The Visual Diary of Summer in Puglia, SAVEUR Blog Awards Nomination & A Salad with Watermelon, Tomatoes and Local Herbs

Lab Noon in Puglia | Watermelon, Tomato & Herb salad | Saghar Setareh_-11

I. The Heat and The Gratitude 

The distance between the desire to lay on a white beach on a hot summer day with a cool beer in hand, and the first hot drink during a rainy day that already smells like Autumn, might feel like a blink at times. In Italy though, that blink can last for several months. Several, hot, exhausting months of merciless summer. I guess at the age of 32 and long after school holidays I should be mature enough to confess that no, summer is not my favorite moment of the year, thank you very much! 

In fact, I believe had it not been for berries, stone fruits, melons, figs and fresh sea food, I would not even enjoy summer. And I am sure, that if it wasn’t for frisa (Pugliese hard bread to be soaked and seasoned before serving with fresh cherry tomatoes) I would probably starve in hot, humid days that cooking, along with any other activity seems plainly impossible. 

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Please accept this rant about the unacceptably hot summer as a justification for my absence here. Complaints and nags aside though, I have been quite busy. Determined to swim against the tide during August, when all Italy literally shuts down to go on vacation (read “to the beach”), I decided to stay in Rome and work. And work I did! But before August, the month of limbo and transition in Italy, I headed south towards my beloved Puglia, for a brief vacation.

In this post, I try to write only a few words to set the mood and leave everything else to the images, as a visual diary. As you can see there are tons of them, and it took the great part of summer for me to select and edit them (I listened to the whole series of Harry Potter audiobooks in the meanwhile! An utter delight!).

I also add the simplest, most refreshing non-recipe for a summer salad with watermelon chunks, a variety of tomatoes and tons of aromatic herbs.

Of course, the post can’t be completed without thanking you immensely for having nominated me for the prestigious SAVEUR blog awards for Best Photography! The news came as the most pleasant surprise just when I was about to leave Puglia for Rome. I am still speechless and drenched in bliss for this. There’s still a little time to vote, so please keep supporting me! (Update: Voting time is over! Thanks for the support.)

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II. The Pugliese Diary

I stayed in the same country side home that I have been visiting for the past two years; old, authentic and rustic. Built in a dry yet fertile land where ancient olive trees have deep routs in the red earth, grey and white Trulli host guests and a small garden provides the necessary vegetables to feed us all summer long. The eggplants, zucchinis and green peppers are satuèed in local extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes end up in jars of “sala” (tomato sauce) to dress pasta dishes all year long, and even grapes are conserved in alcohol with anice seeds to served as post-dessert after a long meal. 

Meals were often simple and fresh. Local cheese (read tons of burrata and a lot of mozzarella nodini) from nearby masserias (Pugliese farm houses), taralli and olives. Of course, frisa were in the order of the day, and we ordered fresh orecchiette and panzarelli (fried dough filled with tomato and mozzarella) from another nearby masseria. 

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Speaking of these typical Pugliese farm houses, I went for a visit of the dreamy Masseria Potenti too! Masseria Potenti, a remodeled fortified-farmhouse-turned-into-hotel, is our venue for The Puglia Encounter Workshop that I will host at the end of October together with Emiko Davis and Alice Adams. I can’t wait to be back there, to chill by the pool, to wander around with my camera and to go treasure hunting in Grottaglie, the land of magical Pugliese artisan ceramics.  Continue reading

Virtual Midsummer Potluck for Peace: a Persian Cucumber & “Sekanjebin” Summer Drink

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I. Taking a Stand at an Anniversary

Since I started this blog exactly three years ago, I have lived in four different houses. Early after publishing the first post, I left the apartment I shared with great roommates to move in with my ex-boyfriend. A year and half later, I moved out to another apartment with not-so-great roommates. Then finally a month ago, I moved, again, to a tiny apartment right under the Colosseum. The latter, is one of the most exciting and demanding events of my adult life. 

Home, has a always been a big theme in this blog, as I said right in the beginning (gosh, that ‘about’ page needs to be updated!). It’s an argument that occupies my mind whenever I think I’m finally settling down, and whenever I feel lost. Artists, writers and thinkers have dedicated years to work on the subject of home, and movement. I prefer to refer to them, rather than poorly attempting to elaborate this vast subject. But, again, home, it returns, and it is in a way the core of Lab Noon. 

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Lab Noon, was born as a laboratory of (metaphoric) fermentation and baking, as noon means bread in Persian, other than midday. I wanted this virtual space to be my home, no matter where I physically was. I didn’t start this blog as a pure hobby. My intentions were professional right from the beginning, although I didn’t exactly what direction my career as a visual creative and food enthusiast would take. 

Three years later, I work as a professional food photographer, and content creator for social media, and I’m aspiring to more food writing. BUT! I can’t begin to emphasize how important it is for me to keep this blog and my social media, true to myself, and my own values. As late Zygmunt Bauman said years ago, our modern societies are liquid, our reality is fluid. We are living in weird, dark times, and the most dangerous way to behave is to be indifferent. Therefore I am making a plea to all those who have a platform and an audience (which in the era of social media basically means everybody), to take a stand and make their voice heard, while respecting their niche. 

