Joël

For Mother’s Day, I decided to take Amber out for a few hours. We wandered around, watched a movie and had dinner at Joël restaurant, which features French cuisine “with Asian and Mediterranean influences.”

For Mother’s Day, I decided to take Amber out for a few hours so that she could relax and have some fun. So we got a babysitter and headed out. We wandered around, watched a movie and had dinner at Joël restaurant, which features French cuisine “with Asian and Mediterranean influences.”

I had quail as appetizer while Amber played safe with shrimp. The quail was very good. For the main course, I got duck while Amber got veal sweetbreads on my suggestion. The duck was good but the veal sweetbreads were heavenly. We finished off with some icecream.

Overall, a good meal. I would recommend the restaurant for special occasions since it is somewhat expensive.

Blog Interview Meme

This is a chain interviewing game for blogs. Here are its rules:

  1. Leave me a comment saying “interview me.” The first five commenters will be the participants.
  2. I will respond by asking you five questions.
  3. You will update your blog/site with the answers to the questions.
  4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
  5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. (Write your own questions or borrow some.)

Wayfarer has asked me the following questions.

1. How does it feel to be a dad?

It feels great. It is amazing. Very different from how I imagined it. I am not a baby/kid person. My ideal number of children have always hovered between zero and one. So my reaction to Michelle was a surprise. I would say I started feeling love for her around the time we saw her heartbeat on the ultrasound. I am very protective of her and extremely defensive about anyone disparaging my role as a dad. Say anything about boys being better or girls having it difficult in life or girls being closer to their moms and I come out swinging.

2. What do you like and dislike about Atlanta?

Dislike is easy. I hate Atlanta summers. They are hot and humid. Not the kind of weather I like. I also don’t like the somewhat suburban feel of the city of Atlanta. My feelings about the laid back attitude of people here vary. At times, I get frustrated with it and want Atlanta to become a more fast-paced city like New York, but at other times I like the slow pace of life here.

Another thing about Atlanta is the lack of things like museums, theater, etc. as compared to New York, Chicago or San Francisco.

Among likes, there is the fact that one can drive to the mountains (even if they are not exactly tall peaks) in the North whenever one wants to. There are lots of hiking, backpacking and camping opportunities there. There are also lakes and rivers for a weekend of paddling fun in the summer (but please don’t go into the Chattahoochee river in the metro Atlanta area, it is extremely polluted.)

3. Do you ever miss Pakistan? If so, what about it?

I could take the easy way out and say that I miss my parents and siblings. However, I would focus on the place, rather than people. Having moved a few times in my life, I don’t have any sentimental attachments to any place. Whenever we are moving, I am excited and looking forward to a new place while Amber is starting to miss the old one.

4. How did you and Amber meet?

During our high school and college years, we used to live in the same town. Amber was a classmate of my sister. I knew about her when she started going to the same college in which I was studying. We took the same college bus and there were only about 5-6 girls from our town in our college (the female population among the students at the college was 5-10%.) We first met when Amber visited our home some time in spring of her freshman year. She was a bookworm and wanted to study even though the university was closed for a couple of months due to 3 students being murdered in a student “political” clash. So we talked about the university and freshman Math. It was definitely not love at first sight. But it grew over time.

5. Describe the perfect meal.

That is a difficult one. But here are some great meals I have had. Stuffed lamb roast the Baloch way is great. So was the rabbit stuffed with peach I ate in a restaurant in Blois, France. For breakfast, nothing could beat the patisseries in France. For a regular meal, I would say I like an Italian main course followed by a French dessert. That reminds me of the dessert sample platter I ordered in a Loire valley restaurant. It had more than a dozen varieties and full though I was, I couldn’t stop eating the dessert.

While generally the food at our university cafe wasn’t good, once a week they had lentils and roast chicken which was quite good. I think those tuesdays were the only time I used to eat there.

Now it is your turn. If you would like to be interviewed, please leave a comment asking for an interview.

Brazilian Steakhouse

Last week, Amber and I went to Fogo de Chão for dinner. It is a Brazilian steakhouse tradition known as “Churrasco.” According to the restaurant website:

Churrasco (shoo – rás – ko) has been a culinary tradition for more than three centuries in Rio Grande do Sul (Southern Brazil). In the olden days, “Gaúchos” (Southern Brazilian cowboys) pierced large pieces of meat and slowly roasted them over open flamed pits, while talking about their adventures on the plains.

It is fun the way they serve you at these restaurants. Waiters go around carrying meat on skewers and stop to offer you some if you have the card on your table set to green (“go”). Then they’ll cut a slice of meat right there on the table. When you want a break, which you do since the waiters come very frequently, you flip the card to its red side.

