Day 307: Secret-Ingredient Wine & Fruit Salad ◄

Blame too many late nights thumbing through 1960s-era church cookbooks where every 'salad' recipe leads off with jello, gets fancy with tinned pineapple and closes with Cool Whip: when I learned the weekend's Paper Chef ingredients, a gelatin salad congealed (sorry!) in my head and wouldn't be jiggled out. 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.)
And soooo once the first bite was taken ... let's jiggle altogether, now please ... how did the wine and fruit salad turn out? First and most important, it was no salad: it was a dessert, a luscious, barely sweet but completely fruity and refreshing dessert. All the wine made for a small buzz, so there was no noticing the beets. (And a puree was absolutely the right call.) The fruit was soft and flavorful and cold. And the sour cream sauce? To die for. 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 Bookmark or print this recipe only 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 NUTRITION ESTIMATE After all that wine, you think I can figure this out? you think I care? ALANNA's TIPS
  • 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.
(c) Copyright 2006 Kitchen Parade
Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. You are just too funny! I enjoyed reading this piece immensely and now I'm also curious about what it tastes like...

  2. Fun post!

    I love your Aphrodiasic Sour Cream Sauce - in fact, change the honey to brown sugar and it's the sauce I make to dip fresh whole strawberries in! [Is it getting hot in here?]

  3. HELP! What can I do with key limes?

    Visit my blog and let me know:

  4. Roly-polyies in the gelatin mold! You are just too funny!

    I could probably do this with some agar instead of gelatin, but I'd probably just wind up drinking the wine. Thanks for an inventive and hilarious recipe! :-)

  5. Oh my goodness! This evokes lots of jiggly memories for me. Sounds really delicious. I grew up eating gelatin everyday and rolling up those roly pollies too!
    Thanks for the memories (and the recipe).

  6. I love your idea. My grandmother used to make sweet and savoury aspic like yours (minus the wine) when hosting dinner parties. I don't recall any of my parents making similar jellies but since I inherited my grandmother's aspic mould, I might try to revive the tradition at home on of these days.

    I am guessing the beet puree gives your dish an interesting texture. I also like your readiness to transform an idea for a savoury dish into a dessert.

  7. Let's see ... the words unique and creative come to mind. Wonderful post. I love your sense of humour and the photo is excellent!

  8. Word to the Wise: The beet flavor is much more pronounced/identifiable when the gelatin is at room temperature -- this should really be served very cold.

  9. Eep! Now I feel chastised! :-)

    Only one bottle of wine? Not two?

    Just kidding. It looks delicious!

  10. This is such a great idea to have made a molded dish! Your recipe is on my "to try" list. Great post!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna