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

Virtual Midsummer Potlock for Peace | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-21

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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Persian Chia Seeds Drink to the New Year. Happy Nowruz!

Persian Chia Seeds Drink for Nowruz | Bevanda di Semi di Chia alla Persiana per Nowruz | Lab Noon #PFBNowruz framed text

Chaper 1. Nostalgia

I imagine the streets of Tehran at this time. It’d take you half an hour to walk 100mt and I’m not exaggerating. Everywhere’s overcrowded. Few days are left to the new year and everybody’s out shopping. Green sprouts of wheat and lentils have invaded every possible corner of every possible shop and all the angles of the streets. There are so many tanks and bowls full of gold fish everywhere you go that you might wonder if you’re walking in a huge aquarium. There’s the smell of Samanu in the air, a wheat pudding (which I dislike!) that is an essential part of Haft Seen Table. You can’t walk by without being hit by the aroma of countless flowers, specially hyacinth, narcissus and lilies. It doesn’t matter what the weather feels like. You’d know by sure, that Winter is over and Spring has arrived.

Persian Chia Seeds Drink for Nowruz | Bevanda di Semi di Chia alla Persiana per Nowruz | Lab Noon #PFBNowruz-3
Persian Chia Seeds Drink for Nowruz | Bevanda di Semi di Chia alla Persiana per Nowruz | Lab Noon #PFBNowruz-29

That’s why we’re celebrating. In the most romantic and naturalistic view of the world, the Persian new year begins when the Earth wakes up, after a one-year journey around the sun, exactly at the moment of March Equinox. So the new year could begin at 8.23.03 am or 6.04.49 pm or just any other time. And most importantly, it occurs at the same exact moment in the whole world. 

Chapter 2. REBIRTH

Norouz, this truly beautiful ancient festival that has been celebrated for more than three thousand years in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan & many other countries, is directly connected to astronomical and seasonal events. And again, different cultures and civilizations have interpreted these natural happenings into different celebrations of Spring. (This explains the similarities between Jewish & Christian Easter with Norouz & other Spring celebrations. Remember when I told you about the similarities of Christmas & other winter celebrations?) 
Persian Chia Seeds Drink for Nowruz | Bevanda di Semi di Chia alla Persiana per Nowruz | Lab Noon #PFBNowruz-7
The winter solstice feasts celebrate the light and the end of darkness, while the Spring feats, in all forms and names, celebrate rebirth, resurrection, a new life, a new day. That’s what “Norouz” literally means in Persian; A new day.

Chapter 3. Graduation & Persian Food Bloggers Round-Up!

I swear I tried so hard to write a short post. But I just can’t shut up about the beauty of these ancient pagan-and-non rituals. As I told you, I am working so hard on my final thesis and I am graduating on March 28th. That’s why this year I’m skipping the detailed preparations for the new year. However, at the cost of ruining my tight schedule, I couldn’t not take part in the Persian Food Bloggers‘ round-up.

Persian Chia Seeds Drink for Nowruz | Bevanda di Semi di Chia alla Persiana per Nowruz | Lab Noon #PFBNowruz-11
Persian Chia Seeds Drink for Nowruz | Bevanda di Semi di Chia alla Persiana per Nowruz | Lab Noon #PFBNowruz-12

I am so glad I have known them and collaborated with them since last October. It’s almost the only celebration I get this year. I strongly suggest you check out the links at the bottom of this post for delicious, Persian-inspired recipes to get in the mood of celebrating Spring, Norouz and the new year. (1394!)

Chapter 4. Persian Chia Seeds Drink with a Twist

Persian Chia Seeds Drink for Nowruz | Bevanda di Semi di Chia alla Persiana per Nowruz | Lab Noon #PFBNowruz-28
This simple and delightful Chia seeds drink actually has got nothing to do with Norouz! It’s usually served on ice as a summer drink. Long before chia seeds were cool & trendy in the healthy-eating world, people used them in Iran —I think exclusively— to make this drink. It’s a basic Persian syrup. Water, sugar, rose water. There’s little Chia seeds in the drink. It shouldn’t become a smoothy or a porridge; It’s just a beverage

Persian Chia Seeds Drink for Nowruz | Bevanda di Semi di Chia alla Persiana per Nowruz | Lab Noon #PFBNowruz-14
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You can actually make this drink in both a hot or cold version. All you need is a teaspoon of chia seeds for each portion, some brewed saffron, a drop of rose water, your favorite sweetener (I used Nabaat, Persian crystallized saffron sugar but you can use raw brown sugar or raw honey), a slice of lemon/lime and some peppermint. It’s basically infused water with floating moist chia seeds. You might think that there are too many aromas in this drink, but don’t worry. The only ones you should really feel are the saffron and rose water. Lemon and mint/peppermint just add a note of freshness and bring your drink to life.

