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.
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.
Guests’ recipes for the Virtual Midsummer Potluck for Peace
Adventures in Cooking: Strawberry rhubarb pie ice cream sandwiches
An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Spiced Green Beans with Olive Oil and Tomato
Brewing Happiness: Healthy Southern Baked Beans
Cloudy Kitchen: Earl Grey blueberry pie
Cook Til Delicious: Cold Sesame Peanut Noodles
Delicious Not Gorgeous: No Mai Fan
DisplacedHousewife: Strawberry Scone-Cakes With Fresh Orange Blossom Whipped Cream
Donuts, dresses and dirt: Tahini Pavlovas
Floating Kitchen: Blistered Green Beans with Apricots and Chive Blossoms
Ginger & Toasted Sesame: Walnut Bread with Boursin and Prosciutto
Harvest and Honey: Chasing Summer (drink)
Hortus Cuisine: Panino with Roasted Peppers, Pesto & Arugula
On The Plate: Sriracha Scotch Eggs
Ruby Josephine: Halwa d’Tmar (Moroccan Date-Stuffed Cookies)
Tasty Seasons: Grilled Mojito Chicken
Tending the Table: Roasted Cauliflower with Pine Nuts, Parsley and Currants
TermiNatetor Kitchen: Strawberry Shortcakes with Gluten-Free Yogurt Biscuits & Mint Whipped Cream
The Little Epicurean: Halo-Halo (Filipino Shave Ice Dessert)
This Mess Is Ours: Simple Tomato & Avocado Salad
Twigg studios: roasted beet leek and feta quiche
Vermilion Roots: Tofu Salad with Spiced Peanut Sauce
Wood and Spoon: Strawberry Almond Skillet Cake
The Sun Diaries: Sfiha (Lebanese Meat Pie)
P.S. Huge thanks to my friend Valentina, who has gracefully modelled for these photos in Oppian Hill park, with whom we are collaborating on The Puglia Encounter workshop.
III. Refreshing in the Hot Summer Days, Persian Style: Cucumber and Sekanjebin Drink
“Sekanjebin” or honeyed-vinegar is an ancient Persian sharbat (drink), used mostly in traditional Persian medicine. The base is simple sugar (or honey if you prefer, I don’t) and water, some mint, and a dash of vinegar. I don’t understand anything from the traditional Persian medicine, but I have read that if you vary the ratio of vinegar and sugar, it affects the different parts of organism, specially in the digestive system. I can tell Sekanjebin is great for guts in general, so add the amount of vinegar that you like. Just remember that you should taste the acidity.
Once you have the sekanjebin syrup ready, there are two basic ways to have it in hot summer days, Persian style: either you pour the runny syrup in a small bowl, and dip fresh crunchy (whole) lettuce leaves in the syrup and eat it as is, or you make a drink with water, ice and grated cucumber and sekanjebin.
- 1 cup (220ml) water
- 1/2 cup (120g) caster sugar*
- 2 stems of mint
- 2 tbsp white vinegar**
- 6 chilled glasses
- 6 tbsp of Sekanjebin (here the recipe)
- 2/3 small, fresh cucumbers
- fresh mint leaves for garnish
- Mix the water and sugar in a small pan and bring to a simmer on a medium-low flame.
- Add the mint (with the stem, for maximum flavor) and let it simmer until the syrup thickens slightly. Pay attention that it will be thicker once cold. We want a runny syrup.
- Add the vinegar, stir and wait and second, then turn off the heat.
- Filter the sekanjebin syrup and pour in a bottle. Keep in the fridge for a month.
- Grate the cucumbers, (or slice to very fine pieces)
- Pour about a tablespoon of sekanjebin syrup in each chilled glass. (Start with little syrup, and add more in the end if you prefer a sweeter drink. )
- Divide the grated cucumber equally in all glasses. Fill with water and ice and stir.
- Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve immediately.
- *I prefer to use white sugar. I don't like the taste of honey in Sekanjebin, and the color and taste of brown sugar doesn't feel right either.
- **I insist on white wine vinegar, or apple vinegar. Darker vinegars are not suitable for this syrup. Adjust the amount to your taste.
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.
Latest posts by Saghar Setareh (see all)
- Virtual Midsummer Potluck for Peace: a Persian Cucumber & “Sekanjebin” Summer Drink - June 19, 2017
- Workshop: The Puglia Encounter: Food, Lifestyle & Photography in Italy’s Deep South, 26 – 29 October - May 31, 2017
- Iranian Food Writers on Persian New Year and Norouz, & “Sabzi Polo Mahi” (Herby Pilaf & Turmeric Fried Fish) - March 18, 2017