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

The “World Vegan Month”, A Movie (again) and a Vegan Bean Stew

Vegan Rice and Beans Stew | Rico e Stufato Vegano di Fagioli | Lab Noon

 I have made many discoveries thanks to this blog, most of which are about the world of food. I’ve had the chance to cook many new recipes and I’ve got to know better some alternative diets. one of these discoveries is that the November of each year is called “The World Vegan Month” to celebrate a vegan diet. I am (almost) happily omnivore but recently I have tried to eat less and less meat and use more and more seasonal vegetables, legumes and grains in my cooking. That’s why my instant reaction to a vegan month was “Challenge Accepted!”. I’ve prepared many simple vegan dishes and I’ve posted most of them on Instagram. I have also made a collection of them on Steller

I admit it was difficult to omit all animal products. For example I found out that my Achilles’ heel is cheese and sometimes even eggs. But the nice thing is that as soon as you try to approach a new world almost immediately you find new ways and methods to use new ingredient to make whole plant-based dishes that are both tasty and nutritious. 

Vegan Rice and Beans Stew | Rico e Stufato Vegano di Fagioli | Lab Noon Then in the middle of November (which felt much more like September/October here in Rome), came along once more ChckenBroccoli, the cool Italian blog about cinema, and asked me to watch the preview of a movie and come up with a recipe about it. Naturally I accepted with a big grin on my face. 

It’s called Trash, based on a young adults’ best-seller by the same name. The story evolves in Rio de Janeiro, where the three main characters work in a huge garbage dump. It’s a story about the good and the evil. (Speaking of the good and the evil, make sure you check out these fantastic illustrated magazines by ChickenBroccoli, even if they’re in Italian they’re still worth the look.) Surrounded by massive filth and trash, unmerciful poverty and immense corruption, these kids decide to do “the right thing” and that makes them a voice for hope. 

“Trash”, Coming to Italian theaters on November 27th.

It’s a nice little film, especially young adults can be inspired by the courage of these kids. There’s that right amount of Adrenaline without an excess of violence. And one can’t help but being reminded of The Slumdog Millionaire, where other poor and filthy kids tried to survive the injustice and beat the evil guys. Of course they’re not quite comparable when it comes to the soundtrack, the script and the editing as The Slumdog Millionaire was many steps forward. (And that’s how I replaced checkBroccoli as a movie critic!) 

Vegan Rice and Beans Stew | Rico e Stufato Vegano di Fagioli | Lab Noon
Vegan Rice and Beans Stew | Rico e Stufato Vegano di Fagioli | Lab Noon

During the movie I was constantly looking for the slightest trace of food, or a dish that would inspire me to come up with a recipe. The sad thing was that, not by chance, (and on the contrary of the other movie) there’s no sign of food at all. Actually, the thing that is most noted is the absence of food. As a matter of fact the only scene in which someone wants to get some food is when one a boy looks for something to eat in a trash can and finds a half-bitten apple and some other dirty garbage. The parents of these kids are never shown, neither are any other parental figures who would take care of them (except from the American missionaries). It made me think about how important it would be for a kid like Rafael to find a nice, warm and nutritious dish when comes back home. A meal that would give him the energy and the necessary substances to grow up well and in health. Maybe a nice simple dish of rice and beans, with simple and cheap ingredients, that also contains the right amount of proteins, fibers and minerals. Continue reading

The Hundred-Foot Journey & the Recipe of Socca “Alla Hassan”

Amore, Cucina, Curry Ricetta Socca

This post is a particular one. It’s about something really cool that I’ve had the chance to experiment thanks to Lab Noon. There’s an unusual element too, –unusual meaning it’s a little outside the zone of things I imagine to publish here on the blog– it’s one fantastic unusual element.

It’s a movie. Lasse Hallstrom‘s new movie. I’m talking about the director of Chocolat (that marvelous piece of movie full of cocoa, passion, Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp). Among the the producers there are Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey e the main actress is Helen Mirren. Hell, talk about expectations! It’s called The Hundred-Foot Journey but in Italian it has been translated (as often happens) to Love, Cooking and Curry! Now it’s easier to imagine it’s got something to do with me.

Amore, Cucina, Curry Ricetta SoccaI’ve been invited by ChickenBroccoli, a very cool Italian blog about movies to the exclusive premiere with the director; in order to create a recipe based on the food shown in the movie. As passionate as I am about food, interculturality, France and India, all it took for me to fall in love with the movie was watching the trailer.
Actually, the plot of The Hundred-Foot Journey is quite simple; An Indian family of restaurateurs seeks asylum in France after a series of dramatic events and open a new restaurant in front of an old, classic, starred French restaurant which is only 100 feet distant. Now imagine that clash of traditions, cultures and people. And as it often happens, clashes help smooth the sharp angles.
Even though the movie serves the colorful, joyous India that is full of sounds, loud music and hot spices side by side of the well-measured, classic western France in an arrogant fashion, I found that The Hundred-Foot Journey is all about similarities rather than the differences. Not only between the two contestant sides of the story, but also between us and the characters of the film.french indian socca (7 of 8)The story is about finding a home. About feeling at home. And how it doesn’t really have to do much with the physical and geographical home at the end of the day. And to help you search it, recreate it, remember it, there’s food. “Food is memories.” says somebody in the movie. Beautiful, fresh, picturesque food. The excellent French one that’s narrated through some antique and classic cooking books and in the kitchen of the restaurant. And the Indian food; just as beautiful, with more colors, much more spices and much less discipline.
There’s something fairy-tale about this movie. Not only in the story but also in the photography; the warm light of the southern French country side, the happily-ever-after love stories and the view of the village which reminds you of the famous view of the Disney castle.
If you’re a romantic deep inside (like me), and you enjoy some good laughs while being touched by some deep and wise words that make you reflect, this is the movie for you. It’s definitely worth a cool Autumn evening.french indian socca (1 of 8)Socca, or Farinata as Italians call it, is a thin layered crepe made of chickpea flour. they say it originally comes from the Ligurian coast but I have come to know about it as a street food from the south of France.
This version is inspired by a recipe I read in the May issue of the Italian edition of Jamie Magazine. It lingered on my mind because it seemed easy and absolutely delicious and most especially because it didn’t really look too French to me. I imagined that adding some spices and replacing anchovies and olives with something else would easily turn it into something Indian. Later I discovered that socca-look-alike Indian chickpea pancakes actually do exist and they’re called Pudla. Continue reading