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
Kuku Sabzi Persian Frittata with Local Greens | Frittata alla Persiana | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-25

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

Persian Cold Soup with Cucumber & Herbs from Puglia, in Southern Italy

Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-8NOTE: The floral bowls and platter in this post are the courtesy of Dishesonly; a website where you can purchase various types of designer and craft dish-ware. Check them out! There have many pretty plates!

Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-13-2
Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-19-2

Fiammetta is the type of woman I’d like to become “when I get old”; brilliant, independent, strong and unstoppable. She just turned 73, she can tell you a hundred stories about her travels around the globe since she was young, the stories of South of Italy, where her both parents were from. One from Apulia and the other from Naples. The stories of when she worked as the manager of classical musicians and arranged concerts in Italy for the Russian artists when the Soviet Union didn’t let anybody out. She speaks many languages and her recent infatuation with Iran has brought us together. Fiammetta has travelled to Iran in November 2014 and she’s been in love with my country ever since. So much so that she’s now learning Persian. My mother tongue made our paths meet; and the passion for food and culture bonded us in a not-so-ordinary friendship.  I had a pleasure to stay in her country house in the provence of Apulia in Southern Italy for the first 10 days of August. Emerged in the beautiful and unique nature of Puglia (the Italian word for Apulia), and surrounded by so much culture and history, Fiammetta and I talked a lot; I talked about Iran and she talked to me about Puglia, Naples and the stories from her parents and her childhood. We went out a lot; around the country side and the nearby small towns, and to the beach, where the Pugliese sea was Esmeralda clear blue and put the the Caribbean seas to shame. But most importantly we cooked. We talked about countless recipes, both Italian and Persian, and we were often surprised by the similarity of some of these dishes, especially the southern ones to the Iranian ones.

Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-7-2
Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-5-2
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Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-4
Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-5

Thankfully, Fiammetta and I shared the same same taste regarding Summer food; simple, seasonal, quick and mostly vegetarian. There was an abundant harvest of tomatoes, eggplants and thin, long peppers. Plus a certain kind of cucumber that I have seen only in southern in Italy and has different names in different dialects. It’s round and green, smaller than a melon, and it tastes like both cucumber and melon! It’s one of my favorite summer vegetables that sadly I can’t find in Rome.  The tiny vegetable garden provided us with much more than we needed, therefore a lot of time was required to preserve all the veggies and prevent them from rotting. We spent two days making “conserva”, the tomato sauce the Neapolitan way. (Here you can find a classic Italian tomato sauce recipe.) Caught by the weariness and after squeezing and canning many kilos of tomatoes, Fiammetta said “L’orto fa l’uomo morto”, a saying which means the vegetable garden kills a man (for the amount of work that there is).

Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-21-2
Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-25-2
Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-22-2

The rest of the big garden around “Casina Luciana” (the house is named after Fiammetta’s late mother) is filled with many, many spectacular olive trees. There are four or five figs trees too, from which each day I picked up fresh figs. Each sweet bite on the ripe figs right under tree was an immense joy.

It’s amazing how the Apulia soil, which looks avid and dry at the first sight, can provide so much great produce. Some of the best grapes and vineyards of Italy are in Puglia which make Primitivo wine, with a dry and strong flavor. Everywhere you look, the red soil shines with the silver leaves of olive trees. The Apulian extra virgin olive oil is just as good as its wine, if not even better. The fantastic Mediterranean climate in Puglia, like Calabria and Sicily, allows almond and pistachio trees to grow and fruit beautifully. Almonds are among Puglia’s best and most characteristic produce. Their almond granita tastes divine and almond milk served on espresso ice cube is a traditional post-meal drink, both much appreciated in hot summer days.

Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-8
Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-24

Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-25
Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-17

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Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-17-2

Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-23

Speaking of hot Summer days, specially when we came back from the beach, we ate various ready-made food based on vegetables. After days of Italian/Pugliese meals, one evening that we had Fiammetta’s cousin over for dinner, I took over the kitchen and cooked Persian, only with seasonal and local ingredients, without really giving the authentic Persian recipe a make over.

Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-2
Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-9
Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-4
Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-5

One of the dishes was a classic Persian cold soup call “Ab-doogh-khiar”, literally translating to water-(sour)yogurt-cucumber. Other than cucumber, the soup is filled with a LOT of aromatic herbs which help the soup thicken. In the classic version black (purple) basil, mint and tarragon are used. But you can change that based on what you have on hand. Such as thyme, origano, marjoram, as long as you use mint as the base, even dry mint works. Mint, cucumber and yoghurt match so well and it’s the key element in the freshness of the dish. Continue reading

Blooming flowers of Spring & Narcissus, Persian Spinach and Eggs (Nargessi)

Narcissus, Persian Spinach and Eggs (Nargessi) | Narciso, Uova e Spinaci alla Persiana | Lab Noon
Foreword: This blog is a finalist in SAVEUR Blog Awards in Best Special Interest category and I would be very honored if you supported me and cast a vote for Lab Noon. All it takes is a few seconds and a basic registration. Thank you! Voting is open through April 30th.