Not only is the meat very good, the salad bar is great too. I have been to another Brazilian steakhouse before, but it was Amber’s first time and I had a feeling she would fill up on the salad. That is exactly what happened. I, on the other hand, had skipped lunch to gorge on the meat.

Atlanta is sort of becoming the capital for these Brazilian restaurants in recent years. There are at least 5 churrascarias here now that I know of.

Highly recommended, though expensive. Dinner alone costs $45 per person. Add drinks and dessert and it could be much higher.

10 + Michelle

It’s been exactly 10 years since “I” became “We”. On December 1, 1994 in Wah Cantt, Pakistan, Amber and I got married. That day, we thought we knew what love was. But we weren’t really aware of the bond between two persons who spend their lives together. Since then, our love has grown considerably; we trust each other completely; and respect is definitely part of the equation. We have found out every idiosyncratic and mundane thing about each other.

There have obviously been ups and downs. There were compromises to make. There were also the difficult times when we lived in different states: Amber in Jersey and I in Georgia.

Overall, these have been a magnificent 10 years. The icing on the cake, so to speak, was provided during this last year with the birth of our daughter Michelle.

Last year, I posted photographs from the day of our wedding to our 9th anniversary. This year, the theme of the photographs is the “icing.”

Michelle is 8 days old Eid Morning
Going to an Eid party Thanksgiving Day

Tonight, we are planning to go for dinner at a South African restaurant.

UPDATE: The ostrich was great. I heartily recommend 10 Degrees South.

A Tasty Dinner

I made this dinner last week which is a combination of a few recipes. I am not sure how to classify this. May be it could be called a Brazilian dish.

Couscous is a North African staple which I was introduced to while living in Libya more than 2 decades ago. I bought two packs (6oz each) of instant couscous from the grocery store. Just follow the simple directions on the package for cooking it. It takes about 5 minutes to cook.

To make the dinner more interesting and tasty, I added some chicken and fried bananas to it. This makes for great dinner, though it is best when eaten hot right after cooking. Here are the recipes for those two items.

Sautéed Marinated Chicken Breast
From Modern Italian Cooking.

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Juice of 1 large lemon

Skin, bone, and split the chicken breasts. Put the breasts in a large bowl. Add the oil, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, garlic, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Cover the bowl and marinate at room temperature for about 1 hour.

Put a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and all of its marinade. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes, turning the chicken once during the cooking. The chicken should have a light golden color.

Stir in the additional lemon juice and cook and stir until the juice has evaporated.

Banana Farofa
From a Brazilian Recipes webpage.

Requires 15 minutes:

  • 6 bananas, cut into thick slices
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion cut into rings
  • 3 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs

Fry the bananas in the butter until golden brown then remove the bananas from the butter. Fry the onion rings in the same butter. Add the bananas back in, along with the breadcrumbs and brown. Don’t let it get too dry. Add more butter if necessary. The crumbs should be coated with butter, but light and loose.

Patisserie Recommendations

It’s snowing here and all I can think of is some nice French pastry.

I am looking for some real good patisserie recommendations in New York city. Something to remind us of our trip to France last year.

POSTSCRIPT: I am looking for a patisserie, not a French restaurant with good dessert, preferably in Manhattan. Can any New York city bloggers help?

December

December is an important month in my life. I got married on December 1 and got engaged in the same month as well. But a long time ago, I was born in the same month on Pearl Harbor Day at 11:15am Pakistan Standard Time (1:15am Eastern Time or 6:15am UTC/GMT) in Wah Cantt, Pakistan, a town about 25 miles (40km) from the capital Islamabad. I turn 33 today.

Munira, Mom, Fowzi, Dad, me in Wah Me in Rawalpindi Munira, me, Fowzi
Munira, Fowzi, me Munira, me, Mom, Fowzi, Grandpa in England Fowzi, Munira, me in England
Munira, me, Fowzi in Germany Fowzi, Munira, me in Germany Munira, Mom, Fowzi, me in Libya
Me, Dad, Fowzi, Mom, Munira in Libya Munira, me, Fowzi in Libya Munira, a relative & his wife, Fowzi, Mom, me in Libya
Fowzi, me, Munira in Libya Fowzi, me, Munira, a neighbor kid in Libya Munira, me, Fowzi in Libya
Fowzi, Dad, Mom, Munira, me in Libya Fowzi, me, Munira in Libya Fowzi, me, Munira, Mom
Dad, Munira, Mom, me in Murree Munira, Fowzi, me in Rawalpindi Me with high school friends
Me in Khanpur Me with college friends Me in Kaghan
Me and Amber at our wedding reception Me at Satpara Lake My first car
MS commencement Skiing in Vermont Redwood National Park
Amber & me at Grand Canyon Me hiking the Appalachian trail Ocoee river, TN

Sorry, I am too lazy to caption these photos. Hope you can recognize me in all the pictures. [UPDATE: Captions added; hover your mouse pointer over the thumbnails to see.]

