Felonious Gelatinization

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!

5 comments to Felonious Gelatinization

  • Zoomie

    Peter, only you could raise Jell-o to gourmet level. You rock!

  • cookiecrumb

    That looks nice.
    I'm resorting to the freezer to capture fruit on a plate… if I don't eat it fresh, first.

  • butterface

    you know I try to avoid inflating your already enormous ego with praise, but this is actually quite lovely. Strawberries and lychees are a power couple, and I have a weakness for all things gelatinized.
    Well played.

  • peter

    Zoomie: No, not only I. Not by a long shot.

    CC: Well, you don't have a small child who makes all fruit vanish with alarming speed.

    Katie Holmes: It's not the size of the ego, it's what you do with it.

  • Ken

    That looks like Howard's crystal; I love it!


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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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