Conclusions, New Beginnings and A Review of ‘Sirocco’ by Sabrina Ghayour + Two Recipes

Sirocco Cookbook Review by Sabrina Ghayour | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-9

Important Pre-Post Notes:

1. Only one day is left for nominating your favorite food blogs in Saveur Blog Awards. Last year, thanks to your incredible support Lab Noon was a finalist in Best Special Interest category, which brought so much blessing and good stuff to my professional work. If you enjoy my stuff, please keep supporting me by nominating for this award again (this is a huge deal in the food blogging world). It’ll take just a few seconds. Just go here anche choose a category (‘Eat the World’ maybe?) and sign. Thank you so much!

 

2. Next weekend I’ll be attending a dream cooking, photography and styling retreat taught by Hortus‘s Valentina, The Freaky Table‘s Zaira and Le Jus d’Orange‘s Betty, which will be held in Gradara, in northern east coast of Italy, at Valentina’s country house/garden. Make sure to follow us all on social media (including Snapchat, to which I have unskilledly given up, it’s saghar.labnoon) and sign up for coming workshops. Valentina is doing an online version too!

 

3. The photos of this post have been shot in Latteria Studio in Rome; a truly wonderful studio dedicated to Food photography and styling in the heart of Trastevere neighborhood, with wonderful events, suppers and workshops, run by the lovely Alice Adams. 


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I. Digesting the Change and Making New Plans as a Grown-up

Two years ago I wrote a post here that perfectly described the Italian July, how the working years ends, people’s obsession with vacations, and thinking about starting things anew from next September. I had just opened this blog (Wow! Two years man!), and my life couldn’t have been possibly more different from what it is now. Both my work life and my love life has been dramatically changed since those days, which together with other factors, have brought me to feel fully like a grown-up, as I had never felt before. 

As you might’ve noticed, those significant changes have slowed down my rhythm of blogging, sometimes to the point of pure neglect. I have yet to learn to balance office life and the rest of my time. As of professional food activities, I have done some great photo shoots for a couple of recipe books, and food photography and styling, along with editorial design has taken a greater share than recipe creating as of late.

Sirocco Cookbook Review by Sabrina Ghayour | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-16
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I must confess my cooking time has been reduced to the least. On Sundays, I try to cook big batches of grains, veggies and greens and mix and match them to create fresh salads (such as the ones you see in these photos, which will take us to the recipes!). Now that Summer is at its peak, I often eat fresh fruit and cheese from the colorful, daily market right outside the office. 

I have new plans for the new work year, starting right from this August. A month after the food photography workshop with Valentina and other girls (see the notes above!) I’ll go the rustic home of a friend of mine in Apulia, in southern Italy, where we cook and shoot many dishes, and already I’m folding out for new collaborations in the month of September. So stay tuned!

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Sirocco Cookbook Review by Sabrina Ghayour | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-37

II. The Colorful, Flavor-Packed Wind from the East; ‘Sirocco’, Sabrina Ghayour’s New Book

If you are interested in the global food scene, specially the one regarding Middle Eastern and world food, you can’t possibly not have heard Persiana, Ghayour’s first cookbook, unless you’ve been living in a cave in the past three years. With Persiana, Sabrina managed to demystify the cuisine of the Middle Eastern regions. Many of the recipes were classic Persians with a tiny twist. The magic of Persiana indeed was in simplifying the dishes that normally seem super complicated to people and making a different kind of cooking accessible to everyone. Continue reading

Immitating ‘Kuku Sabzi’, a Persian Frittata with local Roman greens to celebrate Spring, Norouz and Easter

Kuku Sabzi Persian Frittata with Local Greens | Frittata alla Persiana | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-34

Sale No Mobarak (Happy New Year!)

I thought I’d started by saying that this has been un unusual Norouz; The Persian celebration of Spring and therefore the start of the new year. Year 1395, if you’re curious. But then I thought, what was quite unusual about it anyway? I have been celebrating my “Sal  Tah’vil“s (That second the Earth enters enters March equinox) here in Rome for eight years now. Sometimes alone, when it occurred in unlikely hours to celebrate –like 5.30 AM as it was this year– but mostly accompanied by good friends. Like almost all Iranians around the world, for the occasion we enjoyed a good dish of ‘Sabzi Polo ba Mahi‘; Persian style pilaf with fresh herbs such as chives and dill served with fish.

Maybe what was unusual about this year’s Norouz was that I was so caught up in other matters of life, that I failed to stop a moment and and breathe in the arrival Spring and the new year? Maybe because it is impossibile to get fully in the mood of the most significant holiday you’ve grown up with in a place where almost no one knows what you’re talking about? Or maybe because Spring arrived so early  this year to Rome that by the time we got to Norouz we were already too used to nice weather, greens and blossom on the trees. Maybe all of it. 

