Originally posted November 24, 2009
I approached Jellied Waldorf Salad with some trepidation. I’m not especially fond of Waldorf salad anyway, nor really any salad that combines sweet and savory ingredients. I find them disturbingly ambiguous, and prefer a salad to be either straight-on vegetables with a simple dressing of oil, vinegar, pepper, and maybe some grated cheese, or a nice fruit salad suitable for breakfast or a summer dessert. I figured, if Waldorf salad is disturbing on its own, it will be even more so in the form of a Jell-O dish.
In a way that was almost soothing, this was boringly easy to make. I had bought a bag of Trader Joe’s “baking walnuts” (i.e., pre-chopped) so the only prep work was chopping the celery and an apple, and the apple didn’t even need to be peeled. (Thank goodness.) I made a batch of orange Jell-O, chilled it over an ice water bath until it was very thick, folded in the chunky ingredients, and poured it all into a pre-lubed mold. The only weirdness was that while the recipe said to pour it into a four-cup mold, the whole thing seemed to fit nicely into a two-cup mold. That was all right – that meant it would be smaller and easier to eat.
Since I used my straight-sided mold, it was easy to slide a knife around the outside to loosen it, and it unmolded without the need of a hot water bath. It always does my heart good to have a mold turn out without a pool of melted gelatin in the bottom of the plate. As you can see, it looks pretty crunchy-granola, but it set up nice and firm, and it was easy to cut off pieces for Bryan and me to try.
First of all, I have to say that it isn’t nearly as bad as we were expecting. It turned out like a sort of fruit-and-nut aspic, with the Jell-O serving mainly to bind together the apple, celery, and walnuts. I diced the celery fairly fine, so it wasn’t’t very assertive but mostly complemented the apple chunks. Jell-O is certainly less objectionable when it’s dominated by “real food” ingredients, and the whole thing had a healthful texture and flavor, in kind of a good way. Even better, the Jell-O I used was sugar-free, so I’ll probably be having this for breakfast for a couple of days.
The recipe says you can serve this with mayonnaise thinned with honey, but that, Bryan said, would have made it really nasty. My one real regret here is that there’s no “presentation.” The recipe says to serve it on a bed of greens, and I didn’t even do that. This leaves it confusingly “bi-.” It’s not exactly a dinner salad but it’s not exactly “desserty” either. It tasted fine and all, but this stuff just bugs me.
Bryan pointed out that it’s a bit like charoset, a dish made for the Passover seder that represents the mortar with which the Jewish slaves worked in Egypt before Moses led them into the desert. I’m thinking my faithful readers might want to be sure to tune in sometime between 30 March 2010 and 6 April 2010 to see where I end up going with that...
October 1, 2017, ETA: The inclusion of orange Jell-O makes this an Orange Boycott post, and donations will be duly made to Planned Parenthood and the International Rescue Committee. Given everything that’s been happening lately, I’ll also be making a contribution to the One America Appeal for hurricane relief.
Fresh Fruit Salad comes around in an interesting confluence of events. It happens to be an Orange Boycott recipe (I substituted lime Jell-O for orange) on a weekend when I wound up going to a counter-protest at the Boston Common to oppose a so-called “free speech rally” organized by some right-wingers who evidently felt that this was a good thing to do even so soon after Charlottesville. Planning for this rally had been underway since before violence erupted in Charlottesville, VA last weekend in the wake of a “Unite the Right” demonstration that included out-and-proud white supremacists and neo-Nazis. While smarter people might have at least postponed a rally that was planned to include many speakers who had appeared in Charlottesville, Boston Free Speech decided to go ahead with it.
The thing is, counter-protests mobilized pretty quickly, and the permit that was granted to Boston Free Speech mid-week required that they not carry weapons, or anything that could be used as a weapon (such as poles for flags). The organizers had to ask possible attendees not to bring neo-Nazi and Confederate paraphernalia (for appearances’ sake). Meanwhile, scheduled speakers were being uninvited (the most controversial ones) or dropping out. I guess not being allowed guns or swastikas made the whole thing not much fun for potential participants, and a few dozen rally-goers hung in there for less than an hour before being escorted away from the Common by police (for their own safety).
Bryan and I were running late, and ended up getting to the Common a short while after the rally-goers had left. The counter-protesters were carrying on with a sort of impromptu peace rally, which was upbeat and jubilant. There was a bunch of bicycle cops in the buffer zone looking bored, and beyond the buffer zone an empty space around the empty bandstand. We wandered around for a while, and the worst thing I witnessed personally was a guy letting his dog paddle around in the Frog Pond right in front of a sign saying that this was not allowed. I know there were some altercations that happened after we left, but no one was seriously hurt and the number of arrests was somewhere between “the Red Sox won a home game” and St. Patrick’s Day. I left the house expecting to fight Nazis and wound up just taking a long walk on a brilliant summer afternoon.
