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

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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

Continue reading

Iranian Food Writers on Persian New Year and Norouz, & “Sabzi Polo Mahi” (Herby Pilaf & Turmeric Fried Fish)

Persian Herby Pilaf and Fish - Sabzi Polo Mahi | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-13

I used to absolutely hate fish as a child. While I was typically a good eater, I would not so much as touch fish. On ordinary days, it was not much of a problem: Not so many Iranian dishes are based on seafood, since only two small parts of the cat-shaped country at the north and south touch the sea. But on Norooz, the Iranian celebration that marks the beginning of the new year on the first day of spring, my fish-hating habit meant disaster.

On March 20th, the last day of the year, Iranians around the world will eat Sabzi Polo ba Mahi, a fragrant pilaf with herbs (like chives, parsley, dill, cilantro, fenugreek) and sometimes fresh garlic, served alongside fish. The type of fish and its exact preparation varies from region to region and among families. In the northern parts of Iran, the Caspian White Fish is a renowned favorite, while in the south, fish come from the Persian Gulf and strong flavors like tamarind are added.

Back in my childhood days, I ended up eating my herby pilaf with a sad frittata, hastily made by my fed-up mom who had lost hope of feeding me the precious fish. It wasn’t exactly the most propitious start of the new year.

This is how the story of how I recreate recipes and rituals of Norouz in Rome begins in an article commissioned for Food52. Please read the whole story here and tell me what you think. 

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This year, I am really happy that major food publishings have dedicated articles, recipes and stories to the Persian new year and Norouz. The truth is that this beautiful, ancient and rich celebration that is celebrated by some 190 million people celebrate (from north of India to Turkey, with Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and other countries in the middle), has been so much in the shadow.

My post for the annual roundup of the Persian food bloggers is a homage to the Iranian food writers around the world who have taken the responsibility of talking about our beautiful Iran, that is oh so much more than a banned country. So This is not one of my long posts with the long, multi-chapter story (you can read that on Food52), but a list of links for your Norouz reading and recipes. You can also find the recipe of my Sabzi Polo Mahi, the national dish of Norouz in the bottom. So enjoy reading, Happy 1396 and Sale No Mobarak! Continue reading

Immigrant Food Stories: A Persian Quince Stew, A Supper Club & A Cookbook from When It Rained Bombs

Persian Quince Stew | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-11 Quince Stew – Other photos from my last trip to Iran in August ’15

Immigrant Food Stories, a Feast of Togetherness for Dark Days

It was a rainy Saturday night early in November. There was the smell of cardamom and butter in the air. Windows were condensated after hours of boiling rice and stewing meat. The speakers of Alice’s record player were connected to my phone, that played songs of which only I could understand the words. Others were distracted from the melodic tunes by the food and the conversation. Around a long table topped with pale rose, red Autumn leaves, quinces and pomegranates, there was a cheerful group of eight people who were chatting the cold, rainy night away. With a glass of Syrah in our hand, we were feasting on the colorful and aromatic dishes, in a company that was just as vibrant and stimulating.

We were from Iran, Italy, The US and Sweden, with some German background. The food was Persian, fragrant and seasonal. This was the Persian Autumn Dinner that I hosted at Latteria Studio, as a trial for my supper club. It was only a couple of days before the US election. And I could’ve never imagined that 3 months later when I finally wrote a recap of that evening, we would be standing where we stand now.

This post is a part of the Immigrant Food Stories; the contribute many fellow food bloggers are making against hate and fear of the other, particularly to Trump’s dumb and cruel muslim ban (that thanks to a healthy judiciary system, has been halted). I am touched by these people’s stories, and willingness to narrate how we are all similar at the end of the day. Make sure to check out the links below and to look for #ImmigrantFoodStories on instagram, twitter and facebook, and please share your own immigrant food stories too!

If you have followed Lab Noon for a while, you’d know that this whole blog is a long, ongoing immigrant food story. It’s the tale of my Iranian culinary heritage combined with what I learn everyday from the spectacular food culture of Italy, where I immigrated a decade ago. What you might not know is another food story; the food stories of wars, the food stories of sanctions, the food stories of shortage, instead of abundance.

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Bombs, Coupons and a Cookbook from “Rosa

I was born in 1985, right in the middle of eight years of Iran-Iraq war. I still remember as if it was just yesterday when the bombing siren went off, and what I now associate as the most horrifying voice in the world, announced the beginning of the bombing and the minutes we had in order to run to shelters. As terrifying as the siren was, the running and hiding seemed like a big, collective game to us children. A game that our parents were often too concerned and worn out to play with us.

Food and other essentials were rationed during the war in Iran. A grocery coupon system was applied so that all families could have to them, without having to obtain their food and other goods from the black market (which was also very active). The aisles in the super markets were often half empty, and the queues in front of shops that sold with coupons were very long.

I had long forgotten about the grocery coupons and the long queues until some weeks ago, when I received a small, but heavy parcel from my mom. It was the two huge volumes of “The Art of Cooking” by Ms. Rosa Montazami, the bible of cooking in Iran. The book is a vast collection of Iranian and international savory and sweet recipes, so important that for decades it has been gifted to young brides to help them cook well in their new home. Continue reading