Tomato, Basil and Goat Cheese Gelatin Salad

July 1, 2010 · 28 comments

filed in: Dairy,Gluten-Free,Salads,Side Dishes,Vegetables

Tomato, Basil and Goat Cheese Gelatin Salad

I love jello. There, I actually said it. And I’ve never understood why it’s considered déclassé. It’s cool and refreshing in summer. It can be made with any number of fresh fruits, juices, vegetables, or seafoods. It’s pretty and fun to make. And finally, it jiggles. What’s not to love there?

This recipe for a retro-style tomato, basil, and goat cheese gelatin salad was inspired by a slapstick-like dinner we recently had at our house. We have a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes in our garden now and used them, for a change, to make our favorite variation on Caprese salad. However, these tiny tomatoes kept rolling off our plates when we attempted to spear them, and we wound up eating the salad with our hands. Through the laughter, it occurred to me that encasing the salad in a 1950s-style vegetable stock aspic would make it both easier to eat and be suitably summery too. And the result of this recipe experiment? This salad requires considerably more preparation time than a conventional fresh tomato, basil, and goat cheese salad, and its flavor is roughly the same. But it would work well when a special, make-ahead summer salad is needed that generates both smiles and wows.

This salad can be made in a 6-cup, family-sized gelatin mold or in individual servings. I chose to make individual servings and used six 8-ounce paper cups as molds for this recipe.


1/2 cup water, at room temperature
2 1/2 teaspoons (one packet) unflavored gelatin powder
2 1/2 cups clear, strained homemade vegetable broth, see notes below the recipe (or 2 vegetable bouillon cubes dissolved in 2 1/2 cups water)
3 cups fresh cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
10-12 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 cup goat cheese (chevre)
A pinch of ground black pepper
A salad dressing of 2 tablespoons olive oil mixed with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


  1. Prepare your gelatin mold(s) by lightly spraying the interior(s) with vegetable oil and then lightly wiping with a paper towel. Set aside. Clear level spaces both in your freezer and your refrigerator large enough to accommodate the mold(s) you have selected.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup water into a bowl, sprinkle with the gelatin powder, stir, and set aside for 5 minutes until the gelatin has fully dissolved. In a saucepan, bring the vegetable broth (or bouillon) to a boil and stir in the water/gelatin mix. Remove the pan from the burner and set aside on the countertop until the mixture reaches room temperature.
  3. Pour a 1/8-inch layer of the broth/gelatin mixture into the bottom of the gelatin mold(s) and place the mold(s) in the freezer for about five minutes or until the mixture has just jelled.
  4. Remove the mold(s) from the freezer, evenly distribute all the halved tomatoes in the gelatin mold(s), and lightly compact them. Pour in sufficient broth/gelatin mix just to cover, and return the mold(s) to the freezer for about ten minutes or until the broth/gelatin mixture has just jelled.
  5. Remove the mold(s) from the freezer, evenly distribute all of the sliced basil in the gelatin mold(s) and lightly compact. Pour in sufficient broth/gelatin mix just to cover and return to the freezer for about ten minutes or until the broth/gelatin mix has just jelled.
  6. Remove the mold(s) from the freezer. In the container of a food processor or chopper, blend the goat cheese, pepper, and 1/4 cup of the remaining broth/gelatin mix. Pour all of the cheese/gelatin blend into the gelatin mold(s), distributing it evenly, and place the mold(s) in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Just before serving, dip the exterior of the gelatin mold(s) in tepid water for about 30 seconds, invert onto a serving plate, and shake firmly to release the salad from the mold(s). Serves 6 as a side salad with the prepared dressing on the side.

To make your own vegetable broth, combine in a saucepan 3 cups water, 1 peeled onion, 1 small carrot, 1/2 celery stalk, 2 sprigs parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Boil for 10 minutes, strain through a fine sieve, reserve the vegetables for another use (or discard them), and return 2 1/2 cups of the broth to the saucepan for use in the recipe above.

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{ 26 them below or add one }

melly August 23, 2010 at 1:56 am

I’m so going to use your idea with this unholy amount of micro-basil that came in my CSA. I’ve been wanting to play with savory aspics for a while, and this looks like just the intro course I needed! Thanks for the wonderful idea!


Alisa-Foodista July 19, 2010 at 1:18 pm

This is wonderful. I remember when my grandmother used to make tomato aspic. I really love this!


Jeanne @ CookSister! July 13, 2010 at 8:43 am

Declassé or not, I think that looks amazing!! Had a “low carb” high tea over the weekend and one of the things they served was a “bunless hamburger” consisting of an excellent mini-meatball with spicy relish, teensy sliced cornichons, and a shot glass of tomato, umm, Jello! It was heaven. So maybe Jello is making a comeback?!


Magic of Spice July 7, 2010 at 5:33 pm

What an impressive recipe…looks gorgeous!


