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When a friend suggested I host lunch for colleagues we haven’t seen since pre-COVID (easy for her to suggest), I thought it was a wonderful idea.
The first thing I did was grab Perfect Recipes for Having People Over by acclaimed cookbook author Pam Anderson. One of my favorite cookbook authors (of seven cookbooks), she considers herself “Every Cook”, that person whom she identifies with and speaks to the average person in the kitchen. I couldn’t agree more.
I interviewed her and remember her suggestion for a year-round classic gazpacho, the chilled Spanish summer soup served as a first course for a warm-weather dinner or a cold picnic soup when quality fresh tomatoes aren’t available.
“The canned diced variety makes an excellent substitute for fresh,” says Anderson. Another advantage to using canned tomatoes: they are unaffected by refrigeration, unlike fresh tomatoes, whose taste is dulled and the texture compromised by the cold.
You can also vary the flavors by substituting pineapple, mango or watermelon for the tomatoes, or turn it into a more substantial meal by topping the dish with prawns. The ingredients for Anderson’s orange pudding cakes drizzled with an impromptu sauce are so basic, but the results are almost magical.
Year-Round Classic Gazpacho
This soup will retain its flavor when chilled.
2 cans (398 mL) diced tomatoes, preferably Hunt’s “petite diced”
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 hothouse seedless cucumber, enough peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 2 cups)
1 small yellow pepper, stemmed, seeded and enough cut into 1/4-inch dice to yield 3/4-cup
1 small onion, cut into small dice (about 1/2-cup)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional, but nice)
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp minced chopped parsley or cilantro
Combine 1/2-cup tomatoes, 1/2-cup water and olive oil in a food processor or blender and process until pureed. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. To chill soup quickly, transfer to a 13-by-9-inch Pyrex dish or other shallow non-reactive pan.
Serves 6 as a first course.
Make as directed, but substitute 2 heaping cups small-diced fresh pineapple and 2 cups pineapple juice for tomatoes and water. Use a red bell pepper instead of a yellow one. Substitute 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice for vinegar.
Make as directed, but substitute 2 heaping cups small-diced fresh mangoes and 2 cups pineapple juice for tomatoes and water. Use a red bell pepper instead of a yellow one. Substitute 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice for vinegar.
Make as directed, but substitute 2 heaping cups small-diced seeded watermelon and 2 cups orange juice for tomatoes and water. Substitute 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice for vinegar.
Orange Pudding Cakes with Marmalade Drizzle
Make this batter and bake it in custard cups — 30 minutes later, you’ve got two desserts in one: pudding on top, cake on the bottom. These are delicious drizzled with an impromptu sauce made with orange marmalade to carry the theme, lemon juice to cut the sweetness and liqueur to give it some kick.
2 tbsp butter, very soft
3/4-cup sugar, divided
1-1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest
1/4-cup instant blending flour
1/4-cup fresh orange juice (from 1 large orange)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
1 cup milk
6 tbsp orange marmalade
2 tbsp orange-flavored liqueur
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Heat oven to 325 degrees F.
Coat eight 6-ounce custard cups with vegetable cooking spray; set them in two 9-inch square or round baking pans. Bring about 1-1/2 quarts of water to a boil.
Whisk butter, 1/2-cup sugar and zest in a large bowl until smooth. Whisk in egg yolks, then whisk in flour until smooth. Whisk in orange juice, lemon juice and then milk.
With an electric mixer, beat egg whites in a medium bowl until foamy. Gradually beat in remaining 1/4-cup sugar, beating until whites hold a firm peak. Fold whites into batter until just smooth.
Divide batter among custard cups. Place baking pans on oven rack, then carefully pour enough boiling water into each pan to come halfway up sides of custard cups. Bake until cake tops are golden and spring back when pressed lightly, about 25 minutes.
Remove pans from oven and let cakes stand in water until just warm, about 15 minutes. Remove custard cups from pans and let stand for about five minutes to firm up.
Meanwhile, to make the drizzle: Mix marmalade, liqueur and lemon juice in a small bowl.
Place a dessert plate over each custard cup and invert cake onto plate. Spoon drizzle over cakes and serve.
Lemon Pudding Cakes
Substitute lemon zest for orange zest, omit orange juice and use 1/4-cup lemon juice in all. Proceed as directed, omitting marmalade drizzle.
Hack: No-Mess Tomato Chopping
Instead of cutting tomatoes on a cutting board and ending up with tomato juice all over the counter, cut them up in the can with a pair of kitchen shears.