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

Spring Celebrations, a Fragrant Ricotta Cake & Saveur Blog Awards Nomination (Wow!)

healthy Ricotta Cake | Torta di Ricotta senza burro | Lab Noon

1. Thirty feels good & I love this Spring!

Too many things have happened in the past couple of weeks. Important matters, life changing events and personal/professional achievements. Spring bloomed and with that, a light breeze of relief and satisfaction started to blow in my life. And… it happened.

I had dreaded it, tried in vain to escape from it and obsessed about it so much, but when I finally turned 30, I realized that I already liked it. I figured out that my previous birthday had been more scary. On that day (my 29th birthday), my friend Tommaso and I were shooting my head shots (the one on the right and here) for this blog. I was so scared of getting old without having constructed enough foundations. This year however, despite some difficulties, I was just happy, with no need for many descriptive adjectives to communicated how I really felt. My birthday party was an unconventional, casual picnic in one of Rome’s beautiful villas with a bunch of intimate friends, some easy peasy veggie pies made with home-grown, Sicilian vegetables from a friend’s garden, and a big, Easter chocolate egg. Even the weather was on my side; We enjoyed long hours of laying on the grass with the warm sun kissing our skin, chatting, eating & drinking.

healthy Ricotta Cake | Torta di Ricotta senza burro | Lab Noon

Before my birthday however, there was my thesis defense session and graduation. As I mentioned, as the final project in my graduate studies in Graphic Design & Photography in Rome’s Fine Art Academy, I created a cookbook with my own recipes & photography, and designed every single detail from typography to layouts. I was very satisfied with the project (despite being exhausted) and I was quite speechless by the flattering compliments of the professors and everybody else. This has made me more confident in the journey that I have chosen to step in; the one that embraces good food, photography, editorial design and a lot of determination. 

healthy Ricotta Cake | Torta di Ricotta senza burro | Lab Noon
healthy Ricotta Cake | Torta di Ricotta senza burro | Lab Noon

I will soon add more photo/info about this cookbook prototype but in the meanwhile let me say that YOU appear in the acknowledgments! How could I not thank each single one of you who reads, likes, and share what I do and gives me a lot of support?

Speaking of your support, as you probably know (if you follow me on facebook and/or twitter), Lab Noon is a finalist in the 6th Annual SAVEUR Blog Awards! From a record-breaking pool of nearly 50,000 submissions, it was selected as one of top six contenders in its category. This was a dream when I had just started this blog, and thanks to Saveur editors, previous winners (among the editors) and most importantly, thanks to you who have nominated me, this dream came true in the very first year of this blog! This too, encourages me to work harder and push this little blog and its affiliated projects forward. 

Lab Noon is nominated in “Best Special Interest” category with other 5 blogs of great talent and originality. This is the great thing about Saveur blogs awards; you get to know a lot of amazing people who are doing beautiful things. To know us better please read the presentation of our blogs and our bios on Saveur’s site. 

In order to vote your favorite blogs simply click here (or on the Saveur badge in the sidebar) and register/log in to Saveur’s website. I would appreciate it if you supported me and cast a vote! Remember to check other wonderful blogs in every category. I’m sure you will find a lot of pleasant surprises. Share the love on your social media with the link saveur.com/blogawards and the hashtag #‎SavBlogAwards‬.

healthy Ricotta Cake | Torta di Ricotta senza burro | Lab Noon

2. Let’s celebrate with a healthy, moist and fragrant cake!

I didn’t have a birthday cake right on my birthday. But since it was Easter, and as I told you there were just too many reasons to celebrate, I baked this one a couple of days later. Easter, just like any other holiday in Italy (and many other places) means a lot of heavy meals, chocolates and Colomba (a typical Italian Easter cake similar to Panettone for Christmas). And then, there are those of us who have just finished celebrating Norouz, the Persian new year with —again— a lot of food, sweets and pastries and salty nuts.

This one is a relatively light and healthy cake. There’s no butter in it and the only fat is 4 tbsp of olive oil. The main ingredient is fresh sheep ricotta. Ricotta makes the cake incredibly moist and soft. Spring is the time when the milking season of sheep begins. So if you know some farms around, ask for fresh sheep dairy. I remember when I was little, by around May you could find excellent sheep yogurt in shops. The supermarket near my home has some products from local farmers and fresh sheep ricotta is one of them. However, if you don’t find sheep ricotta, by all means use normal ricotta cheese. Just make sure you find a skim one (to keep the cake lighter). The ricotta cheese I use normally has 150-160kcal/100g and 11-12g fat.

healthy Ricotta Cake | Torta di Ricotta senza burro | Lab Noon
healthy Ricotta Cake | Torta di Ricotta senza burro | Lab Noon

Ricotta is also the base of the frosting, mixed with orange blossom water and some maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like it). The southern cities of Iran such as Shiraz and Kerman are famous for excellent citrus. Dry, warm weather is essential for good quality and fragrant citrus. Just like in Italy, where best oranges grow in Sicily and best lemons & citrons in Campagna. We owe that refreshing scent to the sun of the south. They say if you walk in the allies of Shiraz in this time of the year, you’ll get drunk by the mesmerizing aroma of orange blossoms that have invaded the city. Continue reading

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
Persian Chia Seeds Drink for Nowruz | Bevanda di Semi di Chia alla Persiana per Nowruz | Lab Noon #PFBNowruz-18
Persian Chia Seeds Drink for Nowruz | Bevanda di Semi di Chia alla Persiana per Nowruz | Lab Noon #PFBNowruz-20

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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