Special thanks to my sister Munira for scanning most of the photographs of the younger me.

I celebrated with a dinner with a few friends at Sal Grosso, a Brazilian steakhouse. A somewhat expensive restaurant, but excellent food and the concept is great as well. I think it’s called a “rodizio” where waiters wander around the room and serve you with different meats when you turn the token on your table to green. I want to go there again soon.

9

It’s been 9 years since December 1, 1994, the day Amber and I got married. It’s been a wonderful 9 years. I have discovered what love really means in this period, not that I wasn’t in love when we got engaged, but that love has turned out to be much more than I ever thought it could be.

Wedding, Wah Cantt, Pakistan 1994 Skardu, Pakistan 1995 Lahore, Pakistan 1995
Islamabad, Pakistan 1996 Daytona Beach, FL 1997 Washington, DC 1998 Los Angeles, CA 1998
MS Graduation, Georgia Tech 1999 Niagara Falls, NY 1999 Blue Ridge Parkway 2000
Yellowstone National Park, WY 2001 Paris, France 2002 Karachi, Pakistan 2002 Piscataway, NJ 2003

I don’t know what I was smoking when I booked my ticket for the thanksgiving trip home, but I managed to exclude both Eid (deliberately) and our anniversary (my mistake) from my trip. So, here I am today back in school celebrating alone. Actually, we did celebrate it together yesterday. We had a great dinner at Makeda Ethiopian Restaurant in New Brunswick, NJ. Their sampler platter was very good.

Cavolfiore al Forno con le Cipolle

On another blog, Ikram Saeed was talking about how Pakistanis in general are meat-eaters. So I thought I would post a veggie recipe that I am making. This is baked cauliflower with onions and cheese from the book “Modern Italian Cooking.”

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lb cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3/4 cup grate parmigiano

Remove all the leaves from the cauliflower and detach the florets. Boil or steam the florets until tender but still firm to the touch.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a baking dish.

Melt the butter in a medium-size skillet. When the butter foams, add the onions and sauté over medium heat until the onions turn pale yellow. Add the parsley and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for about 1 minute.

Transfer the cauliflower to the baking dish. Sprinkle generously with the parmigiano and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Nouveaux Napoleons

I forgot to post the dessert recipe yesterday. Did you know that you could eat Napoleon? Is nothing sacred any more?

This is one of the easier recipes in my Simple French Desserts (yes, the book’s title is misleading, but the recipes in there are good). The end result was good and I was especially glad that Amber liked it. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 6 sheets phyllo dough
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
  • Pastry Cream
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • Raspberry Coulis
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough flat on a clean work surface. Lightly brush the phyllo with the melted butter, working from the edges towards the center. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar. Layer the remaining 5 sheets of phyllo dough over the first, buttering and sprinkling all but the last sheet with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Dust the top sheet liberally with confectioners’ sugar.
  3. Cut the phyllo into 4 strips, each 4-by-17-inches. Cut each strip into thirds to make 12 rectangles.
  4. Transfer the phyllo rectangles to the prepared pan. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes, or until the phyllo is crsip and the confectioners’ sugar has melted into a shiny, golden glaze.
  5. To assemble napoleons, place 1 phyllo rectangle on a dessert plate and spread with 1/2 cup pastry cream. Sprinkle a few fresh raspberries over the cream. Place a second phyllo rectangle on top of the cream, glazed side up. Repeat with the remaining 5 portions. Drizzle raspberry coulis around each napoleon.

Pastry Cream

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 heavy cream
  1. Combine 1.5 cups of the milk with the sugar in a medium, heavy saucepan.
  2. In a medium bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining 1/2 cup milk. Whisk the eggs and yolk into the dissolved cornstarch until completely smooth.
  3. Bring the milk and sugar to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Stir 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture to temper it. Whisk in the remaining milk mixture, 1/4 cup at a time until completely combined.
  4. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the custard thickens and comes to a slow boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla until both are completely incorporated.
  5. Pour the custard through a fine-meshed sieve into a large bowl. Press plastic wrap over the surface of the hot pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming as the cream cools. Let the custard cool for a few hours in the refrigerater.
  6. In a large bowl, beat the cream until it forms stiff peaks. Fold one third of the whipped cream into the chilled pastry cream to soften it, then fold in the rest of the whipped cream.

Raspberry Coulis

Ingredients

  • 1 lb frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (optional)
  1. Puree the raspberries and any accumulated juice in a blender or food processor until smooth. Press the puree through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl. Discard the seeds.
  2. Stir the sugar and liqueur, if using, into the puree. Taste and adjust the sweetening, if necessary.