The concept was a grown-up side salad, a wine gelatin enriched with a beet puree, packed with soft fruit, lightly dressed in a lime and ginger sour-cream sauce.
I second-guessed the idea from first thought to first bite.
- All those cans! Heavens, what aspiring Paper Chef winner would use canned beets, canned peaches and canned pears (even if canned pears were requisite since barely ripe fresh pears were out of the question)? Only the grapes would be fresh, even if alarmingly expensive. (Oh dear, StephenCooks, I'm sorry! I do disappoint!)
- And the gelatin in the pantry was years old. "Does gelatin expire?" I wondered when it took two hours to begin to set. And then later, "Was three packets too much?" This jello had little jiggle.
- And two cans of pureed beets also seemed too much, but too late. And anyway, "Maybe I should have diced the beets?"
- And "What about more sugar?" The liquid tasted powdery and wine-sour.
- And then it made such a bunch, 10 whole cups and thus two more salads the size of the one photographed. (And who do you know who has three, even one, gelatin molds? My one mold was my mother's and has lived in the basement, collecting cobwebs and roly-polyies, for years.)
Never EVER in my life have I been tempted to eat a whole bowl of jello in a sitting. This was THAT good.
ABOUT PAPER CHEF ... Paper Chef is like FoodTV's IronChef competition except that all the cooking is done in kitchens across the world and all the observation and judging is done online. This month it's hosted by last month's champion, Slurp & Burp of Ottawa.
[Want to see what it takes to win? Here's his amazing all-day-long entry and all the contenders. Me? Even the NICE Mrs D didn't see fit to award my oh baby! quinoa pilaf with so much as an honorable mention. If I didn't know better, I'd feel chastised! Shouldn't Paper Chef be like kindergarten where everyone gets a participation ribbon??? ;-)]
But seriously. The four ingredients we're cooking with this month are beets, pears, lime and something aphrodisiac, for me that was the sour cream sauce. Since about noon on Friday, when the four ingredients were revealed, food bloggers all over the world have been scrambling to decide what to make, how to win the judge's favor, how to style the food for a glorious photograph, what words to stun Paper Chef followers into a weakened state of awe.
And it's all for such fun! Just click here over the next couple of days to keep up with who's contributing what -- then back over to Slurp & Burp in a few days for a round-up. You'll be amazed at the creativity, the adventurous spirit that will, well, make you wonder how anyone in his right mind -- with any sort of informed mind -- might call food blogs the culinary equivalent of a what-I-had-for-lunch-today cheese sandwich.
SPECIAL PRIZES ... Alas, I suspect that while this cook might aspire to be a CULINARY PICASSO, at best I am a HOME COOK and at worst a cheapskate, I mean, a thrifty SUPER SAVER. (Remember all those cans, guys? those beets were $.59 each, the fruit was on sale for $1.15 and the wine ... well the wine came from Trader Joe's so it's definitely in the under-ten buck department.) As for a reincarnation of INDIANA JONES, while it might not be apparent to most from my lowly bowl of jello, even if a wine-drunk and lusty bowl of jello, Paper Chef is the one time I allow myself to truly play with food. And I LOVE it!)
NUTRITION NOTES ... Diet food this is not, thanks to the wine. And it's not appropriate for children or adults for whom alcohol is off limits.
NEXT TIME ... Will there be a next time? Are you kidding? There are two bowls left in the frig! All I need is some more of that love sauce!
FROM THE ARCHIVES ... For prior Paper Chef and other online food event entries, see here in the Recipe Box.
WINE, BEET & FRUIT SALAD so-good-that-it's DESSERT
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Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Time to table: 24 hours
Makes 10 cups
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin (sorry, didn't note how much is in an envelope)
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup water
Stir gelatin and sugar in a small saucepan, add 1 cup of water, then gently warm over low heat until gelatin dissolves. Transfer to a large bowl.
1 cup water
2 tablespoons lime juice (from 2 limes)
1 bottle fruity wine such as a dry rose or for here, an Italian zinfandel
Add another 1 cup water, lime juice and wine. Chill until just beginning to set, this took a couple of hours but after an hour I checked every 15 minutes. It should be thick enough that it's not lumpy but not so thin the fruit will fall to the bottom.
2 15-ounce cans of beets, drained
While the gelatin chills, puree the beets in a food processor until smooth. Drain the puree in a colander.
15-ounce can pear chunks
15-ounce can peach chunks
Enough green grapes, halved, to fill an empty can
(Mandarin oranges would be good too)
While the gelatin chills, drain the fruit in a colander.
Very lightly grease a gelatin mold with vegetable oil. Gently stir the beet puree and drained fruit into the still-firming gelatin. (To get fancy, you might try to arrange the fruit on the bottom.) Pour into the mold and refrigerate until firm.
To unmold, fill the sink with a couple of inches of warm water. Place the mold in the water for about 10 seconds, put the serving plate on top of the mold and quickly but gently invert. If the gelatin doesn't unmold immediately, return it to the warm water for 5 seconds, repeat as necessary. (Because of the puree, this took only one time in the warm water to easily unmold.) Place the serving plate in the frig. Serve with sauce on the side.
APHRODISIAC SOUR CREAM SAUCE
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
Pinch of ginger
After all that wine, you think I can figure this out? you think I care?
- When you see this ◄ in the title and the Recipe Box, you know the recipe's a personal favorite. Tastes vary, of course, but the mark is one indication of another vegetable recipe that's worth paying attention to.