Fresh Tomato Aspic

While aspics have been around for centuries, tomato aspic got its rise in America in the 1950s as a ruby-red centerpiece of tomato juice and gelatin. Sometimes these congealed salads were studded with green olives or chunks of celery, while other times they were molded into rings and finished with a scoop of chicken or shrimp salad in the center.
We gave the luncheon mainstay a makeover by using fresh tomatoes, herbs, and our secret ingredient—watermelon. 

While molded salads have fallen out of fashion and may even receive a turned-up nose today, we’d encourage you to give it a try. Our staff is thrilled to have rediscovered this old star of the 1950s.

Fresh Tomato Aspic
Makes 1 (8×4-inch) loaf
  • 1½ pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, chopped
  • 1½ cups diced watermelon
  • 2 large stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 (1-ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 to 4 teaspoons hot sauce
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon firmly packed light brown sugar
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 medium heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • ⅓ cup halved heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • Horseradish Sour Cream (recipe follows)
  • Garnish: halved cherry tomatoes, fresh basil leaves
Horseradish Sour Cream
  • ⅓ cup full-fat sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground horseradish
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. In the work bowl of a food processor, combine chopped tomatoes, watermelon, and celery; process for 1 minute. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl. Strain vegetable mixture, pressing to release juices; discard solids. Measure 4½ cups vegetable juice; reserve any remaining juice for another use.
  2. In a large bowl, place ½ cup vegetable juice. Sprinkle gelatin over juice, and let stand.
  3. In a small pot, bring vinegar, hot sauce, salt, brown sugar, lemon juice, and remaining 4 cups vegetable juice to a simmer over medium heat. Pour over gelatin mixture; whisk until gelatin is fully dissolved.
  4. In an 8×4-inch metal loaf pan, arrange 2 tomato slices, a few cherry tomato halves, and a few basil leaves. Pour enough gelatin mixture over vegetables to barely cover. (You may need to push tomatoes down into gelatin mixture once poured.) Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  5. Arrange remaining tomatoes and remaining basil over set mixture. Pour remaining gelatin mixture over tomatoes. Refrigerate until fully set, about 4 hours.
  6. To remove, dip mold in warm water for a few seconds. Invert onto a serving platter. Garnish with tomatoes and basil, if desired. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice and serve with Horseradish Sour Cream.
Horseradish Sour Cream
  1. In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
KITCHEN TIP: Serve a slice of aspic on toasted bread with a light slathering of mayo, fresh cracked pepper, and additional fresh basil leaves. Trust us, it’s likely to be the best tomato sandwich you’ve ever made.