Baraghani shares his philosophy on food and identity with Healthline — plus, the Chickpea Cacio e Pepe recipe from his new book.
Andy Baraghani describes himself as curious — curious about cooking, traveling, blending those passions, and sharing what he’s learned with others.
That curiosity underlies the philosophy behind his upcoming cookbook, “The Cook You Want to Be: Everyday Recipes to Impress,” set to release May 24 from Lorena Jones Books (Penguin Random House).
“I want to gather as much information and knowledge as possible and process it, and then be able to either hold onto it or, even better, pass that information along,” Baraghani told Healthline.
A cook, food writer, recipe developer, and former Bon Appétit and Saveur editor, Baraghani seeks to do exactly that in his cookbook: guide readers through creating dishes that don’t require a lot of cooking experience, nutrition knowledge, or kitchen gadgets.
The more than 120 recipes are inspired by his identities as a queer, first-generation Iranian American, as well as his experiences traveling around the globe and cooking for and with others, such as in restaurants like Chez Panisse and Estela.
To that end, the cookbook features personal essays that explore those inspirations and offer practical advice for cooking more simply.
“There are personal stories and experiences in this book that I write about, but I wanted to bring in the reader to embrace those stories, embrace those techniques, embrace these recipes, and really integrate and apply the knowledge that they’ve learned through my experiences into their own life 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 (like Borani, aka the Queen of All Yogurt Dips) to meat-based fare and a few desserts, such as an Apple and Tahini Galette.
But, Baraghani said, “this book is mostly vegetables.”
In fact, he said that one of his favorite chapters is “Salad for Days,” which is — you guessed it — devoted entirely 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 vegetables front and center in recipes such as Caramelized Sweet Potatoes with Browned Butter Harissa and Peas with Big Hunks of Feta and Zhoug.
“I really tried to give options and variations to people,” Baraghani said. “I really tried to think of what would be easy for people to have access to but also feel good about after they’ve prepared this meal.”
“I want food to not just taste good, but I want it to make you feel good.”
— Andy Baraghani
Part of that effort, he said, included writing recipes that don’t expect readers to use kitchen gadgets like juicers or garlic presses if they don’t want or have those items on hand.
While the book does include a guide to kitchen equipment and utensils that folks might find useful, Baraghani said it’s important to stay practical.
“I think there’s this fear within so many people in cooking,” he said. “Adding all this equipment, it overcomplicates tasks that aren’t complicated at all.”
That’s also why, in the era of YouTube chefs and TikTok recipes, Baraghani was inspired to publish a print cookbook rather than share these recipes online.
A print cookbook, he said, encourages something critical that social media cooking doesn’t necessarily make room for: taking your time.
Plus, it afforded Baraghani the opportunity to work with designers, photographers, and other artists to lay out the cookbook so the book itself can contribute to the storytelling in its own way.
“There’s something that is still very satisfying, to me at least, to cook from a book and not scroll down a page or look through your phone,” he said. “I want people to sit with the imagery. I want people to sit with the type, the title, the copy, the headnote, the sidebars, the taste of the recipe. I don’t think that is something that happens as often with digital media.”
You can order “The Cook You Want to Be: Everyday Recipes to Impress” from Lorena Jones Books (Penguin Random House) via Amazon here.
“I certainly don’t promise that you will be the greatest cook in the world after this book,” Baraghani said. “I promise that 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 (aka pasta with chickpeas). The majority that I’ve encountered are brothy, almost souplike. This recipe emphasizes both the chickpeas and the pasta but is equally comforting and a lot creamier than the usual versions. Much of the magic of this dish lies in crushing the chickpeas, so they release their starches and transform the pasta water into a creamy sauce. Some of the chickpeas retain their shape, whereas others turn to delicious mush, and the caramelized lemon lends some chewy tang and brings the paste back to life post-boiling. It’s incredibly satisfying. If I still need to convince you to make this, I know that it was the first meal that I made for my boyfriend, and he has been attached to me ever since. —Andy Baraghani
Serves: 4 (plus, maybe, some leftovers, though I doubt it)
- kosher salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small Meyer or regular lemon, thinly sliced, seeds picked out
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 1 rosemary sprig, or 4 thyme sprigs
- 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 for serving
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then throw in a handful of salt (about 1/4 cup).
- While the water is doing its thing, set a separate large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Add the lemon and cook, using tongs to flip the slices until they begin to lightly brown and shrivel up, 6–8 minutes. Using the tongs, transfer the caramelized lemon slices to a bowl, leaving the oil in the pot.
- Dump the chickpeas into the oil and let them get a little crisp and golden, stirring occasionally, 5–7 minutes. Add the shallot and crush the rosemary to release its oil and drop it into the pot. Season with salt and lots and lots of pepper and give everything a stir. Cook until the shallot is beginning to soften, 3–5 minutes. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until almost al dente, about 2 minutes less than what the package suggests (it’ll finish cooking in the sauce).
- Just before the pasta is al dente, scoop out 2 cups of pasta water. Add 1 1/2 cups pasta water to the pot with the chickpeas and bring to a simmer, still over medium heat. (This may seem like a lot of liquid, but it will thicken once the remaining ingredients are added.) One piece at a time, stir in the butter until the pasta water and butter have become one.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pasta to the sauce. Cook, stirring often and sprinkling in the Parmesan a little at a time. (Don’t add the cheese all at once, as that can make the sauce split and turn grainy.) Keep stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is creamy and clings 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 saucer is ideal because it will thicken as it cools). Turn off the heat and fold in the caramelized lemon. Sprinkle with an almost ridiculous amount of pepper and more Parmesan before serving.
Rose Thorne is an associate editor at Healthline Nutrition. A 2021 graduate of Mercer University with a degree in journalism and women’s & gender studies, Rose has bylines for Business Insider, The Washington Post, The Lily, Georgia Public Broadcasting, and more. Rose’s proudest professional accomplishments include being a college newspaper editor-in-chief and working at Fair Fight Action, the national voting rights organization. Rose covers the intersections of gender, sexuality, and health, and is a member of The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists and the Trans Journalists Association. You can find Rose on Twitter.