Persian Chia Seeds Drink for Nowruz | Bevanda di Semi di Chia alla Persiana per Nowruz | Lab Noon #PFBNowruz-5
Persian Chia Seeds Drink for Nowruz | Bevanda di Semi di Chia alla Persiana per Nowruz | Lab Noon #PFBNowruz-30

The lovely lady appearing these photos is my dear friend Maryam, who turned her beautiful home into a perfect set for this shoot.

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Ho Ho Ho! Home-Made Edible Christmas Gifts

Home Made Edible Christmas Gifts | Regali Commestibili di Natale | Lab Noon #LabNoonXmas

It’s that time of the year again. The time of red heavy coats outside and the overdose of cinnamon, candied fruit and chocolate (and a little booze) inside. As you might know by now, being raised in Iran, I haven’t grown up with Christmas. Traditionally it’s not celebrated by the majority of Iranians. During the eighties when we were children, we knew it was Christmas time because there would be Mickey’s Christmas Carol on TV and that alone was a legit reason to wait for Christmas every year.The first couple of years of living in Rome taught me a lot about Christmas, specially how it’s celebrated in Italy. It’s remains inside the family, the sacred family, your own family (first & second cousins included) and your in-laws family (first & second cousins included).

Years passed, and it grew on me like good habits you try to insert to your daily life do. Like waking up early and having breakfast can make their ways to your morning routines and stay, I have inserted Christmas to my yearly ritual, and it’s here to stay.

Home Made Edible Christmas Gifts | Regali Commestibili di Natale | Lab Noon #LabNoonXmas

I don’t have childhood memories of Christmas; I have never wondered if Santa really exists or not. I have never waited by the fireplace hoping to find a long, colorful stocking full of presents. But I have learned how to cherish Christmas. I love that collective image of the wintery-snowy woods, with little animals (often chewing on nuts), tiny lights and tiny snow flakes motives, that deep emerald green and that velvet ruby red. I love smelling the burning wood and hearing its crackling sound and think it feels like Christmas.

I love cracking walnuts and almonds open. The warm smell of oranges, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and anise star sets my soul free and mulled wine filled with these essences is a drink from heaven to me.Home Made Edible Christmas Gifts | Regali Commestibili di Natale | Lab Noon #LabNoonXmas

The one thing about Christmas that I really don’t like is that crazy & avid rush towards the shopping malls, long lines, misusing a huge amount of money on Christmas Gift shopping. Most of the times they turn into soul-less, did-my-duty sort of gifts. The gift giver remains with stress and a headache from all that SHOP-SHOP mayhem and probably much less money, the receiver might be content but wouldn’t really feel warm at heart, and the only ones really happy would be the big people of the big companies who have made bigs sales in the holiday seasons.

Home Made Edible Christmas Gifts | Regali Commestibili di Natale | Lab Noon #LabNoonXmas
Home Made Edible Christmas Gifts | Regali Commestibili di Natale | Lab Noon #LabNoonXmas

In the years of learning to love Christmas, something that has really touched me is making your gifts with your own hands. Bless the ones who first thought of this. And since it’s the season to eat and drink and being merry, what would be a more delightfully generous gift than sharing, sparing and creating something to eat or drink? From scratch, with care, obsession and attention. Perfecting it time after time. This warms up my heart in the chill of this season and makes me smile from deep down my soul. It would be a mindful Christmas, in every level. Get your hands busy in crushing, stirring, brewing and whisking the tokens for your loved ones. Create your own edible Christmas gifts and meditate while you do so. Let this season bring you inner joy. Not just headache and stress from never-ending work to do. Sign your gift “Home-made with love” and rest assured it’ll be more than cherished.

Home Made Edible Christmas Gifts | Regali Commestibili di Natale | Lab Noon #LabNoonXmas
Home Made Edible Christmas Gifts | Regali Commestibili di Natale | Lab Noon #LabNoonXmas
Home Made Edible Christmas Gifts | Regali Commestibili di Natale | Lab Noon #LabNoonXmas

This year I have (so far) created these three gifts. I have kinda thought about a menu; A cocktail to start with (pomegranate gin), a seasoning for the main dish (various types of flavored sea-salt) and a condiment for dessert (clementine curd). Cookies are also all-time favorites and you can pile them in pretty tin boxes. Last year I did a LOT of chocolate cookies/ornaments. You can make candies, chocolate truffles, and toffies. I have particularly liked these awesome quince paste bites by Juls’ Kitchen. This years I’m all about jars and bottles that I have collected during times. So my gifts are bottled.

And by this, I give you my early Christmas greetings. Have a great one everybody! Continue reading