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
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
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)