Pico de Gallo Gelee

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell
pico aspic, tomato aspic, tomato gelatin

With all the ripe tomatoes available right now you can’t get too many great summer tomato recipes. How about these ideas to change up the sliced tomato summer salad:

Pico de Gallo Gelee–or fresh salsa jell-o. Aspic doesn’t have to be cut into cubes or put into a mold. Serve it free-form in soft lumps with watercress, olive oil, and sea salt.


Tomato nostalgia. Why not get right into it and put steakhouse-size slabs with some crisp bacon, thin red onion, and homemade, salad bar-style dressings mixed with good mayo. For your ranch and blue cheese, use half mayo to half buttermilk. For the 1000 Island, spoon in some chili sauce and pickle relish. That’s all.

Yin-yang tomato. A Cheater Chef summer tomato platter is a foodie cred must. On your favorite round dish do a yin-yang pattern with half yellow tomatoes and half any variety of red. Sprinkle fresh purple basil over yellows and green basil over reds. And do take a picture because if it’s not on Facebook, it didn’t happen.

Tomato and watercress (the new arugula). No doubt this classic combination is ready for some attention. Peppery, crunchy cress sitting beneath or tossed with tomato slices is a sophisticated combo alone or as the base for summer chilled tuna, chicken or egg salad. Double up on the peppery bite by tossing in thin rounds of radishes.

Cherry tomato. And if things weren’t good enough already, how about the selection of cherry tomatoes we get — striped ones, greenish red ones, orange ones, pear-shaped ones, and even cherry Bradleys. A few little orbs scattered over cut tomato slices in various colors is so Alice Waters. You know the drill on the dressing.

Raw ratatouille.  Pretty much everything else is in season now, too. Toss chopped tomatoes with cheap mandolin, paper thin zucchini discs, bell pepper strips, and red onion slices. Now, shape this raw salad’s persona to echo your inner chef – use choice olive oils and vinegars and fancy salts. Or, use regular ones. That’s the great thing about the kitchen. It’s all about you.

Caprese update. Tomatoes, fresh mootz, basil. We like what you’re thinking. But, switch out the cheese and herb once in a while with salty feta, creamy goat, or dollops of homemade sharp cheddar pimiento cheese. Fresh chives, oregano, marjoram, mint – it all works.

Yet another “easy” salad. Toss chopped tomato, onion, cucumber, and herbs with warm brown rice. Another reason for keeping a brown rice routine. You can keep a batch cooked in the fridge Again, the best dressing is olive oil, salt, fresh ground pepper, and vinegar.  Serve the salad in big bowls, especially when topping with sliced grilled chicken breast or salmon.

The over-rip tomato. Since it is September, bet you periodically have a tomato that’s too soft to eat lying on the counter or one that split on the vine. If you do, check out our Over-Ripe Tomato Vinaigrette recipe. Always a favorite.

Tuesday night tacos.  Suddenly not so plain now that we’re mixing up vats of fresh pico de gallo. No matter the meal, Mexican, whatever, juicy tomato pico balances out and picks up everything from grilled meats to a cornbread and beans vegetable supper.

–The pico.  Combine chopped fresh tomatoes—mix up every variety and color—chopped white or green onion, chopped cilantro, lime juice, chopped jalapeno peppers, and a good sprinkling of salt. Pico really benefits from some time in the refrigerator – cold, nice, and juicy. But, wait, there’s more. 

Go a short step further and make Pico de Gallo Gelee. Combine fresh ripe tomato pico with some extra pico juice and a packet of unflavored gelatin. Just strain your pico and you’ll get plenty of juice. You’ll need two cups of each, pico and pico juice. Put that ancient tomato aspic made from lemon Jell-O and tomato juice from a can out of your head. This is way cool. 

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