Monthly Archives: October 2013

Writer’s Digest Critique, October 2013

 

I entered Mint Tea and Minarets in the following contest, and though it didn’t

win, I appreciated the critique:

 

21st Annual Writer’s Digest Annual Self-Published Book Awards

 

Entry Title: Mint Tea + Minarets:  a banquet of Moroccan Memories

 

Author: Kitty Morse

 

Judge Number: 54

 

Entry Category: Nonfiction

 

October 2013

 

Judges Commentary*:

 

Mint Tea and Minarets                                                  Moroccan

customs and cuisine are vividly captured in this absorbing memoir that also

offers an intriguing familial history involving property. Chapters are

interspersed with abundant recipes for choice appetizers, entrees and drinks.

The colorful blend of Arabic and French influences, as well as languages, deepen

the sweeping cultural interest. One can get the feel and pulse of Moroccan life

through the eyes of the author, who was born in Morocco. The dialogue enhances

the style and pace of Moroccan life. Many fine atmospheric photos – of places,

people and foods – grace the pages of the oversized book. The writing is

personal and filled with many revealing insights while deftly describing the

author’s many experiences in her homeland with a variety of people. Chapter

breaks enable smooth reading. Many of the photos, though, lack captions so the

reader doesn’t know what destination is shown or other pertinent information. A

World War II message from President Roosevelt, signed by General Eisenhower, is

only shown in French and Arabic but not in English (Author’s NOTE: It doesn’t

exist in English! it was meant for “locals.”) The recipes with accompanying

photos have all the needed ingredients spelled out in clear detail. Maps — one

historical – offer another dimension but another map showing Morocco’s place in

North Africa would be useful. A glossary of terms and foods used in the book is

an excellent touch. The cover design is very visual and the clever title is a

tongue pleaser.”  October 2013

Boo-Hoo, it’s Halloween in 2013! Time for pumpkin chorba soup!

 

Greetings on a sunny, Southern California, Fall afternoon. Halloween and

 

Thanksgiving are just around the corner, citrus trees are laden with ripening

 

fruit (another record crop awaits!), and golden, apple-sized figs still hang on

 

to our  tree for dear life. And birds find our our Pom Wonderful pomegranates

 

bursting open with sweetness irresistible.

 

 

I love the onset of Fall, here, in San Diego County, or anywhere else. Nature,

 

it seems puts forth its final burst of beauty, a mature one  tinged with the

 

colors of experience, of a brief, sun-drenched life. I can’t explain why, but

 

one of my favorite images of Fall is one of fading anemones in various shades of

 

pink drooping languidly over a blue vase. The artist is long erased from my

 

brain.

 

 And then there is  Halloween. Our location, off a busy street, has never been

 

conducive to enticing young children up our steep driveway. Yet, every year,

 

hoping a young visitor might break the mold, I stock up on Snicker bars, Crunch

 

bars, and Reese peanut butter cups (my husband’s favorites!) I would much rather

 

give away a wedge of Vache qui Rit cheese, or a plump Medjool date. That line of

 

thinking according to my husband, is distinctly “unamerican!”

 

 So what do you do when life hands you a carved pumpkin, and you don’t want to throw it away? Make pumpkin chorba!

Kitty’s Pumpkin, Tomato, and Vermicelli Soup

 

Serves 4 

 

In Morocco, chorba is a catch-all word for vegetable soup incorporating vermicelli broken up into tiny pieces. A bowl of steaming chorba is standard fare in many Moroccan households on chilly evenings. This soup is usually fairly thick, but you can thin it by adding a little milk.

 

 

1 medium onion

 

4 whole cloves

 

6 cups  broth

 

2 pounds pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks

 

4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped

 

5 medium tomatoes (or 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes), quartered

 

12 sprigs cilantro, tied with string

 

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

 

1/4 cup broken up capellini, or angel hair pasta

 

1 to 2 cups milk

 

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

 

Wedges of lemon

 

 

         Stud the onion with the cloves. In a large saucepan or soup pot, combine the broth, squash, celery, tomatoes, cilantro, and turmeric. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until vegetables are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Drain, reserving broth in a bowl.

 

         Discard the onion, cloves, and cilantro.

 

         In a blender, food processor or ricer, puree the vegetables in increments, adding the reserved broth a little at a time to obtain a smooth, thick puree. Return the soup to the pan. Bring to a simmer. Break up the pasta into 1-inch pieces and add to the soup. Simmer until pasta is cooked, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1 cup milk or more for a thinner soup, and heat through.  Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.


From The Vegetarian Table: North Africa by Kitty Morse. (Chronicle Books, 1996)