Dani Good July 7, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Ufff, it looks so delicious, I love goat cheese! Thanks for sharing.


Juliana July 6, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Barbara…absolutely gorgeous…what a beautiful presentation and the combination of flavor must be out of this world.


marla {family fresh cooking} July 6, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Barbara, I am so proud of you for creating this unique conversation worthy recipe. I bet the combination of flavors here are wonderful. I have never had a “savory” jello, but I would love to try it!


A Canadian Foodie July 6, 2010 at 8:38 am

This looks gorgeous! I am impressed that you developed this recipe on your own. I, too, love doing that. Now, how did it actually taste? I am asking this as I just made a deconstructed – or re-constructed caprese salad with layers like this and a tomato sorbet on top… and it was a considerable effort for a disappointing result. It looked outrageously gorgeous, but was not so pleasing to the palate. I am afraid of the tomato part on this salad being too generous, and the basil portion being too strong… so, how did it actually taste. I would LOVE to make it, but am a little afraid to without that information. Valerie


Barbara July 6, 2010 at 1:43 pm

The flavor is about the same as a normal tomato, basil, and goat cheese salad. The minimally seasoned gelatin doesn’t add to the flavor. Is it worth the extra effort of preparing it this way? Not for a regular family dinner, certainly, but perhaps for a special occasion when a fun presentation is wanted. As to the ratio of tomatoes to basil to goat cheese used, it gets down to personal preference, and the proportions used in this recipe can certainly be adjusted to suit them. I like to use PLENTY of fresh basil when I make Caprese salad, while others may prefer less. I didn’t want the gelatin to be the star of the show here but rather a minimal binding agent to hold the fresh ingredients together. I, therefore, lightly packed the tomatoes and basil before pouring on the gelatin layers. BTW, as a result of your comment, I did note a typo in the number of servings shown for this recipe, which has been corrected in the text above.


Lana @ Never Enough Thyme July 6, 2010 at 8:30 am


I, too, secretly adore gelatin! I love the idea of this recipe. What’s more classic than caprese salad in the summer? You’ve taken those classic flavors and turned them into an elegant presentation. Beautiful!


Barbara July 6, 2010 at 7:27 am

Many thanks for the kind comments C, Jenna, Alta, Juno, Kevin, Alina, Claudia, Baobabs, and Heather. BTW, Heather, my son almost always gives good advice, except once about 10 years ago when he got me to buy some seriously hip hugging bell bottoms. Retro indeed!


Heather Davis July 6, 2010 at 4:36 am

Good advice from your son Barbara. It’s a modern twist on a very retro concept. Looks beautiful.


baobabs July 5, 2010 at 4:29 am

Great idea! And the presentation is ace!


FOODESSA July 4, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Barbara…you can tell your Hubby that he was partly right on his concern…I am not necessarily a fan of gelatin…I do however, not really hate it. Especially when a gorgeous masterpiece such as this is created. You did an absolutely fantabulous creation. Brava!!! Flavourful wishes, Claudia


Alina July 4, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Hehee that’s amazing! It’s a splendid idea how to turn simple ingredients into such an original salad!


Kevin (Closet Cooking) July 4, 2010 at 11:02 am

That savoury jello tower looks amazing!


Juno July 4, 2010 at 2:49 am

I saw this on Tastespotting this morning. Love the retro feel of this recipe, and its beautiful colours. Always good to see original ideas.


Alta July 3, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Wow. Absolutely gorgeous!


Jenna July 3, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Beautiful! Saw this while browsing Tastespotting this morning, had to stop by and check it out.


c July 3, 2010 at 2:06 am

wow– full sized aspics always appeared intimidating and foreign to me, but these smaller individual portions look quite dainty and delicious! thank you for this lovely rendition.


Fight the Fat Foodie July 2, 2010 at 11:22 am

Absolutely beautiful and I bet it tastes wonderful!


Barbara July 3, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Many thanks Scott, as well as Gera, Sheree, Mags, and Megan. I actually made this salad and wrote it up about 3 weeks ago. My husband said, “it’s great, but don’t most people hate jello?” So I hesitated. He’s right. But the other day my adult son said, “Where’s that cool tomato gelatin salad. Go for it, Mom!” So I did.


Megan July 2, 2010 at 10:55 am

Wow, this is beautiful! And it looks pretty easy for such lovely results. I wish I could give it 2 thumbs up!


Mags July 1, 2010 at 9:45 pm

I absolutely love this! How unique and what lovely presentation.


Sheree July 1, 2010 at 8:24 pm

This is a beautiful dish! I’m thinking this would also make a wonderful appetizer, maybe served with some crostini.


Gera @ Sweets Foods Blog July 1, 2010 at 8:09 pm

I can’t believe the glorious presentation of the dish!
Goat cheese and tomato grabs my attention every time. Cheers, Gera


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