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How to master that knack for simple yet revelatory cooking

In his first cookbook, Andy Baraghani instructs cooks on how to trust their instincts.

The crushed orange and rosemary braised lamb from "The Cook You Want to Be," by Andy Baraghani.
(Graydon Herriott)

Cooking by instinct is often heralded as the secret to becoming a better home cook, but not everyone is born with a cooking intuition. It can be taught, however, and there’s no better teacher than Andy Baraghani. I’ve been friends with Baraghani for over 10 years now, and he’s one of the few people I know whose cooking I would eat with no question — and that’s because he has a great cook’s knack for knowing just how to create simple but revelatory dishes.

In his first cookbook, called “The Cook You Want To Be,” the Bay Area native and former Bon Appétit food editor and video star not only shows readers how he cooks — with luxuriously vibrant photos of his colorful, enticing dishes — but how they can hone that instinct for themselves in their own everyday cooking.

The book jacket for "The Cook You Want to Be," by Andy Baraghani.
(Graydon Herriot)

In a crunchy salad of sliced fennel, he walks you through possible substitutes so that if you don’t have one of the requisite ingredients he calls for, you definitely have some analog that will bring the salty, fatty, spicy flavors he calls for to make the fennel pop. And in a lush braise of lamb shoulder, a bath of chiles, rosemary, orange peel and wine imbues the meat with bold flavors that are lightened by a tangy yogurt flavored with lemon, raisins and pistachios.

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Influenced by stints at Chez Panisse and top restaurants in New York, as well as his own Persian heritage, Baraghani’s cooking is simple, bold and inviting, and he shows a keen maneuvering of spices and herbs that brings otherwise simple vegetables or meats to life in a way that many other cooks can’t. And while all that may seem intimidating, don’t worry. He arms you with all the same skills he’s learned over the years so you can execute intrinsically lush and lively dishes just like him.

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