Kuku Sabzi Persian Frittata with Local Greens | Frittata alla Persiana | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-6As for food, apart from those tiny little biscuits and pastries in one billion varieties and huge bowls of flavored nuts and pistachios, I have more and less eaten proper Spring/Norouz food accordingly to tradition. Lots and lots of greens, seasonal and local. In Persian cooking we use tons and tons of fresh aromatic herbs, that much more than mere condiments. In fact, in so many dishes these herbs are the main ingredient, used in really large quantities. Dish such as Ghormeh Sabzi (herb stew with beans), Kuku sabzi (herbs frittata), Ab Doogh Khiar (cold soup with yoghort) and many others fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro, parsley, chives, etc define the flavor of the dish. 

Kuku Sabzi Persian Frittata with Local Greens | Frittata alla Persiana | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-28
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Kuku Sabzi Persian Frittata with Local Greens | Frittata alla Persiana | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-8

Kuku Sabzi Persian Frittata with Local Greens | Frittata alla Persiana | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-31The same attitude characterizes most of the simple dishes of Easter here in Italy. On the large banquets of roasted lambs there are always simple savory pies and frittatas made with fresh asparagus, artichokes, ‘agretti’ (local Roman greens called saltwort) and broccoli e broccolini (small broccolis called broccoletti in Roman dialect).

That’s why I thought Kuku Sabzi, the Persian style frittata with fresh herbs, is the perfect dish for the occasion. Nothing extraordinary as a matter of fact; In most cities of Iran, Kuku Sabzi appears right next to herbs pilaf and fish on the Norouz menu. The original recipe contains parsley, chives, coriander, dill, spinach, lettuce, fenugreek leaves and almost each family varies the quantities regarding their culinary memories.  Continue reading

Regenerating & Reusing the Excess; White Chocolate Truffles with Roses & Cardamom

Reusing Christmas Chocolate to make Chocolate Truffles for La Befana, Italian Epiphany-23
Disclaimer: All the pretty printed gift tags, stickers and postcard (plus an unpictured apron I can’t wait to show you) have kindly been offered by Zazzle. If you need any sort of high quality printed accessory —from personal cards to stationary and design— make sure to check them out. They ship over Europe and the US. They have also printed a high quality calendar of my photos that I give away on my instagram.

Reusing Christmas Chocolate to make Chocolate Truffles for La Befana, Italian Epiphany-11

I. Letting go of the unhealthful and regeneration

The holidays are (almost) over. We’re in 2016 (Isn’t this number a little too large?!). I hope you have had some relax and resting time, maybe with some loved ones, maybe away from them, maybe on your own. I hope you have not been absorbed by the rush of shopping and the stress of having everything ready and everyone satisfied. Because let’s face it; despite the joy, the lights and the jingles, the holidays can be very stressing. So one can ironically be glad, that “we’ve made it through this year too”.

But this isn’t how it should feel. These holidays should be about enjoying ourselves, and our friends and family. Often it happens that we spend too much; we spend too much money, we buy too many gifts, we cook we too much food and we eat and drink way more than being full (to the point that we feel physically bad, and that could even make us feel worse about ourselves), too much chocolate, too many drinks.

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Reusing Christmas Chocolate to make Chocolate Truffles for La Befana, Italian Epiphany-3

I think this is the problem. The excess. The unnecessary. Please don’t think that I am against the spirit of the generosity and abundance of the holidays. But I do believe that more than often, these holidays leave us exhausted and dried out rather than refreshed, because we don’t drive our spending resources (money, energy, love, time) in the healthy direction. We need to let the energy flow, recycle and regenerate itself. We need to connect, first to ourselves, and then to others. And let go, of things, food, and interactions that are neither satisfying nor healthy for us.

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Reusing Christmas Chocolate to make Chocolate Truffles for La Befana, Italian Epiphany-18

I think this is my resolution for the new year (it just occurred to me!); letting go of the unhealthy and unnecessary and letting it all flow. 2016 is already a year of great changes for me that I await with enthusiasm and some fear to be honest. Some of these changes have already begun. I am moving; moving out, to be precise. And I hope I can let go and be let go of soon, for everybody’s health’s sake.

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II. Reusing Christmas Candy and Chocolate

In Italy, the holidays have an epic end: La Befana or the Epiphany. The holiday of January 6th is celebrated slightly differently here than other Christian countries. La Befana, is basically a good witch who rides a broom stick, Continue reading