Food & Drink Miniseries: Andy Baraghani on Finding Your Home Cooking Style

This is an audio transcript of the daily weekend podcast episode: Food & Drink Miniseries: Andy Baraghani on Finding Your Home Cooking Style

Lilah Raptopoulos
Hi FT Weekend listeners, I’m Lilah. I’m here to welcome you to some summer bonus content. For four weeks, we’ll be posting special Food & Drink themed mini-episodes midweek every Wednesday. For each one, I go up to a different expert who I think is really good at something and ask them to teach us about that topic. We’ll discuss wine trends with one of the world’s most influential wine critics, Jancis Robinson. We will talk about tastes and flavors with the chef of one of my favorite restaurants in New York, Ayesha Nurdjaja. And today, in this first episode of the series, Andy Baraghani joins me. Andy is a chef and food writer. He has worked in kitchens from Chez Panisse to Estela, and spent years developing recipes and making viral cooking videos for Bon Appetit. This year, Andy came out with a cookbook that I’ve been leaning on a lot. His name is The cook you want to be. And I’ve had it to learn exactly how we can build all of our experiences into a personal style of home cooking. It’s an opportunity to think about what we’re choosing to cook and what makes those dishes or cooking styles feel specifically like ours. Okay. This is FT Weekend, the special edition of the podcast. I’m Lilah Raptopoulos. Here’s Andy. Hello Andy. Welcome to the show.

Andy Baragani
Hi Lila. Thanks for having me.

Lilah Raptopoulos
One of the things that I really liked about your videos and love about your cookbook is that it’s very honest and sweet and makes me feel like my cooking can be a bit chaotic and that I can trust myself. improvise on the spot and I’ll be fine. And then I’m learning, not only how to follow this list of ingredients and the order I use them, but how to make it myself without worrying. (Andy laughs) I’m just curious, like, you know, what advice do you have for people who are trying to find their voice as home cooks?

Andy Baragani
Cooking is a low-risk investment, you know, it is. . .

Lilah Raptopoulos
That’s true, yes.

Andy Baragani
It’s not something that. . . It usually won’t cost a ton of money. It’s okay if it doesn’t work out. Because hopefully, and what I really like to promise people, is that even if something doesn’t go your way, chances are you’ll learn something. And it is a lesson to have absorbed. And so that, you know, you don’t ever do that again and try something and do it in a different way. So that’s one thing. I also find that you have to be open and curious and challenge yourself. I really want to say that this applies both inside and outside the kitchen. Whatever the type of profession, I think that when I think about my own life and the important moments and the lessons that I have learned, that is when I have felt most uncomfortable or vulnerable.

Lilah Raptopoulos
So what is an example of doing something uncomfortable in the realm of food?

Andy Baragani
I would say one of the easiest things is if you’re in a market, whether it’s a piece, a product or a spice, if it’s within your budget, I’d buy it and try it, and I’d try it myself. Only if it’s a specific type of citrus, you know, I’d take a segment and taste it and see what it tastes like. It is sweet? Is it cake? Where does it fall within that range? Is this zest a bit bitter or is it more floral and sweet? Try using the zest in the salad, use the juice and reduce it with a bit of butter and see what it tastes like. But play with it. Experiment.

Lilah Raptopoulos
What would be a simple way to experiment?

Andy Baragani
You can teach a home cook about a new ingredient. It’s hard to ask a home cook to teach you a new ingredient and then give you this really technical recipe. So the first part is to challenge yourself to try a new ingredient. Play with it. The second part is to see if you would try a technique that you’ve never done, if you’ve ever made an aioli before. If you’ve done that, just emulsify, you know, grease with egg yolk and make homemade alioli. And then you have this base and you can make it with garlic by adding a little bit of garlic or herbs by adding some fresh chopped herbs, a little bit of lemon juice. Those two things are very essential. . .

Lilah Raptopoulos
Uh huh.

Andy Baragani
With the purpose of . . . understand what kind of cook you want to be, what your cooking style is, what flavors appeal to you. And the goal is not to always be right. You may not like all the techniques and want to apply them to your kitchen. You may not like every ingredient you buy or every flavor combination, but understanding what appeals to you and what doesn’t will give you a better definition of what your cooking style is. .

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yes. Andy, I’d love to know how you first became interested in food. Like, what are your earliest memories of food and cooking?

Andy Baragani
That’s a great question from the start. . .

Lilah Raptopoulos
(Laughter)

Andy Baragani
The foods that I was introduced to at a young age were the foods that my parents brought with them and the traditions that they brought with them from their native country of Iran. They arrived in the United States in the late 1970s, just before the Iranian revolution. And so, from my earliest memories I really have a lot of people in my parents’ house. They were the first to leave Iran and come to the US, so there was always someone else to feed, whether it was an aunt or uncle or cousins, grandparents. So a lot of those dishes are Iranian from my earliest memories.

Lilah Raptopoulos
I’m kind of curious. . . What did your family cook growing up and what did you take from that for your style?

