Not Your Grandmother's Jello Mold

Since we're mere days from Christmas, I thought I'd share a cranberry recipe since it's a family favorite. I have to admit that the mere phrase "jello mold" brings to mind the jello that Aunt Bethany brought to dinner in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. But this recipe is so good that my mother calls it a cranberry salad instead of a cranberry jello mold. It's crunchy and refreshing, and makes a great light dessert on those days when you've eaten a little bit more than you should. We serve it with dinner (because we have to have a Yule Log for the real dessert), but it works well either way.

I wish I could credit the person who came up with this recipe. We've had it for years, and there's just no clue anymore about the origin. It's a snap to make with a food processor (my preference), but you can also chop the ingredients by hand. I've used a mold, but it looks just as pretty when it sets up in a simple bowl. It has wonderful flavor and a surprising texture, and it must be made in advance, which means it's one less thing to worry about if you're preparing a big meal.

Cranberry Salad

2 cups fresh cranberries

1 cup sugar

1 envelope gelatin, unflavored or lemon

1 cup boiling water

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Pulse the cranberries in a food processor.

2. Pour them into a bowl, add the sugar, stir, and let stand for one hour.

3. At this point, I cheat a little. The food processor is already out, so I pop the celery and walnuts in and pulse them, too. I set them aside to use when the cranberries are ready.

4. About 50 minutes later, empty the gelatin envelope into a

large bowl and add the boiling water. Stir to dissolve and let stand a few minutes.

5. Add the cranberries, celery, and walnuts to the gelatin. Stir to mix. Pour into mold or bowl.

6. Refrigerate until firm.

7. When ready to serve, loosen the edges with a knife and dip the bottom into a bowl of warm water briefly. Turn over onto serving platter. Curly lettuce makes a particularly nice garnish.