Perfection Salad



I admit that I hanker after nostalgia, especially when it comes to food and recipes. I collect old Hebrew cookbooks as well as English ones, and my shelves have spread beyond the kitchen to the small storeroom outside of our Jerusalem apartment.
Maybe it's a reflection of a wish to return to a simpler time. But lately, I got to thinking, what happened to all those gelatin molds?
Open any cookbook from the 1950s or even the '60s and you will find considerable sections devoted to gelatin. Gelatin was used as a medium for all manner of appetizers and salads as well as desserts.
Homemakers often boasted an array of molds for fancy gelatin-based creations. Mothers got children to eat fruit, too, when it was encased in red gelatin. My research has not yet led me to decipher if this gelatin trend was solely an American phenomenon.
Gelatin has, alas, fallen out of favor. Perhaps people have decided that it is not really a necessary part of one's cooking. But you truly can make some eye-appealing dishes with it, either using the plain, raw material or flavored packages.
And take it from me, no buffet in the 1950s or '60s would have been complete without a Perfection Salad. Its origins are shrouded in mystery.
Whipped Coconut Pareve Mold
3 packages (3.25 oz. each) strawberry gelatin dessert 
1 8-oz. container pareve whip 
1 cup flaked coconut
Dissolve gelatin in 3 cups boiling water. Add 11/2 cups cold water. After gelatin begins to thicken, whip pareve whip and fold into gelatin with coconut. Pour into mold and chill until firm.
Individual Fruit Medley Molds
11/4 cups hot water 
1 package (3.25 oz.) lemon-flavored gelatin dessert 
1/2 cup syrup, drained from fruit cocktail 
1 small diced banana 
3/4 cups sliced raspberries
Pour hot water over gelatin, stir until dissolved. Stir in the syrup. Chill, stirring occasionally, until mixture has the consistency of unbeaten egg whites. Fold into fruit.
Pour into 6 to 9 individual molds and chill until firm.
Perfection Salad
1 package (3.25 oz.) lemon or orange gelatin dessert 
1 cup finely chopped celery 
1 cup finely chopped cabbage 
1 small jar chopped pimentos 
1 Tbsp. finely chopped onion
Dissolve the gelatin dessert in two cups hot water and put in refrigerator until partially set.
When slightly firm, fold in other ingredients and return to refrigerator until firm before serving.
Coeur a la Crème
This recipe is courtesy of Birds Eye Strawberry Halves.
2 tsps. unflavored gelatin 
2 Tbsps. cold water 
1 lb. cottage cheese 
2 packages (3 oz. each) cream cheese 
1 cup heavy cream 
1 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar 
3 packages (10 oz. each) frozen strawberry halves
Soften the gelatin in cold water. Place over hot water until gelatin is dissolved.
Force cottage cheese through a fine sieve. Stir cream cheese until softened. Gradually blend in the cream. Stir in the sugar and cottage cheese, and then stir in gelatin.
Spoon into 1-quart mold or individual molds. Chill until firm.
Meanwhile, thaw strawberries as directed on package. Unmold cheese mixture. Top with strawberries.
Makes 33/4 cups, enough for 10 servings.
Rivka Tal is a former Minnesotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 45 years. She is a food writer and translator. Email her at: [email protected]


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