Because I just can’t resist stuff like this, here’s some Jell-O trivia:
- In Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 silent film "The Ten Commandments," Jell-O was used to create the effect of keeping the Red Sea parted as the Israelites fled Egypt.
- In "The Wizard of Oz," the horse that changed colors was actually six horses sponged down with Jell-O.
- The sound of E.T. walking was made by someone squishing her hands in Jello.
- Five jello flavours that flopped: celery, coffee, cola, apple and chocolate
- The most popular jello flavor is strawberry
- Cranberry Jello is only sold in November and December and is the only jello flavor that comes from real fruit, not artificial flavoring
- There is actually a jello museum: http://www.jellomuseum.com
Still, 72% of us use it regularly in our homes. I know I do. I always have several boxes of sugar free orange in my pantry.
And let's not forget molded Jell-O salads. Come on, fess up- you know you’ve made at least one. My Dad loved a bing cherry Jell-O salad and I was obligated to make it several times a year for him. Then I found some other really old recipes: for a strawberry molded salad; a lime/lemon pineapple salad; a cucumber molded salad- well I’m not going to admit how many I found. We used everything imaginable (and even some things that were downright frightful) in those molded Jell-O salads. They were king in the 50’s. My sister used to make a dessert with a graham cracker crust using 3 Jell-O flavors, cubed, and combined in a sauce made with lemon Jell-O, pineapple juice and whipped cream. Kids loved it. Kids always love Jell-O. They still do. Some things never change.
I don't think many of us make Jell-O molded salads anymore– thankfully. And I haven't seen one on a buffet table for years. I guess we’ve become way too sophisticated. And aside from the sugar free I eat when I am in starvation mode, I don’t stock Jell-O in my pantry. Gelatin, yes. Regular Jell-O, no.
A few nights ago I was wading through the recipe folder labeled “to try” and guess what I found? A contemporary version of Jell-O: Gelée. The recipes and photos were in a June 2001 issue of Gourmet magazine. One was a Grape and Elderflower Gelée and the other was a Rosé-Peach Gelée (which sounded heavenly). The photographs were supposedly of a summer tea party- the table looked luscious.
And finally, one more gelée recipe, this one for a Passion Fruit Gelée with a basil-infused cream top. How divine. This one in Gourmet, June 2006. The powers that be at Gourmet must really be taken with gelées-all sorts. Or maybe it's just because they photograph beautifully.In this case Gourmet referred to the recipe as an “old potluck-supper standby, gelatin goes haute”. Not having any elegant tea parties in the offing but admitting I do adore passion fruit-which is quite tart- I decided to give this a try. Unlike the large molded gelées in the previous photo, this recipe would be simple to cut in half without ruining the presentation, just in case I hated it and had to dump the lot. Of course, I didn’t have those magnificent tall glasses to work with but dug out some smaller juice glasses I thought might work. Gourmet suggested tilting the glasses in an egg carton in the refrigerator. (After all, we mustn't have this look like actual Jell-O.) I couldn’t quite get that to work with my footed glasses, so I just put some dishtowels down in the refrigerator, put the glasses on it and then tilted them against the side of the refrigerator. It worked just fine. So forget the egg carton, it's just an accident waiting to happen unless you have a set of perfectly shaped glasses.
The combination of flavors was really delicious; tart passion fruit in the same mouthful with an herbal, slightly sweet, jelled cream. Of course, not only did Gourmet suggest you tilt the glasses for visual impact, but the flavors do need to be tasted together. I was lucky to find passion fruit nectar in the Looza brand as suggested by the magazine- because much of what my market carried either was a mixture of passion fruit and other juices or not really a nectar, therefore much too sweet- which defeats the flavor absolutely. So I really have to advise you not to make this without finding the Looza brand. This company makes several other flavors which you could substitute, but you won't find them quite as tart. Passion Fruit Gelée makes such a pretty presentation and all ages will appreciate the delicate meld of flavors. I bet you have some prettier glasses to use too.
Passion Fruit Gelée with Basil Cream
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup water
2 cups passion fruit nectar (Looza brand is best)
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups well chilled heavy cream
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons water
Make the gelée: Sprinkle 2 teaspoons gelatin over cool water in a small saucepan for 1 minute. Melt over low heat, stirring until gelatin dissolves. Remove from heat and add passion fruit nectar 1 tablespoon at a time until gelatin mixture is cool. Then whisk in remaining nectar.
Chill, stirring off and on, over ice cubes until it reaches the consistancy of egg whites. Take a dishcloth and put it in the refrigerator. Partially fill some glasses and then place them on the towel, tilting them against the refrigerator side. Let set until firm.
Make the basil cream: Pulse basil, sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Tranfer to a bowl and add cream. Sprinkle gelatin over the cool water for 1 minute until softened. Heat to melt. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of the basil mixture at a time until the gelatin is cool. Then whisk in remaining basil mixture. Pour through a fine sieve. Chill over ice cubes.
This is an important step: hold glasses at an angle while filling with the basil mixture, slowly righting the glass. Chill until set.