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COOKING VIDEO: Make A Retro Gelatin Mold


Here’s a tribute to aspic: a savory, gelatin-like food made from meat or fish stock. A classic French dish created centuries before the day of commercial gelatin* it was very difficult to prepare. In the beginning, cooks relied on the natural gelatin found in the meat to make the aspic set. In modern times, unflavored gelatin is used to ensure success.

*Gelatin was made in ancient times by boiling the bones; powdered gelatin was invented in 1682 by Denis Papin. The concept of cooking it with sugar to make dessert dates to 1845 and an inventor named Peter Cooper.

Recipes dating back to the Middle Ages show that clarified meat broths were turned into transparent, savory jellies. To make aspic, beef, fish, pork or poultry is cooked slowly to make a dense consommé, which is strained and clarified with egg white until it is clear. The clarified broth is then molded, can be served sliced or diced, served with a salad or as a garnish with meat and fish.

In the days before refrigeration, aspic covering boned meat or fish kept the proteins from spoiling: The gelatin keeps out air and bacteria.

Vegetables, herbs, slices of meat or fish, sliced hard-cooked eggs and pieces of cheese can be added. Like the pretty Jell-O fruit molds that came much later, aspic was an opportunity for the cook to show off his or her creative skills.

There are also vegetable aspics, the most popular of which is tomato aspic, made with tomato juice and gelatin. Unlike regular conventional aspics, tomato aspic is opaque.

Aspic became popular in the early 20th century. Wealthy people had cooks who could spend the time to create them. Aspics were de rigeur on a buffet table.

But with the wane of heavy French cuisine in the 1960s, in favor of California cuisine and International fare, savory aspics faded away.

Make A Savory Aspic Or A Sweet Gelatin Mold

You can find recipes and create a classic recipe, but most Americans prefer sweetened gelatin molds. Try this classic, made with orange juice, pineapple juice, lemon juice, chopped oranges and shredded carrots—plus unflavored gelatin, sugar and salt. We like to add diced cucumber, celery and sliced radishes for crunch and reduce the sugar for more of a sweet-savory balance.

Gelatin molds are retro fun, and a cool dessert or snack in this hot weather. You can also serve it on the side with a green salad, or mound the salad on top of the sliced gelatin, as we showed in yesterday’s tip.

For classic savory aspics, take a look at:

  • Chicken Aspic
  • Gazpacho Aspic, a variation on tomato aspic by Emeril Lagasse
  • Poached Salmon In Aspic
  • Shrimp Aspic

    UPDATE: Dang it! Two days after we published this post, the orange-carrot recipe was removed from circulation—can’t imagine why! Here’s a similar recipe:



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    COOKING VIDEO: Watermelon Sorbet


    The only problem with watermelon sorbet is how difficult it is to find it. If you live near a motherlode, consider yourself fortunate.

    Otherwise, if you have an ice cream maker, you can make it yourself. So light and delicious, watermelon sorbet is more than worth the effort.

    Use red or yellow watermelon. Fortunately, a number of breeds have been hybridized so that there are just a few, white and very light, watermelon seeds. So you don’t have to de-seed the watermelon—a time savings that makes the rest of the recipe a breeze.

    Find more of our favorite sorbet recipes.



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    COOKING VIDEO: Vegetarian Italian Sausage


    Since this week’s Top Pick is the Veggie Patch vegetarian line, our weekly video recipe follows suit.

    These delicious vegetarian sausages are billed as vegetarian in the video, but they’re actually vegan—no animal-based ingredients are used. Even the special flavoring, Bill’s Best Chik’Nish Seasoning, is vegan.

    The meatless sausages are made with a base of gluten flour and garbanzo bean flour, plus all of the traditional Italian sausage seasonings: garlic, onion, chili flakes, fennel seeds, oregano, pepper and paprika.

    You don’t have to stuff sausage casings, either. Because the flours act as bonding agents, the ingredients form a dough that is hand-rolled into sausage shapes, then steamed.

    Make them for yourself, or as a gift for a vegetarian or vegan friend.



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    COOKING VIDEO: Healthy Chips And Dip


    As a nation, we love crunchy snacks and creamy dips. As calorie counters, we don’t.

    In this video, chef Curtis Stone shows how easy it is to make your own lowfat baked chips (commercial chips can have 30% fat) and lowfat, low-calorie dips.

    They taste good and keep you looking good (Chef Stone looks great!).

    See our Snacks Section with healthful snacks and recipes.



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    COOKING VIDEO: Easy Homemade Pasta Sauce


    Frankly, we’re surprised by the number of people we meet who cook at home, yet have never made pasta sauce from scratch.

    A basic pasta sauce couldn’t be easier. All you need is a lidded sauce pan and a wooden or silicone spoon. The ingredients are found in the kitchen of every person who cooks: a box of strained tomatoes (like Pomi; we spend extra for the superior flavor of San Marzano tomatoes), olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

    Most recipes recommend strained tomatoes (purée); but you can use chopped tomatoes for a chunky sauce, or purée them in your food processor.

    The only thing you may need to pick up is fresh basil and optional fresh parsley; but you can always fall back on oregano from your spice shelf.

    You can get more elaborate with subsequent batches, adding browned, chopped sausage or chopped meat; sautéed onions, mushrooms and/or bell peppers; chopped artichokes or sundried tomatoes.

    And then, let your creative sauces flow, adding whatever appeals to you to the basic pasta sauce. Anchovy paste? Blue cheese? Chipotles or jalapeños? Cream? Currants and slivered almonds with cardamom or curry? Lemon or orange zest? Pistachio nuts? Truffle oil (added at the end, not as cooking oil)? Vodka or tequila (stir in at the end)?

    The sky’s the limit. And as an extra piece of heaven, your homemade sauce won’t contain preservatives, added sugar or high fructose corn syrup—the sweeteners added to compensate for inferior tomatoes. Premium ripe tomatoes have plenty of natural sugars and require no added refined sugar.

    Use your homemade sauce on pasta, pizza, chicken or eggplant parmesan, grilled fish or seafood, meatball sandwiches, omelets, polenta and steamed veggies.

    Make a triple batch and freeze it in portion-sized containers so you can microwave-defrost it in minutes or bring it as a last-minute gift.

    But the goal is to make that first batch. Once you do, you’ll never go back to relying on supermarket pasta sauce.



    Love pasta? Check out the recipes and tips in our Pasta Section.

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