The Visual Diary of Summer in Puglia, SAVEUR Blog Awards Nomination & A Salad with Watermelon, Tomatoes and Local Herbs

Lab Noon in Puglia | Watermelon, Tomato & Herb salad | Saghar Setareh_-11

I. The Heat and The Gratitude 

The distance between the desire to lay on a white beach on a hot summer day with a cool beer in hand, and the first hot drink during a rainy day that already smells like Autumn, might feel like a blink at times. In Italy though, that blink can last for several months. Several, hot, exhausting months of merciless summer. I guess at the age of 32 and long after school holidays I should be mature enough to confess that no, summer is not my favorite moment of the year, thank you very much! 

In fact, I believe had it not been for berries, stone fruits, melons, figs and fresh sea food, I would not even enjoy summer. And I am sure, that if it wasn’t for frisa (Pugliese hard bread to be soaked and seasoned before serving with fresh cherry tomatoes) I would probably starve in hot, humid days that cooking, along with any other activity seems plainly impossible. 

Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-58
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-55

Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-94
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-42
Lab Noon in Puglia | Watermelon, Tomato & Herb salad | Saghar Setareh_-25
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-5
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-81

Please accept this rant about the unacceptably hot summer as a justification for my absence here. Complaints and nags aside though, I have been quite busy. Determined to swim against the tide during August, when all Italy literally shuts down to go on vacation (read “to the beach”), I decided to stay in Rome and work. And work I did! But before August, the month of limbo and transition in Italy, I headed south towards my beloved Puglia, for a brief vacation.

In this post, I try to write only a few words to set the mood and leave everything else to the images, as a visual diary. As you can see there are tons of them, and it took the great part of summer for me to select and edit them (I listened to the whole series of Harry Potter audiobooks in the meanwhile! An utter delight!).

I also add the simplest, most refreshing non-recipe for a summer salad with watermelon chunks, a variety of tomatoes and tons of aromatic herbs.

Of course, the post can’t be completed without thanking you immensely for having nominated me for the prestigious SAVEUR blog awards for Best Photography! The news came as the most pleasant surprise just when I was about to leave Puglia for Rome. I am still speechless and drenched in bliss for this. There’s still a little time to vote, so please keep supporting me! (Update: Voting time is over! Thanks for the support.)

Lab Noon in Puglia | Watermelon, Tomato & Herb salad | Saghar Setareh_-2
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-16

Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-96
Lab Noon in Puglia | Watermelon, Tomato & Herb salad | Saghar Setareh_-19
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-56
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-68
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-78

Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-26
Lab Noon in Puglia | Watermelon, Tomato & Herb salad | Saghar Setareh_-24
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-54
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-69

II. The Pugliese Diary

I stayed in the same country side home that I have been visiting for the past two years; old, authentic and rustic. Built in a dry yet fertile land where ancient olive trees have deep routs in the red earth, grey and white Trulli host guests and a small garden provides the necessary vegetables to feed us all summer long. The eggplants, zucchinis and green peppers are satuèed in local extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes end up in jars of “sala” (tomato sauce) to dress pasta dishes all year long, and even grapes are conserved in alcohol with anice seeds to served as post-dessert after a long meal. 

Meals were often simple and fresh. Local cheese (read tons of burrata and a lot of mozzarella nodini) from nearby masserias (Pugliese farm houses), taralli and olives. Of course, frisa were in the order of the day, and we ordered fresh orecchiette and panzarelli (fried dough filled with tomato and mozzarella) from another nearby masseria. 

Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-34

Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-28
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-25

Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-11
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-7
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-29
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-24

Lab Noon in Puglia | Watermelon, Tomato & Herb salad | Saghar Setareh_-8
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-22
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-36
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-53

Lab Noon in Puglia | Watermelon, Tomato & Herb salad | Saghar Setareh_-3
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-95
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-91
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-93

Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-20
Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-49

Lab Noon in Puglia | Saghar Setareh-15

Speaking of these typical Pugliese farm houses, I went for a visit of the dreamy Masseria Potenti too! Masseria Potenti, a remodeled fortified-farmhouse-turned-into-hotel, is our venue for The Puglia Encounter Workshop that I will host at the end of October together with Emiko Davis and Alice Adams. I can’t wait to be back there, to chill by the pool, to wander around with my camera and to go treasure hunting in Grottaglie, the land of magical Pugliese artisan ceramics.  Continue reading

Workshop: The Puglia Encounter: Food, Lifestyle & Photography in Italy’s Deep South, 26 – 29 October

Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti
I remember very well the first time I ever visited a “Masseria” in Puglia, in south of Italy.

