Fresh Tomato and Olive Aspic

Considered by many Southern hostesses to be the ultimate “party dish,” tomato aspic has been widely served at bridge luncheons and on buffets since the introduction of granulated gelatin more than a century ago. Unfortunately, most of the tomato aspics found today are overly sweet concoctions dependent on canned tomato juice (or V8) and Jell-O, a far cry from this classic, delectable version made with fresh, ripe tomatoes, olives, and tangy seasonings—and no trace of sugar. Since it’s a bore having to wait for the aspic to set in the refrigerator, I strongly suggest you make it a day in advance and chill it overnight.

Ingredients

  • 6 medium ripe tomatoes, cored and peeled
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon grated onion
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Dash of Tabasco sauce
  • 1 cup sliced pimento-stuffed green olives
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • 8 leaf lettuce leaves
  • Mayonnaise for garnish

Method

In a large bowl, press down the tomatoes to extract the juice and produce a wet pulp, pushing and squeezing with your fingers. Place half the pulp in a saucepan.

Pour off about 4 tablespoons of the tomato juice into a small bowl, add the gelatin, stir to soften, and stir into the pulp in the saucepan. Bring just to a boil, stirring till the gelatin is dissolved, then add the remaining pulp and stir well. Remove pan from the heat.

Add the lemon juice, vinegar, Worcestershire, onion, salt, and Tabasco to the pulp and stir well. Let cool, then chill till the mixture is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.

Add the olives and celery and stir till well blended. Scrape the mixture into a shallow baking dish or loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap, and chill at least 3 hours or overnight to set completely.

Serve the aspic in slices on lettuce leaves and top each portion with a dollop of mayonnaise.