My grandmother's favorite salad from the 1960s, decidedly retro, in fact, "double retro" for today's real-food sensibility. Does it remain a personal favorite? You bet.
Back in the 1960s when this was my Gramma Kellogg’s favorite summer salad, the "salad" sections in our church cookbooks listed one jello salad after another, many with marshmallows and Cool Whip. Some "salads", eh? At least Gramma's salad included some vegetables, albeit in skimpy amounts, a tablespoon of onion, half a green pepper, half a cucumber, a touch of celery, and so on.
But truth be told, I loved her salad too and made it at least once a summer, ignoring its calorie-laden jiggly goodness. Then some time in the 1990s, I adapted Gramma's salad for all the new-fangled "diet" and "healthy" ingredients: sugar-free gelatin, low-fat tomato soup, reduced-fat cream cheese and reduced-fat salad dressing, feeling mighty virtuous, no doubt.
Today I would scoff at a recipe calling for so many processed-food ingredients: whole foods it is for me. In defense, I did also increase the vegetables many-fold.
But again, truth be told, I still love my version of Gramma's salad and still make it at least once a summer. I think of it as "double retro" – first for the processed foods of the 1960s, then for the low-fat craze of the 1990s. But I still make it.
And I also still follow the practice of updating long-time favorite recipes by reversing the proportions. What was once Gramma’s jello-cream-cheese-salad- with-a-sprinkling-of-veggies is transformed into a virtual garden of multi-colored vegetables held together by a light-flavored creamy gelatin.
And I'm not alone in liking it, although I no longer tell people what's in it. It's a favorite at potlucks and barbecue suppers. Its pale salmon color and crunchy coolness contrast especially well with grilled meat.
TOMATO SOUP VEGETABLE SALAD
Chill time: 4 hours or more
Makes 8 cups
- 2 small (.3oz) packages sugar-free lemon gelatin
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup cold water
TOMATO SOUP MIXTURE
- 1 11-ounce (305g) can reduced-fat tomato soup such as Campbell's Healthy Request
- 3 ounces (85g) reduced-fat cream cheese such as Philadelphia Neufchatel
- 1 cup (240g) light salad dressing such as Miracle Whip Light
- 2 cups finely chopped celery
- 1 cup finely chopped onion, preferably Vidalia or another sweet onion
- 3 bell peppers (1 green, 1 red and 1 yellow), finely chopped
- 1 English cucumber, finely chopped
GELATIN In a large bowl (the one that will eventually hold all the salad), dissolve gelatin in boiling water, stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in cold water and set aside.
TOMATO SOUP MIXTURE Separately, heat tomato soup, cream cheese and salad dressing in a medium saucepan, stirring until combined and smooth. Remove from heat, let cool.
VEGETABLES Meanwhile, chop vegetables finely.
COMBINE Stir tomato soup mixture into gelatin, stir until well combined. Add vegetables as they're prepped.
SET Pour or scoop into a pretty bowl, a quart jar or another container. My grandmother used a gelatin mold, it helps to lightly oil it before filling.
More Favorite Vegetable Salad Recipes
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