The aspic will be a deeper shade of red if made with canned tomatoes (see cooks' note, below), but fresh tomatoes will yield a brighter flavor.

1/2 cup coarsely chopped shallots
3 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 lb plum tomatoes, cored, quartered, and puréed in a blender
2 tablespoons sugar
13/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground celery seeds
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup vodka
2 tablespoons gelatin (from three 1/4-oz envelopes)
Vegetable oil for greasing pan
Special equipment: a double layer of rinsed and squeezed cheesecloth

Cook shallots and celery in olive oil in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add puréed tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, and celery seeds and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes. Pour tomato mixture through a sieve lined with dampened cheesecloth into a clean 3-quart saucepan, pressing hard on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids. Bring tomato broth just to a boil, then remove from heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce.
While tomato broth comes to a boil, stir together lemon juice and vodka in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over vodka mixture. (Spoon vodka mixture over any powdered gelatin remaining on top.) Let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.

Lightly oil a 1 1/2- to 2-quart nonreactive shallow baking pan (2 inches deep).

Add gelatin mixture to hot tomato broth, stirring until gelatin is dissolved. Pour into baking pan and chill, uncovered, until firm, at least 6 hours.

To unmold aspic, run a small sharp knife around edge, then dip baking pan into a larger pan of warm water, 15 to 20 seconds. Put a cutting board over baking pan, then carefully invert aspic onto board and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

Cooks' notes:
• You can substitute 2 (28-oz) cans plus 1 (14- to 15-oz) can whole tomatoes with juice (use the juice) for the fresh tomatoes.
• Aspic can be chilled up to 24 hours.

Makes 8 servings.


June 2005

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