Honestly, I sometimes find it very hard to talk about food and food alone when horrid attacks and bombs and killing is on the order of the day. We can’t increase the violence by discussing the violence and sharing its images. What can do, is however to open up for dialogue; prepare a platform to talk, and to listen, especially to those who are often not heard. We can encourage the conversation. If you think this idea is bizzarre for a food blog, read this note on Food52 that was published the day after the US elections in last November. 

II: A Picnic Blog Party: Virtual Midsummer Potluck for Peace

On that note, I invited dozens of fellow blogger to participate in a virtual gathering and each bring something to eat or drink as IRL. Spread a cloth, set the scene, distribuite the food, eat, drink, be marry and… start a dialogue. Twenty something bloggers have joined me for the virtual midsummer potluck for peace. Some were very eager to participate but couldn’t make it in the end. Many others gave support.

There are recipes of all kind, and different origins. Salads, grills, pies, quiches, bites, desserts and drinks, there’s a glorious amount of summer recipes perfect for picnics or al fresco dining. Check out the guest recipes in the list bellow. I couldn’t have celebrated Lab Noon’s birthday in any better way, so once again, thank you everyone for coming to this virtual gathering!

My recipe is a classic Perisan drink with cucumbers and mint that you can find after the list of bloggers and recipes.
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Guests’ recipes for the Virtual Midsummer Potluck for Peace

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Workshop: The Puglia Encounter: Food, Lifestyle & Photography in Italy’s Deep South, 26 – 29 October

Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti
I remember very well the first time I ever visited a “Masseria” in Puglia, in south of Italy.

It was August 1st 2015. There was a full moon. The blue moon, to be precise; the largest full moon of the recent years. The masseria I visited that night, was a traditional one; a sort of a farm land, with a main house for the land lord, and small cottages for the farmers. Once there would have lived sheep, goats and chickens. Masseria was a self sustainable small ecosystem. 

On that full moon in that humble farmhouse, I experienced the simplest and most essential form of luxury: simple food prepared by local people, a young poet and musician playing his acoustic guitar and singing the folkloric chants of old times, and hectares of dry, but fertile land. He played and sang under the bright moonlight, we listened in wonder and awe, following the footsteps of a wise man who showed us the way through the wild plants, explaining their name and use, and encouraging us to remember their smell. 

The poetry and the depth of that experience, mingled with a disarming simplicity is a memory I can hardly ever let go of, as well as other wonders like the ones I wrote about in this post where I shared many photos and stories from my stay in Puglia. As soon as I visited that land and its old masserias, now remodeled for the functions of modern life (often as bed & breakfasts), I knew they would be the perfect place to run retreats and workshops. It was a dream for me to share the wonder, the quite and the incredibly rich culture of Puglia with likeminded people in search of beauty, slow traveling and of course, good food.

Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti
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The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti - Saghar SetarehI am happy beyond words to tell you that that dream has come true! I am incredibly honored and excited to tell you that together with the talented and inspiring ladies Emiko Davies  and Alice Kiandra Adams, we will hosting The Puglia Encounter: Food, Lifestyle and Photography in Italy’s Deep South.

The experience is a two and half day stay at the end of October in the marvelous Masseria Potenti, where together we will discover the surrounding, food and craft of Puglia. We will cook, eat, drink, chill and take photos by the swimming pool and around the masseria. We will wander a bit in the area, treasure hunting in Grottaglie for Puglia’s trademark ceramic craft. We will forage and gather seasonal herbs, flowers and vegetables and will set the table with all that is authentic to Puglia.

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Photo credit: Masseria Potenti

Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti
Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti

Photo Credit: Emiko Davies

Autumn is a fascinating time in South of Italy, where it’s still warm, the light is golden and the olive trees are ready for the harvest. With a bit of luck, we will taste some new oil and we will definitely make toasts with Primitivo wine, that is typical of that region.

Here you can check out Emiko’s post for a lot of incitement and inspiration and here you can read about how enthusiastic is Alice about the ceramic treasure hunting in Grottaglie. Ci vediamo at #ThePugliaEncounter!

The Puglia Encounter – Autumn Edition

Food, lifestyle and photography in Italy’s Deep South

Book here!

The Venue

Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti
Photo Credit: Masseria Potenti

La Masseria Potenti near Manduria, Puglia, about 15km from the turquoise Ionian sea and one hour from Brindisi (the closest airport). The white-washed masseria (a traditional Pugliese farmhouse), which dates back to the 1300s, is an oasis in the rugged, “wild west” of Puglia, set amongst grain fields, ancient olive groves and Primitivo vineyards. A boutique agriturismo and self-sustainable farm of 130 hectares, the masseria was brought to life by Maria Grazia Di Lauro and her husband Paolo, whose dream was to transmit their love for their native land to their children and friends. It’s a special place that will inspire every one of your senses. Web | Instagram

The Workshop

The experience will include two and a half days of cooking, photography and styling sessions with your hosts, who will share their experience with you, as well as an excursion to nearby Grottaglie to discover the artisan ceramics and local cheesemakers. We will take a wander through nearby fields and pick vegetables out of the garden to prepare meals and set the table. There will be delicious, traditional meals prepared by the cooks of the Masseria – and plenty of time to relax and enjoy the Masseria in between.

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Date

26-29 October 2017

Who Can Apply

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