Kitty Morse

Cookbook Author, Food and Travel Writer

Kitty Morse

Cookbook Author, Food and Travel Writer

          As I write, I can hear thunder rumbling in the background. High winds and pelting rain are so unusual in our neck of the woods that we had to take in a roommate, and allow Olive, our scott terrier, to sleep on our bed (normally an absolute no-no!). She had never heard such thunder! The end result was worth it, however. From the ocean, a ring of snow-capped mountains is visible in the distance, between Palomar Mountain to the south, and the San Jacinto peak above Palm Springs to the northeast. A rare sight indeed!

            Thank you to  those who purchased copies of A Biblical Feast: Ancient Mediterranean Flavors for Today’s Table. The list of stores (California missions and a few university bookstores among them) keeps growing. How about sending a signed copy to a special friend as a Valentine’s Day gift? The book is available at

            Thank you, as well, to those who availed themselves of my consultation services, whether before traveling to Morocco or to organize a Moroccan banquet. (See the pages on this site).

            As I hear about the lack of water in the Central Valley, I remain deeply concerned about California’s family farms. This year, I intend to obtain updates on some of the farmers and home cooks who contributed so generously to The California Farm Cookbook (Pelican Publishing 1994). Perhaps you’d like to come along for the ride? I will share updates along with a recipe or two. 

            Meanwhile, the chill in the air of the past week generated almost a pavlovian response. I automatically headed to the kitchen to make soup. The following, adapted from my book, Couscous, fulfilled my craving!

Spicy Tunisian Couscous Soup

Serves 6


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon harissa hot sauce, plus extra for serving

6 chicken legs or thighs (optional)

3 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped

1 large carrot, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 medium potato, peeled and cubed

6 ounces pumpkin or winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

8 cups chicken broth

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices

One  (14 1/4-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained

1/3 cup couscous

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

             In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Cook onion, stirring occasionally until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, coriander, cumin, garlic, and harissa, if using. Stir to blend. Add chicken, if using. Stir to coat. Reduce heat to medium. Add tomatoes, carrot, potato, pumpkin, and broth. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, 35 to 40 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate. When cool enough to handle, remove skin and bones. Return boned chicken to the pot.

            Add zucchini, garbanzo beans, and couscous. Continue cooking until couscous is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with extra harissa on the side. Enjoy!