Tabouleh Duty


I was in London filming Judge Dredd when I first tasted the refreshing lemony flavor of tabbouleh.  I took the part of the villain in Judge Dredd because it was a paying job and because it filmed in London.  What’s great about making films is that something wonderful always happens even when the film is not worthy.

Before I went to London, I was on a flight from Singapore to Shanghai.  For some reason, I got to talk to the passenger next to me, which was something I almost never did or do.  Samuel was his name and he worked for Pfizer in Asia.  I remember talking to him about my mother’s interest in flax seed that grew in the Northwestern part of China and if Samuel thought Pfizer would be interested in collaborating with my mother on making the gel capsules.  Samuel was not interested in flax seed, but he chatted with me for the rest of the trip.  He told me that he had a girlfriend in London.  I said that I would be going to London in a couple of weeks and he insisted on giving me his girlfriend’s contact in London.  Her name was Hanan Kattan.



Hanan and her family

I thought to myself, I’d be crazy to call someone whose contact was given to me by a total stranger sitting next to me on the plane.

Two weeks after the encounter with Samuel, I arrived in London.  It was late autumn and rainy.  I spent a couple of wet days in the the hotel room, with occasional sessions of physical training and costume fitting.  Perhaps I was lonely or perhaps I felt adventurous.  I took out Hanan’s number and called her.  I’ve always been socially awkward and fearful of meeting new people. But I met Hanan on a wet and cold autumn day and we ate tabbouleh and a dozen other dishes in a Lebanese restaurant, and the next day I moved into her family’s swanky apartment in Mayfair London.  This whole thing was entirely and utterly out of character for me.  I don’t even know why I kept Samuel’s card with Hanan’s number on it.  Fate is mysterious.  We have been friends for 20 years.



1/2 cup fine bulgur

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cup boiling-hot water

1 cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint

2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 seedless cucumber*, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Boil water with salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pot.  Add bulgur when water is boiling and turn off the fire and let the bulgur sit for 15 minutes.  Discard water and let the bulgur cool.

Mix the cut vegetables, lemon juice and olive oil with bulgur and leave in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.  If you are pressed for time, you can serve the dish right away, but it gets better after sitting in the fridge for an hour.

PS: The saga of the Pumpkin Man, I’m afraid, is never ending.  Day 4.  I have by now completely perfected my creamy pumpkin soup.  I ate the soup with a dash of cinnamon today.  I can’t believe it, but so far I still enjoy it.


Revenge of the Pumpkin Man



We have been eating the same pumpkin for a third day now and I don’t think I even made a dent in the pile of pumpkin flesh.  A helpful reader of this blog gave me a recipe for a pumpkin black bean chili and I gratefully tried with a couple of little tweaks on the ingredients.  It was quite delicious.  I especially liked the avocado in the soup.



  1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

  1/2 medium onion, chopped

  1/2 medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped

1/2 medium sweet red pepper, chopped

  3 garlic cloves, minced

  1 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

  1 1/2 cup cubed raw pumpkin

  1 cup diced tomatoes

  3 cups chicken broth

  1 teaspoon Paprika

  1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

  1 teaspoon ground cumin

  1 teaspoon dried oregano

  1/2 teaspoon salt

  Cubed avocado and thinly sliced green onions

Sauté onion, garlic, red and yellow pepper in the pot for 4 minutes.  Add tomato and pumpkin and continue to stir for 4 more minutes.  Add the spices and the chicken broth and let it cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  Add avocado and green onion before serving.


Since both my children are vegetarians, I don’t cook as much meat as before, but Peter really misses meat and tonight I made one of his favorite meats for him — pork chop.  Peter said that it was one of tastiest pork chop that he had ever had, and it was another of many daily reminders of why he married me.

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon cooking wine

1 tablespoon grated ginger

  Cooking spray

  2 pork chops

  1/2 apple


Mix all ingredients other than the apple and marinade the pork chops for 2 to 8 hours.           

Preheat and spay the skillet grill.  Grill the pork chops for about 6 – 8 minutes on either side.  Grill apple slices until soft.

Cook the marinade in a sauce pan for about 5 minutes and serve with the chops and apple slices.

Cannibalizing the Pumpkin Man


Joan the teenage revolutionary in front of Tian An Men Square

There is a famous revolutionary song about Mao’s Long March I used to sing as a child call “Red rice and Pumpkin Soup.”  Pumpkin soup was considered peasant food — the opposite of Bourgeois — therefore revolutionary. Even today pumpkin soup is still emblematic for a plain life style touted by the Party for its officers.


CCTV posted Xi eating pumpkin soup with the soldiers and the officers and named the event Red Rice and Pumpkin Soup

I of course no longer associate pumpkin soup with revolution. I anticipate Autumn’s abundance when I see pumpkins arriving in the market. Fall is my favorite season.

I sat across from the Pumpkin Man at the breakfast table this morning, drinking my tea and contemplating his fate. In the end, I couldn’t let the Pumpkin Man go.  He’s now been hacked to pieces and occupying both my refrigerators.  I grew up not having enough food and I simply hate to waste anything, let alone a perfectly good pumpkin.


It is true that the Pumpkin Man was not raised to be yummy; he was raised to look good.  But he turned out to be quite worthy of admiration in the form of an almond flour pumpkin bread.



2 cups pumpkin puree (roasted at 350F and pureed in Vitamix)

3 large eggs

3 egg whites

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses or honey

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon Xanthan gum (optional)

In a mixing bowl, mix Pumpkin puree, eggs, egg whites, vanilla and molasses.  In another bowl, mix all dry ingredients.  Mix the wet and dry together with a hand mixer.  Move mixed ingredients into two loaf pans and bake at 350F for 40 minutes.




Since the oven was already on, I decided to make another bread and some muffins in a different flavor:


1 cup almond flour

1/2 oat bran

1/2 coconut flour

1/2 pumpkin puree

3/4 cup raisins

2 eggs

2 apples

4 tbsp. xylitol

1tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

P1050294 P1050293

Trick or Treat!



Audrey carved the Pumpkin Man and I used his huge eyes, tiny nose and smily mouth to make a pumpkin soup.  I also cleaned the seeds, boiled them with a couple of star anises, salt and Chinese Five Spice powder, and then baked them at 250 F for two hours. 




As I drank the soup and cracked the seeds, I looked up at the Pumpkin Man in between bites, and for a second I seemed to feel him watching me eating him, and I feared that I might be traumatizing him.  And he would come after me when the lights went out…  If I don’t have a new post tomorrow, you will know that the Pumpkin Man has had his revenge.


The girls went out with their friends.  Peter and I had a movie date after dinner and we saw CitizenFour, a provocative documentary about Edward Snowden and global surveillance of all electronic communications by the NSA. The film portrayed another kind of spooky man, who lurks behind everyone’s cell phone and computer, and I suppose it was ironically fitting for a Halloween night.


Pumpkin soup:

2 cup raw cubed pumpkin

1/2 onion, chopped

2 clove garlic, crushed

2 carrots, chopped

4 slices peeled ginger

a dash of each ground cumin, paprika, turmeric and coriander

salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 cups chicken broth (or water if vegetarian)

Sauté onion, garlic, ginger and carrots until soft and slightly caramelized, and move them into the soy milk machine.

Add in pumpkin and chicken broth and turn the machine to DRIED BEAN.


Audrey with Mr. Yo, her math teacher