I’ve been kind of on a gelling kick lately, due to the combined influences of hot weather and a clamorous child with a vivid culinary imagination. When made using judicious restraint with the proportion of gelatin and fresh, mostly local ingredients, the result is a world away from the ghastly neon cubes and quivering, striated, molded “salads” that have stigmatized the genre so thoroughly.
Using minimal gelatin makes for a silkier, more giving texture, and sheet gelatin is superior to powdered. I took whole local strawberries, puréed with a splash of limoncello (made by friends) and pushed them through a strainer; whole fruit adds a wonderfully rich texture to the bite. And the flavor is stunningly clear. Making this a treat that appealed just as much to grown-ups as to the mouthy enthusiastic originator of the strawberry gel idea was a layer of puréed (non-local, obviously) lychees that I blended with a drop each of vanilla and maple syrup; it seemed that the combination would do something dusky and mysterious to the bright lychee flavor. Once both layers were set, I cut small rectangles and served them garnished with lime thyme leaves and thyme flowers, pouring a bit more of the limoncello around them in the adult bowls.
First off, lychees and strawberries get all kinds of busy together. Second, the maple-vanilla notes combined with the lychee mixture were chock full of unctuous, jammy win. Herb flowers and lemony booze added elitist, America-hating notes of effete sophistication and smug self-satisfaction. What else could you ask for from dessert? Also!