It was August 1st 2015. There was a full moon. The blue moon, to be precise; the largest full moon of the recent years. The masseria I visited that night, was a traditional one; a sort of a farm land, with a main house for the land lord, and small cottages for the farmers. Once there would have lived sheep, goats and chickens. Masseria was a self sustainable small ecosystem. 

On that full moon in that humble farmhouse, I experienced the simplest and most essential form of luxury: simple food prepared by local people, a young poet and musician playing his acoustic guitar and singing the folkloric chants of old times, and hectares of dry, but fertile land. He played and sang under the bright moonlight, we listened in wonder and awe, following the footsteps of a wise man who showed us the way through the wild plants, explaining their name and use, and encouraging us to remember their smell. 

The poetry and the depth of that experience, mingled with a disarming simplicity is a memory I can hardly ever let go of, as well as other wonders like the ones I wrote about in this post where I shared many photos and stories from my stay in Puglia. As soon as I visited that land and its old masserias, now remodeled for the functions of modern life (often as bed & breakfasts), I knew they would be the perfect place to run retreats and workshops. It was a dream for me to share the wonder, the quite and the incredibly rich culture of Puglia with likeminded people in search of beauty, slow traveling and of course, good food.

Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti
The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti - Saghar Setareh-6
The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti - Saghar SetarehI am happy beyond words to tell you that that dream has come true! I am incredibly honored and excited to tell you that together with the talented and inspiring ladies Emiko Davies  and Alice Kiandra Adams, we will hosting The Puglia Encounter: Food, Lifestyle and Photography in Italy’s Deep South.

The experience is a two and half day stay at the end of October in the marvelous Masseria Potenti, where together we will discover the surrounding, food and craft of Puglia. We will cook, eat, drink, chill and take photos by the swimming pool and around the masseria. We will wander a bit in the area, treasure hunting in Grottaglie for Puglia’s trademark ceramic craft. We will forage and gather seasonal herbs, flowers and vegetables and will set the table with all that is authentic to Puglia.

welcome-home-1-1
Photo credit: Masseria Potenti

Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti
Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti

Photo Credit: Emiko Davies

Autumn is a fascinating time in South of Italy, where it’s still warm, the light is golden and the olive trees are ready for the harvest. With a bit of luck, we will taste some new oil and we will definitely make toasts with Primitivo wine, that is typical of that region.

Here you can check out Emiko’s post for a lot of incitement and inspiration and here you can read about how enthusiastic is Alice about the ceramic treasure hunting in Grottaglie. Ci vediamo at #ThePugliaEncounter!

The Puglia Encounter – Autumn Edition

Food, lifestyle and photography in Italy’s Deep South

Book here!

The Venue

Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti
Photo Credit: Masseria Potenti

La Masseria Potenti near Manduria, Puglia, about 15km from the turquoise Ionian sea and one hour from Brindisi (the closest airport). The white-washed masseria (a traditional Pugliese farmhouse), which dates back to the 1300s, is an oasis in the rugged, “wild west” of Puglia, set amongst grain fields, ancient olive groves and Primitivo vineyards. A boutique agriturismo and self-sustainable farm of 130 hectares, the masseria was brought to life by Maria Grazia Di Lauro and her husband Paolo, whose dream was to transmit their love for their native land to their children and friends. It’s a special place that will inspire every one of your senses. Web | Instagram

The Workshop

The experience will include two and a half days of cooking, photography and styling sessions with your hosts, who will share their experience with you, as well as an excursion to nearby Grottaglie to discover the artisan ceramics and local cheesemakers. We will take a wander through nearby fields and pick vegetables out of the garden to prepare meals and set the table. There will be delicious, traditional meals prepared by the cooks of the Masseria – and plenty of time to relax and enjoy the Masseria in between.

The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti - Saghar Setareh-9
The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti - Saghar Setareh-2 copy
The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti - Saghar Setareh-5

Date

26-29 October 2017

Who Can Apply

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
Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-2-2
Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-26
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

Memoirs of Puglia | Ab Doogh Khiar | Persian Cold Soup with Yoghurt and Herbs | Zuppa Fredda di Yoghurt alla Persiana | Lab Noon-18
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