A is for Aspic

        I know that lovely copper ring looks a lot like a Bundt pan but if you saw it in person, size would rule that out.

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        I first saw this odd pan on a visit to grandmother Helen’s shortly after I moved to Denver, the city neighboring Helen’s long-time home. She was living in the local PEO house along with a handful of other elderly characters (I always joked that they should start a detective agency or something). I remember her ushering me into her minimal kitchen and pulling out this pan/mold thing in excitement.
“This is an aspic mold. Do you know what aspic is?” she said.
Of course I didn’t know what it was.
I don’t remember how she described it but she immediately pulled a newspaper clipped out of a pile and presented me with a recipe for Tomato Aspic.
“I think you’d really like this.” She said. “It’s just so fresh and nice and has all these lovely crunchy vegetables in it.”

We talked about tomato aspic for a while. Oh how I wish I’d had a tape recorder with me!

After she died I thought about aspic a lot. It came to symbolize the last months of my relationship with me grandmother. I always thought it was odd that she’d shown me the mold and the recipe but had not given them to me. Maybe she knew they’d be mine soon anyway. Maybe it was some kind of a test to see if I could connect the two items later when they turned up among her possessions.

I could have cried when I pulled the tarnished copper mold out of a cardboard box at my dad’s house earlier this summer. It was here! I hadn’t imagined the whole tomato aspic conversation! If only I could find the recipe she’d shown me…but it was there too! I recognized the yellowed newsprint as soon as I saw it. At that point I knew what Helen wanted. She wanted me to make tomato aspic, to try something new a different, and to think of her.

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Unfortunately, I had kind of a hard time getting my aspic out of the mold. Any advice for a molded salad newbie?..But look how red and beautiful it is!

Tomato Aspic
From Menu Planner Cookbook by Miriam B. Loo (reprinted in an unknown newspaper)

The fresh taste of tomato comes through in this deep red aspic.”

2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cool chicken broth (your own or canned)
4 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into fine strips (I used 3 different small heirloom tomatoes and the colors were beautiful!)

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over chicken broth and soften for 10 minutes.
Combine tomato juice, celery, scallions, Worcestershire sauce, celery seed, salt, sugar, and white pepper in a saucepan.
Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add softened gelatin and stir until dissolved.
Set saucepan in cold water and stir until mixture is cool (I put a few inches of water in the sink).
Fold in tomatoes.
Rinse a decorative 2 qt ring mold with cold water, pour in tomato mixture.
Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Unmold and serve on lettuce leaves with the following dressing.

Dill-Mayonnaise Dressing (I didn’t make this dressing. I used Annie’s ranch dressing instead.)

1/2 cup real mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed.

Blend all ingredients well ad let stand for an hour to develop flavors.

What did Lee and I think of the aspic? Well, it was different that’s for sure. My mold was too small for the whole recipe so poured the rest into two small bowls and we ate that with grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner (it was like tomato soup and grilled cheese!). I served the aspic over a green salad with ranch dressing and it was a great combination of flavors and textures. The aspic was much more intensely tomato-y than I expected it to be. It was a little too intense for Lee. He made me promise only to serve tomato aspic in very small quantities in the future.

I will be making this again. Maybe for a potluck because it’s just so strange and retro.

3 Comments

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3 Responses to A is for Aspic

  1. Pingback: » Lunch in the Sun not so skinny

  2. You are so brave. The word “aspic” scares me, partly because “molded salad” sounds terrifying and partly because the word itself has a lethal ring to it, similar to “arsenic.” But this looks awesome! The color really is beautiful, and I love love love that mold. I’m glad you were able to make it in honor of your grandmother, even if isn’t perfect. She’d be proud!

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