General

Cookbook recalls Berkeley market with recipes like a spicy Persian stew and caramelized cabbage

Cookbook recalls Berkeley market with recipes like a spicy Persian stew and caramelized cabbage

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from “The Cook You Want to Be: Everyday Recipes to Impress” (Ten Speed Press), by Andy Baraghani, who started his cooking career in the kitchen at Chez Panisse and went on to become a food writer and recipe developer at Saveur and Bon Appetit. Baraghani, an Iranian immigrant raised in Berkeley, introduces home cooks to new flavors, tools and techniques that will develop their skills. The book’s 120 recipes are interspersed with tips, pantry essentials and reminiscences, including this one:

When I was too young to drive, my mother and I did weekly grocery errands together. My mom was a Lancôme lady for more than 20 years; I thought of her as the Isabella Rossellini of the Macy’s counter. I’m biased, but my mother is beautiful, with just the littlest bit of an accent, like the face of Trésor, Isabella herself. In my mind, my mom spent her days off thinking about food and looking for the best ingredients, just as I do. Although, to her credit, she clearly had a lot more to worry about than what to cook.

On our errand days, after Mom picked up her coffee, we’d go the Monterey Market in Berkeley, one of the greatest grocery stores on the planet. There, you’d find half an aisle of wild mushrooms; herbs far beyond basil and parsley, like summer savory and flowering chives. They’d also stock 20-plus varieties of citrus. In the store, we’d pick up a poppy seed-sesame baguette from Acme Bread. This started a silent race between us: Who was going to twist and tear off the tip of the baguette first? Whoever won would have it as a mini snack, right there in the grocery store. We never, ever spoke about it. And there was something else unspoken between us with our obsession with food so deeply ingrained: the understanding that to save the baguette for later would almost disrespect it. It was too good to ignore. It demanded our attention. Made me want to cook food with that kind of power.

We spent way too much time in Monterey Market, and even now, I can’t go to a grocery store without stalking down every aisle the way my mom did. She bought bundles of herbs, onions, garlic, shallots, greens, and root vegetables. She also sampled quite a bit, which I’m pretty sure was without asking. I blame her for my sticky fingers. She would take a bite out of a plum and hand it to me to take the next bite. It was very maternal. I was once kicked out of the Bowery Whole Foods Market in New York City for “sampling” sushi (admittedly, I had a warning, and the next time they asked me to leave). I’ve unwrapped RXBars and eaten them while I shopped. I’ve gnawed on sprigs of mint. I am my mother’s son.

“The Cook You Want to Be” cookbook by Andy Baraghani.

Graydon Herriott / Lorena Jones Books

After shopping, Mom and I would pick up a few slices from the Cheese Board, our go-to pizza shop, and sit rebelliously in the median next to the sign that read KEEP OFF THE MEDIAN — very Berkeley — to listen to the violist or whichever ensemble was performing. No matter what the pizza of the day was — red onion, Fontina cheese, charred poblanos with corn and feta, or Gruyere and Parm with thin slices of potato and rosemary — we’d have Key limes to squeeze over our slices.

Occasionally, my mom would indulge me and we’d go to Masse’s Pastries, where I’d get a wedge of passion fruit mousse cake. Or thumbprint cookies with fruit jellies. Or a dramatic tiramisu with big curls of chocolate, lined with a crown of ladyfingers. It felt indulgent, delicious, and kept me wanting to always taste more, order more.

I don’t take it for granted that I grew up in the East Bay, which is concentrated with people who have a deep love for food. Even though I didn’t come from money, I was spoiled. The access to that food, those moments of median-eating pizza with my mom, laid the foundation for me to pursue cooking professionally and maybe also leading to a life of crime.

Reprinted from “The Cook You Want to Be.” Copyright 2022 Andy Baraghani. Photographs copyright 2022 Graydon Herriott. Published by Lorena Jones Books, an imprint of Random House.” E-mail: [email protected]

Tangy Pomegranate Chicken

Foodwise Classroom at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market presents a cooking demo with Andy Baraghani featuring the seasonal bounty of the market, followed by a book signing hosted by Book Passage at their shop inside the Ferry Building Marketplace. Noon-12:45 p.m. Saturday, May 28. 1 the Embarcadero, San Francisco. https://cuesa.org/event/2022/andy-baraghani-cook-you-want-be

Omnivore Books hosts a book-signing party 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 1, at Tofino Wines, 2696 Geary Blvd., San Francisco. Wines available by the glass and the bottle for purchase. The event is free; guests must be 21 years of age or older. https://omnivorebooks.myshopify.com/collections/events


Fesenjan is a controversial Persian stew. (Maybe, I guess, they all are?) Whether you make it sour or sweet is the biggest point of contention. For me, it shouldn’t be sour and it shouldn’t be sweet. It should be perfectly both, and with a little tingle. Walnuts, pomegranate molasses, and chicken are the core trio (hundreds of years ago that meat would have been peacock). My fesenjan recipe will be in my Persian cookbook one day, along with all of my other Persian secrets, but for now, here’s more of a chicken braise with a good amount of atypical lime juice, all inspired by fesenjan but definitely not a version of it — not at all.