I can’t hide it. It’s always been like this. Through the years some of its aspects have changed but the bases have remained the same. Spring is my freaking favorite time of the year! And it’s not because it’s my birthday! It’s as if I start to shed my old skin right at the end of February and by the time we’re in April the simple smell of the air makes me happy. Actually until few years ago, I used to get quite depressed at the end of the summer and in the beginning of Autumn. But thankfully, Rome’s September and October are so spectacular that I don’t suffer that very much ever since I live here. And the Springs of Rome? Oh, the blue of the sky and light green of the new buds, the smell of the blossoms, and that light breeze! Does Spring have a similar effect on you too? What’s your favorite activity in these beautiful days?

I take a lot of pictures. I took the photos you see here in Garbatella neighborhood, one of the most authentic parts of the city. It looks like a small village right inside the city. Take a look all of these photos on my Flickr account

Garbatella in Spring | Primavera di Garbatella | Lab Noon-37
Garbatella in Spring | Primavera di Garbatella | Lab Noon-40

Garbatella in Spring | Primavera di Garbatella | Lab Noon-35
Garbatella in Spring | Primavera di Garbatella | Lab Noon-17

Garbatella in Spring | Primavera di Garbatella | Lab Noon-22
Garbatella in Spring | Primavera di Garbatella | Lab Noon-16

And most importantly, the fruit and the produce of Spring is just amazing. After the confusion and scarceness of March, April arrives with real strawberries, fava beans, asparagus, sweet peas and artichokes. And in a short while there will come apricots and lots and lots more! This year I want to be more courageous and try new dishes with some produce that I never usually use. Like artichokes! I am somehow scared of cooking artichokes. I love them, but I think since I haven’t grown up seeing/eating artichokes I am scared of cleaning and cooking them well! But this year, before it’s too late, I want to try and make Valeria’s Carciofi alla Romana (Roman style artichokes).

Sherrie —who’s a fellow Saveur Blog Awards finalist I have just discovered— has a beautiful fried rice with Spring veggies on her blog. If you want more Italian-inspired recipes with Spring produce make sure you read Valentina’s post about what’s in season in April where she has a gorgeous frittata that’s so green it looks like Persian Kuku.

What are your favorite recipes with Spring produce? Feel free to link them to me for inspiration in the comments.

Narcissus, Persian Spinach and Eggs (Nargessi) | Narciso, Uova e Spinaci alla Persiana | Lab Noon

As for me, I have just discovered that unlike what what I thought, spinach is actually a Spring produce! Actually spinach is around right since winter, but it’s during spring that it’s at its best. Who would’ve thought? I think we’re all so used to buying frozen spinach that we no longer remember when is its real season. Mind you, frozen raw vegetable is the next best thing after fresh ones since they’re frozen when they’re in season and by freezing they conserve about 98% of their nutritional values, and they’re very convenient. 

Narcissus, Persian Spinach and Eggs (Nargessi) | Narciso, Uova e Spinaci alla Persiana | Lab Noon

This Persian spinach and eggs dish is incredibly simple, and yet it’s more than just two eggs with tossed veggies. Mainly thanks to the aromas of garlic and onion and the unmistakable taste of turmeric, merged together with lemon and orange juice that refreshes the palate. (It’s a great way to use those last oranges of the season with little juice and flavor.) In Iran we use  only the juice of bitter orange, which is a hybrid between mandarin and another citrus called pomelo. It’s tangy, not as sweet as orange/mandarin and nor as sour as lemons. This acidity combined with the sweetness of onions creates a soft, balanced flavor.

Turmeric, is truly a magic spice, that not only brings wonderful aroma and color to your dishes, but it’s also a very potent anti-infiammatory. So try to add it regularly to your cooking and you’ll get sick less often! 

Narcissus, Persian Spinach and Eggs (Nargessi) | Narciso, Uova e Spinaci alla Persiana | Lab Noon

I don’t boil and drain the spinach. Spinach and other (leafy) vegetables are so tender that would over cook quickly and release all their goodness (minerals and nutritional substances) in the boiling water that is often discarded. If you do boil your vegetables, do not throw the water away! Drink it (some lemon juice and seasoning help) or conserve it for cooking pasta, rice or legumes. After sautéing garlic and onions with turmeric and lemon/orange juice, I simply add the spinach and cover the pan with a lid and let it sweat. Even if the pile of spinach is much taller than the pan, don’t worry, just place the lid and once the leaves are heated they shrink.

Narcissus, Persian Spinach and Eggs (Nargessi) | Narciso, Uova e Spinaci alla Persiana | Lab Noon
Narcissus, Persian Spinach and Eggs (Nargessi) | Narciso, Uova e Spinaci alla Persiana | Lab Noon

Now it’s time for flowers to bloom in our lawn, so we break the eggs in the spinach and let them cook with the flavors of onions, garlic and turmeric. The finishing touch, the one that brings the aroma to these flowers, is a drop of saffron infusion on each egg. There, your bouquet of Narcissus is ready. It’s a very romantic name for such a rustic, simple dish. Nargessi — the Persian word for Narcissus— gets its name from eggs looking like white and yellow daffodils in the middle of green spinach. It would make a healthy and filling savory breakfast or brunch full of protein and iron. And it’s so rich yet simple that you can have it for a quick lunch, and why not, even a week night dinnerContinue reading