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.
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.
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!
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.
Sirocco (in Italian Scirocco, the warm wind that arrives from the East) Fabulous Flavors from the East, follows the same path. Recipes are quick to make, easy to follow and most importantly, the ingredients are interchangeable. There’s a very interesting passage right in the introduction when Sabrina asks the reader to dare to replace, or even omit a missing ingredient. Or to come up with a dish that uses all the ingredients –specially spices– that we have once bought for a specific dish and later didn’t know how to use.
I can relate so much to the improvised cooking style that mixes and matches flavors from the east with the ones from west. It is after all, what I have been trying to do in this blog. There’s a little too much meat for my personal taste in Sirocco, and in general, it didn’t give me the thrill that Persiana did. Although I didn’t find get the same culinary inspiration that Persiana gave me, it’s a great cookbook to get creative in the kitchen.
Editorially speaking, the book is flawless. Sirocco is full of vibrant colors, be it the plates, the background or the pretty textures that remind us of Moroccan decor. Personally, I don’t like the cover much. I do get the colorful swirls that symbolize the hot warm wind, but I think such a rich cookbook could’ve used some food on the cover, or the cute illustrations that appear inside the book.
I have chosen two recipes to share here, mainly due to the season. One is a beautiful salad with grilled peach and gem lettuce, the other is another salad with Maftoul, (Palestinian cous cous). In both recipes, I have replaced with ingredients I didn’t have with something similar. Here I write the original recipes from Sirocco for you. Enjoy!
- 2 large peaches, halved, stoned and cut into 6 wedges
- 4 heads of baby gem lettuce, halved*
- extra virgin olive oil for brushing
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
- 75g flaked almonds**
- 20g chervil, roughly chopped***
- 1 teaspoon sumac
- sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
- 2 heaped table spoon clear honey
- juice of one lime
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp cold water
- Preheat a griddle pan over a high heat.
- Combine the dressing ingredients in a bowl or jug and mix well until evenly combined. Set aside.
- Brush the peach wedges and the cut sides of the get lettuce generously with olive oil. Place the gem lettuce halves on the hot griddle pan, cut side down, and grill for 2 minutes, then set aside. Now grill the peach wedges for 2 minutes on each side (or more, if needed) until char marks appear, then remove from the heat.
- Arrange the gem lettuce halves, grilled peach wedges and red onion slivers on serving plates or one large platter. Scatter over the flaked almonds, chervil and sumac and season well with salt and pepper.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and serve.
- *I replaced the gem lettuce with endives
- **I used a mix of almonds and other nuts
- ***I used pepper mint
- 250g maftoul*
- olive oil for drizzling
- finely grated zest and juice of one orange
- finely grated zest and juice of one lemon
- 400g can chickpeas, drained
- 200g dried apricot, thinly sliced
- 100g dried sour cherries, roughly chopped
- 1 bunch of spring onion, thinly sliced
- 50 flat leaves parsley, leaves finely chopped
- 2 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
- sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
- Boil the maftoul in plenty of boiling water according to the instruction. Drain, rinse with cold water and leave to stand until all the excess water has drained.
- Put the maftoul into a large mixing bowl and drizzle generously with olive oil. Add the orange and lemon zest and juices with a generous amount of salt and pepper and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients and gently fold them into the maftoul.
- Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rest for 1 hour (ideally in the refrigerator) to allow the flavours to infuse. Remove it from the refrigerator and leave to stand at room tempreature for 30 minutes before serving.
- *I used bulgur, since unfortunately I didn't find maftoul. You can use farro or barley too.
Coming from Iran, she mostly develops her recipes by combining the aromas of the middle east with the flavors of the Mediterranean, specially Italy, where she has found her second home.
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