Serves 4

4 whole bone-in, skin-on chicken legs, or 2½ to 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on drumsticks and thighs

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon neutral oil (such as grapeseed)

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 cup raw walnuts, coarsely chopped

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ cup water

½ cup pomegranate molasses

¼ cup fresh lime juice

1 large handful herbs (such as basil, cilantro, and/or dill)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, season all over with salt, and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes for the salt to absorb.

Pour the neutral oil into a large ovenproof skillet and place over medium-high heat. Lay the chicken legs in the skillet, skin-side down, so they are snug and lying flat. Cook, using tongs to press down on the chicken so the skin makes contact with the bottom of the pan to encourage browning, until the legs are surrounded by their own fat and the skin underneath is deeply browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate, skin-side up, leaving that golden chicken fat behind.

Let the skillet cool for a few minutes, then return it to medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring and scraping any brown bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan, until the onion is lightly charred around the edges, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the walnuts and continue to cook until they smell nutty and the onion is deep golden brown in most spots, another 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the turmeric and cinnamon and stir, so the spices can bloom.

Pour the water, pomegranate molasses and lime juice into the skillet and season lightly with salt. Nestle the chicken back into the skillet, skin-side up, and spoon some of the sauce over each leg. Transfer the skillet to the oven, uncovered, and bake the chicken legs until the sauce has thickened and the flesh is begging to be torn away from the bone, 50 to 60 minutes. Scatter the herbs on top, or on the side, of the chicken legs and serve.

Fall-Apart Caramelized Cabbage Smothered in Anchovies & Dill

My love for cabbage runs deep, as deep as my love for Diana Ross’s 1983 iconic Central Park concert in the rain (it’s a YouTube must-watch). And yet, this recipe was never supposed to be in this book. I did a pop-up dinner one night and, at the last minute, decided to add this dish to round out the menu. The cabbage gets seared hard on the stove-top before it goes into the oven to soften to an almost melty texture. While still warm, the cabbage is spooned with an intense garlic-anchovy sauce made with so much dill. The sauce drapes the cabbage and sneaks into its every layer.

Serves 4

1 head basic green or purple cabbage or fancy savoy

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

4 oil-packed anchovies, drained and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely grated

1 cup coarsely chopped dill

½ cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Halve the cabbage through the core. Cut each half into three wedges, keeping the core intact.

Set a large cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet over medium-high heat. Add ¼ cup of the olive oil and heat until it is hot and shimmering. Season the cabbage with salt and then place it in the skillet. Cook, using tongs to press down on the cabbage, so it becomes deeply charred and kind of tender (it’ll soften more in the oven), 3 to 5 minutes per side. If your skillet isn’t large enough to brown all the pieces at once, do it in batches.

Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully cover it with aluminum foil (the pan will be hot!). Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until the cabbage is very tender, 30 to 40 minutes. When it’s ready, a paring knife should slide in and out of the cabbage core like butter.

While the cabbage is in the oven, in a medium bowl, stir together the anchovies, garlic, dill, walnuts, lemon zest, lemon juice, and remaining ½ cup olive oil. Season with salt and plenty of pepper. If you let it sit for 10 minutes, the flavors will soften and meld.

Once the cabbage is done, arrange the pieces on a platter and spoon the sauce all around and between the melty layers. Sprinkle with more pepper and serve.

CHOOSING CABBAGE

Green and purple cabbage are interchangeable here; they’re both firm and dense, intensely crunchy, consistent when raw but even better grilled or roasted to death. And cheap! Love ’em. Napa cabbage has a longer ovular shape with a crunchy base and tender leafy tops; I like it for quick stir-fries, or torn up, massaged slightly, and eaten raw. It’s juicy and light, not as dense as those other guys. Savoy is harder to find — it’s the Cabbage Patch Doll cabbage — with dramatic beautiful leaves straight from a Caravaggio painting. I use it the same way as conventional cabbage, like in this caramelized cabbage recipe. It makes everything you cook worthy of a still-life painting.