- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Hot summer nights call for cool suppers, and one of the most refreshing of soups, especially as the heat draws into September, is gazpacho.

Make gazpacho with tomatoes from your garden if you have them, but if you are without those ripe tomatoes, one of the best ingredients might be on your pantry shelf.

Diced canned tomatoes seasoned with basil, garlic and oregano are ready to be pureed with cucumber and a little oil and vinegar into a speedy gazpacho.

It is a recipe short on method but long on flavor. If desired, add red pepper strips and chopped red onion along with the cucumber.

For a fun garnish, try chopped avocado.

To round out the meal, try shrimp steamed at the deli or fried chicken.

To the side, serve potato salad and Caesar salad. And for dessert, offer your favorite Key lime pie.

Five time-shaving ways to use a can of diced tomatoes

Even with a can of plain diced tomatoes, a meal begins:

• Drain and toss with a minced clove of garlic and a handful each of chopped fresh basil and shredded Parmesan. Add a little salt and olive oil and toss with hot cooked pasta.

• Drain and stir in a little chopped onion and a minced jalapeno pepper. Add juice of a lime and a handful of chopped cilantro. Serve this salsa over grilled chicken.

• Cook half a cup of chopped onion in a tablespoon of butter until soft. Add a tablespoon of flour and cook until smooth, stirring, then add the undrained tomatoes and a can of chicken broth. Cook until simmering, then puree, season to taste and ladle this easy tomato soup into two or three bowls.

• Saute chicken tenders in a little olive oil and season to taste. Add a little chopped onion, minced garlic, the drained can of tomatoes and two tablespoons white wine. Let the sauce cook until bubbling. Garnish with minced fresh basil or oregano.

• Brown 8 ounces of ground beef, season with salt and pepper, and add the can of tomatoes with juice. Let it cook down and season with oregano and ground cumin. Spoon into warm flour tortillas, top with shredded cheese, lettuce and sour cream.

Five-minute gazpacho

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano, with their liquid, chilled

1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into large pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Croutons, for garnish

Place the tomatoes with their liquid and the cucumber, olive oil and vinegar in a food processor and process in short pulses until the mixture is soup-like in consistency, smooth with a few chunks, 15 to 20 seconds. Or puree the ingredients in batches in a blender. Ladle into bowls and garnish with croutons. Serves 6 to 8 as a starter.

Note: If you are using tomatoes right off the pantry shelf, chill the gazpacho for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours before serving it.

Anne Byrn is the author of the popular Doctor series cookbooks, including “The Cake Mix Doctor” and “The Dinner Doctor” and “Cupcakes From the Cake Mix Doctor” (Workman Publishing). TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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