In many Southern households, tomato aspic has gone the way of tuna casserole and ambrosia—curiosities at the back of the recipe box. It deserves better, says Elliott Moss, who believes gelatin and tomato still make an excellent pairing. The chef at Asheville’s Buxton Hall Barbeque has a collection of midcentury cookbooks and a fondness for the fruit-studded molds of cocktail parties past. “A lot of people are weirded out by aspics, but they’re just salads, and they’re pretty visually impressive,” he says. The base of Moss’s version is a quartet of fresh juices—tomato, watermelon, cucumber, and red pepper—that could easily double as a summertime cocktail mixer. He likes to serve the aspic with crackers, crudités, and a simple stir-together sauce of avocado and mayonnaise. The result is a cool, refreshing party dish that’s sure to win over the aspic averse.
Food & Drink
Tomato and Watermelon Aspic
A throwback appetizer with plenty of garden-fresh flavor
photo: Johnny Autry
2 1/2 cups fresh tomato juice (about 5 ripe tomatoes)
1 cup fresh watermelon juice (about 1/4 of a medium-size seedless melon)
1/2 cup seedless cucumber juice (about half of a cucumber)
1/2 cup red bell pepper juice (1 red bell pepper)
6 tbsp. champagne vinegar
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. Texas Pete hot sauce
3 pinches salt
2 oz. powdered gelatin
2 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1 handful fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup watermelon, diced
Juice first 4 ingredients. (If you have a juicer, this is a fine time to use it. If not, process each in a food processor for 1 minute, then strain liquid through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing to remove all liquid and discarding solids.)
Pour juices into a large bowl. Add vinegar, Worcestershire, hot sauce, salt, and diced jalapeño, whisking to combine. Pour half of liquid into a medium saucepan and heat on medium until just beginning to simmer. Remove from heat. Whisk in 1 oz. gelatin (four ¼-oz. envelopes). Whisk remaining gelatin into remaining juice. Pour warmed liquid into remaining liquid, whisking to combine.
Place a layer of tomato slices in a mold and pour a small amount of combined liquid (about ½–1 cup) into the mold. Place in refrigerator for 20–30 minutes to set first layer. Arrange basil leaves on top of set layer; pour ½–1 cup room-temperature juice-gelatin mixture on top of basil leaves (whisking first, if necessary). Place mold back in refrigerator for 20–30 minutes to set second layer. Arrange more tomato slices on top of set layer. Sprinkle with diced watermelon. Pour remaining juice-gelatin mixture (whisking first, if necessary) on top of tomato slices and watermelon. Cover mold and refrigerate.
To remove from mold and serve: Place mold in a bowl of warm water until the edges of aspic melt slightly. Lift mold from water; place serving platter on top of mold and invert. Carefully remove mold. Cover platter in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Recipe from Elliott Moss of Buxton Hall Barbeque in Asheville, North Carolina.
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