Think about it, isn’t everything better upside down.  I actually can’t think of anything else thats better upside down.  Maybe headstands.  But is that really better?  Okay moving on.

I DO know that a rice, meat and vegetable dish IS better upside down because the flavors all marry each other and the best of the flavors fall to the bottom and when flipped upside down it brings the best of the bottom to the top.  #started from the bottom now we’re here haha

There are many variations across the Levantine (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, parts of Turkey) which include mainly a variety of vegetables usually eggplants, cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots.    I’ve seen tons of images, but of course I can’t find a single one to post now, of 2-3 women and men all holding a ginormous pot trying to carefully flip it over.  They’re usually served with yogurt or a simple Middle Eastern salad which includes tomatoes and cucumber.  

I had to experiment with a few pots I own and found one that works perfect for my measurements and I just stick with it.  Usually, every Middle Eastern home has a special straight edged pot that makes it easier for flipping.

This dish could be time consuming because of the prep work required but it is NOT difficult.  Once everything is prepped, its just a matter of layering them together.  Do not be intimidated by how pretty it looks!  And even if your ma'loubay flops when you flip it over it will still be an amazingly tasting and aromatic dish!

Feeds 3-4 people (or just the three of us with just a little bit of leftovers haha)


  1. 1 large eggplant sliced
  2. .3 pounds ground beef
  3. 1/4 diced tomato
  4. 2 tablespoon pine nuts (or substitute almonds)
  5. 1 1/2 cup jasmine rice
  6. 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
  7. 3 tblspoon tomato paste
  8. oil for frying or for brushing eggplants for broil
  9. salt & pepper to taste



1. peel and slice the eggplants 

Lay them on a paper towel and salt them.  

Let them sit for 30 minutes

2. Put the jasmine rice in a bowl and cover with water

Let it sit for 30 minutes

3. Meanwhile, brown the meat with salt and pepper

Sauté the pine nuts with 1 tbl vegetable oil

Combine with meat and set aside

4. On low heat add chicken stock, tomato paste and salt and pepper to taste 

Whisk it all together until paste completely dissolves

5. When the eggplants are done straining wash them off with water and pat dry

Heat up oil and fry eggplants (OR the healthier version is to skip the initial part about straining them and just brush the eggplants with oil. sprinkle with salt and put in a preheated broiler until they are brown on each side).  

6. When the 30 minutes is over for the rice, sauté for 1-2 minutes in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and mix in 1 tablespoon tomato paste (this is optional but I feel it gives the rice a little more flavor and makes the rice more moldable and easier when flipping upside down).

Now that everything is prepped all we have to do is assemble.

  • Start by placing the diced tomatoes at the bottom
  • Add the meat and pine nuts
  • Layer the eggplants (see image)
  • Add the rice inside the eggplants and carefully pour the tomato stock on the rice
  • Bring to a quick boil then lower heat and cover for 15 minutes.  
  • Keep it covered for an additional 5 minutes
  • Uncover, place plate on top of pot, say a prayer and flip that bad boy

This picture was taken right after I flipped it and a lot of the tomato and meat were still stuck to the bottom of the pot.  I fixed that problem by just scraping the pot and putting them back on top.