Andy Baragani
Well, I think the food is. . . (exhales) tangy and heavy on herbs and a deep love of dairy in the form of yogurts. And it’s actually quite a delicate kitchen. It’s not very spicy. There is no really fiery heat to the flavors. You will see some heat in the southern part of Iran. They love rice and it is never a side dish. It’s always the main event. Lots of different kinds of beautiful flatbreads like seasonal stews made from fruits and meats and herbs and lots of yogurt dips that not only have yogurt and cucumber but sometimes we’ll have walnuts and pistachios and raisins and sizzling mint and green garlic It’s a kitchen very, very beautiful that. . . part of my job as a recipe writer and developer is really getting that food into people’s homes.

Lilah Raptopoulos
I found out about his work actually deep in the pandemic all these herbs were going bad and he knew about kuku sabzi, a Persian dish, Iranian dish to grow up. And I found your Bon Appetit video on YouTube. It’s like my favorite thing I did in the pandemic and I still do it all the time. I’m curious about your experience posting that video. You wrote an article a few years ago about how cooking helped you to be open about your ethnicity and that growing up you wanted to hide your Iranian identity. Can you tell me about that and how it changed?

Andy Baragani
So kuku is a kind of genus of egg-based dishes in Iranian cuisine, and Sabzi means green. I mean, that was definitely one of the hardest pieces to write. When I did that video, it was actually one of the first videos I did for Bon App. And I remember releasing the video and it had a lukewarm response from even being hugged. I think we have to remember, like, it was a different time and. . . but I had a feeling that something that I grew up with was very easy to do and that people were going to be able to learn about this dish, prepare it, learn about this dish from a very special cuisine that, from a culture that hasn’t always been highlighted in the most positive way in this country. I eventually shot that video and it took off. And so that dish followed me a lot throughout my life. And the essay you mentioned about talking about my ethnicity, I have to say that I have loved Iranian food all my life, but I never had the desire to learn that food and cook that food. That was the food I grew up with. That was my family’s food. But that was not my cooking style. But it changed a bit when I had to do some research and work with my mom on a story. And we ended up featuring, I don’t know, maybe eight or nine of my mom’s dishes. And I really fell in love with that food all over again. And so I began to incorporate those techniques and flavors of Iranian food into my own style of cooking.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Lilah Raptopoulos
Okay. Andy, I’d love to do a quick round with you in the time we have left. Are you ready?

Andy Baragani
Yes.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Okay. What is the least appreciated herb?

Andy Baragani
Fresh bay leaves.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Bay leaves?

Andy Baragani
Yes. Fresh bay leaves are amazing. I think fresh mint is underused. I think it looks like a side dish or a little goes a long way, but I think it’s just as delicious in pastas or torn up in salads or mashed up to make some mint basil pesto. I think it’s so delicious.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Do you use more than you think?

Andy Baragani
Use more than you think, always.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yes always. Well ok. Favorite summer salad?

Andy Baragani
It’s a dish I keep making from my book, actually. And it’s called. . . the name of the recipe is juicy tomatoes with crispy italian chili, and you just take good tomatoes, season them with salt, drizzle them with vinegar—I like sherry vinegar—and then you make this spicy oil made with extra virgin olive oil, sliced ​​garlic, anchovies, and you cook until the garlic is crispy, and then you add chili flakes and fennel seeds, and then you pour this hot, garlicky, spicy fatty oil over the pickled tomatoes and sprinkle with basil or parsley . And it’s quite delicious.

Lilah Raptopoulos
What spice would you recommend people to experiment with? It doesn’t have to be the most useful spice, but it is interesting to play with.

Andy Baragani
I use a lot of turmeric, so I think it’s something that people should use. Cook in oil or butter or in and over yogurt as a turmeric sauce. Butter and mix with rice, sprinkle on protein, fish, meat, and grill or brown, I love it. I also think, and this is a really simple one that a lot of us have: whole black peppercorns. I mean, it adds texture if it’s thick. I think cooking it in butter and oil and adding pasta, rice, adds like a nice lingering heat, a gentle heat that I really love. Black peppercorns are something I use a lot.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Andy, this is a pleasure. Thank you very much for being on the show.

Andy Baragani
Thanks for having me.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Lilah Raptopoulos
That’s our first of four mini-episodes on Food and Drink. You can check back next Wednesday to get the second one. I’m talking to Ayesha Nurdjaja, chef at Shuka and Shukette, about flavoring and flavoring. I’ve put links to everything Andy and I mention in this episode in the show notes. This show was produced by Molly Nugent, executive produced by Topher Forhecz and Cheryl Brumley, and designed by Breen Turner with original music by Metaphor Music. Special thanks to Alastair Mackie.

[MUSIC FADES]

This transcript has been automatically generated. If by any chance there is an error, please send the details for correction to: typo@ft.com. We will do our best to make the modification as soon as possible.

Leave a Comment