Now that we live in Maine’s largely barren Mexican food landscape, it’s hard to believe that we ever got tired of the fresh tortillas, the stewed pork, and the achiote-everything that made up the bulk of our diet while living South of the Border. Eat anything long enough, though, and that’s what happens: a frustrated listlessness sets in, and no matter how plump the hominy in your pozole, no matter how pico your pico de gallo, what you really start to crave is a pizza. Or a bagel. Or a jar of dill pickles.
As our time in Mexico wound down, we found ourselves trying to recreate many of our favorite dishes from home right in our own kitchen. We became consumed with the “right” way to make pizza dough, with how to adapt our sometimes limited Mexican ingredients to create those staples that we missed so dearly. It’s largely where our interest in cooking was born; a desire to learn to make the definitive versions of a given dish, that would eventually spawn this website.
Though we weren’t here to witness it, there was a similar interest in these kinds of “do-it-yourself” cooking projects developing in America, which went hand in hand with our national economic collapse. As more and more people found themselves broke and with lots of time on their hands, a renewed interest in creating kitchen staples seemed to grip the hearts and minds of home cooks everywhere. Home canning and preservation, including jams and marmalades as well as homemade kimchi and gardineria, seemed to sweep over our collective consciousness all at once.
In response to this resurgence in interest, America’s Test Kitchen has released their first cookbook based on the popular “D.I.Y.” section of their daily blog, The Feed. A definitive source for thoroughly tested, successful recipes for almost 20 years, the America’s Test Kitchen D.I.Y. cookbook collects more than 100 kitchen projects, featuring everything from ketchup and corn chips to goat cheese and prosciutto.
We were immediately impressed by the thorough nature of the volume; the 360 page softcover book is rendered in full color, featuring beautiful step-by-step photographs and details covering every stage of each project, a clear reflection of the highly-visual nature of modern food blog design. Every recipe has been tested in the Test Kitchen’s 2,500 square foot facility in Boston, so you can be certain that the versions of each recipe presented in the D.I.Y. Cookbook have stood up to the rigors of the testing performed by ATK’s chefs.
In addition to the step-by-step instructions for each recipe, a brief introduction and plenty of sidebar content tell you not just how to work through a recipe, but the science of why each recipe works. In this way, the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook doesn’t just teach a collection of recipes; it teaches theory that can be applied to all of the cooking you do. And with the holidays approaching, there are plenty of homemade recipes to pad out your gift-giving; a batch of hot pepper jelly, wine jelly, coffee liquor, or homemade marshmallows are all welcome gifts at this time of year.
With an impressive array of D.I.Y. cooking projects, cooks of all skill levels will find a recipe to love in the America’s Test Kitchen D.I.Y. Cookbook. While it may be a while yet before I tackle making my own homemade sweet vermouth (a recipe that requires a staggering 26 spices, many of them special-order), it’s nice to know I can. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping myself busy with simpler recipes, like this candied ginger which I can make at home for about $3.00 a pound, instead of spending the $9 or $10 dollars per pound it costs to purchase ready-made.
Reprinted from The America’s Test Kitchen D.I.Y. Cookbook; Makes about 3/4 cup
- 2-1/4 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 8 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
- Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet. Combine 2 cups sugar and water in small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to simmer, stirring ocassionally, until sugar dissolves. Add ginger and simmer until tender and translucent, about 45 minutes. Strain through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl or large liquid measuring cup. Reserve syrup for later use.
- Transfer ginger to prepared wire rack and let dry until ginger is tacky and no longer damp, 6 to 12 hours.
- Combine dried ginger slices and remaining 1/4 sugar in medium bowl, and toss until ginger is lightly dusted with sugar. Transfer ginger to airtight container. Candied ginger can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.