You might think of this as really thick salsa. Or maybe as Jello for the main course. Or as something like cranberry sauce — it’s made of fruit (tomatoes are fruit), it’s jellied, and it’s meant to be served along with meat or another main dish. However you look it at, this side dish is perfect for dinner on a hot night, packing both coolness and spice.
Aspic has been largely unknown for years — a friend nearly as old as me had never heard of it — but I’m not sure why. Maybe the availability of instant gelatin desserts let home cooks forget about making their own gelatin dishes. (Though why the Jello company didn’t start making instant aspic mix, I’m not sure either.) Anyway, you can still find unflavored gelatin at the store, probably with the baking supplies rather than the dessert mixes.
Gelatin’s derived from the collagen in some animal by-products, which is why, sometimes when you’re making stock by boiling bones and meat scraps, it will come out so thick that it turns to jelly in the fridge. That’s an alternate way to make aspic, but a much trickier one.
Since there’s no collagen in tomatoes, here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 packet unflavored gelatin*
- 1 cup + ¼ cup tomato juice
- 1 cup medium salsa
- Combine the juice and salsa. A measuring cup is good for this, as you can easily pour the mixture when it’s time.
- If you want to use more juice and less salsa, or vice versa, it’s a matter of taste, as long as you end up with two cups.
- Put some water on to boil.
- Pour the ¼ cup of juice into a medium bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over it.
- Try to do this more evenly than I did! You want the juice to soak up the gelatin.
- Pour a ¼ cup of the boiling water onto the juice/gelatin mixture. Mix with a whisk, egg beater, or mixer until the mixture is dissolved in the boiling water.
- This can take up to two minutes; don’t get impatient and quit before you’ve got an even mixture with no gelatin granules floating around.
- Add the juice/salsa mixture and keep mixing. When it’s all combined, you can either pour it into a mold or just put the bowl in the fridge to set. It will take several hours; it’s best to leave time overnight.
- Of course, small amounts set faster, so you could also pour it into individual dishes. According to the Knox gelatin package, a metal container will cool faster than a glass or plastic one.
- You can unmold this, or just dish it out of the bowl for a casual meal. The salsa vegetables may seem to have disappeared, but they’ve just sunk to the bottom (the top if you unmold it).
- Anyway, it’s hot and cool, so enjoy.
- *A packet equals a tablespoon; you’re probably not using loose gelatin, but if you ever use a recipe from pre-packet days, it can help to remember this.