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Andy Baraghani talks food and identity in new cookbook

Andy Baraghani talks food and identity in new cookbook

Baraghani shares his philosophy on food and identity with Healthline – plus Chickpea Cacio e Pepe’s recipe from his new book.

Andy Baraghani describes himself as curious – curious about cooking, traveling, combining those passions and sharing what he has learned with others.

That curiosity underlies the philosophy behind his upcoming cookbook“The Cook You Want to Be: Everyday Recipes to Impress,” released May 24 by Lorena Jones Books (Penguin Random House).

“I want to collect and process as much information and knowledge as possible, and then be able to hold it or, better yet, pass that information on,” Baraghani told Healthline.

Baraghani, cook, food writer, recipe developer and former Bon Appétit and Saveur editor, tries to do just that in his cookbook: guiding readers through how to create dishes that don’t require a lot of cooking experience, nutritional knowledge or kitchen gadgets.

The more than 120 recipes are inspired by his identity as a queer, first-generation Iranian American, as well as his experiences traveling the world and cooking for and with others, such as at restaurants such as Chez Panisse and Estela.

To that end, the cookbook features personal essays that explore those inspirations and provide practical advice for simpler cooking.

“There are personal stories and experiences in this book that I’m writing about, but I wanted to get the reader to embrace those stories, embrace those techniques, embrace these recipes, and the knowledge they’ve learned through my experiences.” in their own lives so that they can feel more empowered in the kitchen and become the cook they want to be,” Baraghani said.

The cookbook’s offerings range from “Mighty Little Recipes” — such as sauces and dressings — and shareable snacks (such as Borani, aka the Queen of All Yogurt Dips) to meat dishes and a few desserts, such as an Apple and Tahini Galette.

But, Baraghani said, “this book is mostly vegetables.”

He even said that one of his favorite chapters is “Salad for Days,” which is—you guessed it—entirely devoted to innovative salads, including Eat-with-Everything Cucumber Salad and Fat Pieces of Citrus with Avocado and Caramelized Dates.

Another favorite chapter, “Mind Your Veg,” brings veggies to the fore in recipes like caramelized sweet potatoes with browned butter harissa and peas with chunks of feta and Zhoug.

“I’ve really tried to give people options and variations”, said Baraghani. “I’ve really tried to think of what people can access easily, but also feel good about after preparing this meal.”

“I want food to not only taste good, but also to make you feel good.”

— Andy Baraghani

Part of that effort, he said, has involved writing recipes that don’t expect readers to use kitchen gadgets like juicers or garlic presses if they don’t want those items or have them on hand.

While the book includes a guide to kitchen appliances and utensils people might find useful, Baraghani said it’s important to stay practical.

“I think there’s this fear in so many people when cooking,” he said. “Adding all this equipment makes tasks that aren’t complicated at all too complicated.”

That’s also why, in the age of YouTube chefs and TikTok recipes, Baraghani was inspired to publish a print cookbook instead of sharing these recipes online.

A printed cookbook, he said, encourages something crucial that social media cooking doesn’t necessarily make room for: taking your time.

In addition, it provided Baraghani with the opportunity to work with designers, photographers and other artists to create the cookbook so that the book itself can contribute to storytelling in its own way.

“There’s something that’s still very satisfying, for me at least, about cooking from a book and not scrolling to a page or looking through your phone,” he said. “I want people to sit with the statues. I want people to sit with the type, title, copy, headline, sidebars, taste of the recipe. I don’t think that happens very often with digital media.”

You can order “The Cook You Want to Be: Everyday Recipes to Impress” at Lorena Jones Books (Penguin Random House) via Amazon here

“I certainly don’t promise that after this book you will be the best cook in the world,” Baraghani said. “I promise you will learn at least one thing that will make you a more confident and curious cook.”

There are many recipes for pasta e ceci (also known as pasta with chickpeas). The majority I’ve come across are broth-like, almost soup-like. This recipe emphasizes both the chickpeas and pasta, but is just as comforting and a lot creamier than the usual versions. Much of the magic of this dish lies in crushing the chickpeas so that they release their starch and turn the pasta water into a creamy sauce. Some chickpeas hold their shape while others turn into delicious mush, and the caramelized lemon gives a chewy flavor and brings the pasta back to life after cooking. It is incredibly satisfying. If I still have to convince you to make this, know that it was the first meal I made for my boyfriend, and he’s been attached to me ever since. —Andy Baraghani

Serves: 4 (plus, maybe, some leftovers, though I doubt it)

ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small Meyer or regular lemon, thinly sliced, seeded
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig rosemary, or 4 sprigs thyme
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound tubular pasta (such as calamarata, paccheri, or rigatoni)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to serve

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and toss in a handful of salt (about 1/4 cup).
  2. While the water is doing its job, set a separate large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Add the lemon and cook, using tongs to turn the slices until they begin to brown and shrivel, 6-8 minutes. Use the tongs to transfer the caramelized lemon slices to a bowl, keeping the oil in the pan.
  3. Dump the chickpeas into the oil and let them become slightly crispy and golden brown, stirring occasionally, 5-7 minutes. Add the shallot and crush the rosemary to release the oil and add to the pan. Season with salt and lots of pepper and stir everything together. Cook until shallot begins to soften, 3-5 minutes. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until almost al dente, about 2 minutes less than stated on the package (it will cook in the sauce).
  4. Just before the pasta is al dente, scoop out 2 cups of pasta water. Add 1 1/2 cups of pasta water to the pan with the chickpeas and bring to a boil, still over medium heat. (This may seem like a lot of liquid, but it will thicken once the rest of the ingredients are added.) Stir in the butter, one at a time, until the pasta water and butter have become one.
  5. Transfer the pasta to the sauce with a slotted spoon. Cook, stirring frequently and adding the Parmesan cheese little by little. (Do not add the cheese all at once or the sauce may split and become grainy.) Continue stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is creamy and sticks to the pasta, about 3 minutes. If the sauce looks too thick, add more pasta water, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time to thin (but know that saucier is ideal as it will thicken as it cools). Turn off the heat and fold in the caramelized lemon. Before serving, sprinkle with an almost ridiculous amount of pepper and more Parmesan cheese.

Rose Thorne is an associate editor at Healthline Nutrition. Rose will graduate from Mercer University in 2021 with a degree in Journalism and Women’s and Gender Studies bylines for Business Insider, The Washington Post, The Lily, Georgia Public Broadcasting, and more. Rose’s proudest professional achievements include being editor-in-chief of a college newspaper and working for Fair Fight Action, the national voting rights organization. Covering the intersections of gender, sexuality and health, Rose is a member of The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists and the Trans Journalists AssociationYou can find Rose at Twitter