And then I returned home to another Jell-O recipe. Fresh Fruit Salad is, I would say, a variant on Waldorf salad. Chopped apples, halved grapes (dammit, fussing around with grapes again!) and chopped pecans get mixed into a bavarian made with lemon Jell-O, two-thirds cup sour cream, and one-third cup mayonnaise. (I know that one reader has a photo of someone vomiting copiously that he keeps for occasions like this.) This gets molded with plain gelatin (orange in the recipe, lime in my case) on the bottom and top, so that it looks more appetizing.
Preparing this was fairly routine, though I was annoyed by the timing of it. I had to leave the bavarian part in the fridge for a while, longer than it would take me to do the washing up and make the plain Jell-O, so I had to just wait around. It ended up thickening more quickly than I’d expected, so I ended up having to leave it out on the counter while I prepared the lime Jell-O. With the lime, I had to put some of it in the bottom of the mold and chill until thickened but not set (a half-hour, per the recipe), and then thicken the remaining Jell-O, spoon the bavarian into the mold, and put the rest of the Jell-O on top. I admit it, I got impatient with the first lime layer, as you can see in the photo. Time management has been a challenge for me lately, anyway, and this recipe made me feel especially inadequate.
I left the unmolding and tasting until after I’d gotten back from the gym today, so that I would be hungry and this recipe would stand the best possible chance to be appetizing. I have to say it didn’t look too bad once I’d unmolded it, and frankly, I think lime was a better choice than orange anyway.
Unfortunately, for eating it wasn’t so nice. I didn’t think it was all that bad, even though the mayonnaise flavor really predominated in the bavarian layer, but that may have been the post-gym hunger talking. I still think nuts don’t belong in Jell-O. Bryan, on the other hand, described it as “really unpleasant”, and actually picked all of the bits of fruit out of the bavarian layer and ate what he could of the lime Jell-O, leaving a nasty heap of bavarian-style jelly in his bowl.
Fresh Fruit Salad appears in a photo in the book – on a wedding buffet table where all the dishes are made with Jell-O, also featuring Salmon Dill Mousse and Creamy Bleu Cheese Salad. I feel bad for the happy couple. If it was the mother of the bride who planned this wedding, that groom is in for a bad time with his mother-in-law.
Originally posted November 22, 2009
One of the things I’m trying to do to make this Project as un-arduous as possible is to make recipes when fresh ingredients are in season. Since this is the beginning of the holiday season, readers should prepare themselves for the onslaught of apples, cranberries, and (ugh) dried fruit.
Contrary to the name of the recipe, this is more like poached apples. The basic idea is to make Jell-O (strawberry in this case), season it with lemon slices and a cinnamon stick, and simmer the apples in it. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Again, I have only myself to blame for any wrong turnings in this endeavor. The main problem stemmed from the kind of apple I used, namely, the ones that happened to be in the refrigerator. The recipe called for six baking apples, and there were six apples in the fridge. Bryan bought them, so I wasn’t sure what kind they were, and I really should have been more careful. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
As I peeled and cored the apples the slow, laborious way, with a paring knife, I felt myself getting in tune with the mindset of housewives who typically resort to cookbooks like The New Joys of Jell-O. I quickly lost patience with the chore and wished there was an easier way to achieve the same result. Also, coring apples with a paring knife is a pain in the ass. I had set up the rest of the mise en place and left the apples for last. Since I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to prepare them, I didn’t start the Jell-O poaching liquid until I was well into it, but it turned out that I was over-cautious in that regard, and the apples were already starting to turn a little brown by the time I set them into the saucepan with the liquid, where they were to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, being basted and turned occasionally. The aroma from the apples cooking in the Jell-O was not at all unpleasant, but at the same time it reminded me overwhelmingly of the gift shop section of Cracker Barrel, which was confusing. I have mixed feelings about Cracker Barrel.
Suddenly, sugary bubbles were starting to fizz up from under the saucepan lid – the apples had gotten past the simmer zone, and when I lifted the lid to check them, four of the six apples had cooked down to shapeless mush. I had used the wrong kind of apples. It was pure, undeserved luck that when the simmering was done there were two apples that had retained enough structure to be used in the photograph.
The recipe called for the apples to be chilled until set, about an hour, before serving. They were in the fridge for longer than that, but they hadn’t set, and that was okay. I garnished the two “good” dishes with scoops of Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream, and it was actually a toothsome little number. My only real complaint was that the cinnamon flavor wasn’t strong enough. (I think the GF R&D drones must have been pretty timid about seasonings as a rule.) Bryan thought it would have been better with some sort of crumble topping, but allowed that this was one of the more palatable entries so far. It almost didn’t taste like a Jell-O dessert, except for the funky aftertaste. The bright red color was vintage 1970s.
I ran out of breakfast cereal and ended up eating the remaining two dishes of what turned out to be strawberry Jell-O applesauce for breakfast for the next couple of days. Nummy nummy num!
A Fun Link
Online acquaintance M– pointed me in the direction of a blog entry giving directions for making a gruesome meat hand using the hand-shaped mold. It’s so awesomely creepy it almost makes me wish I wasn’t “mostly vegetarian.” Check it out!