High Tea Café’s salmon bisque

HIGH TIMES: Nancy Orban at High Tea before the cafe´closed in 1983. Photo courtesy of Nancy Orban

Nancy Orban is the former owner of High Tea Café and gathering spot for local artists and musicians that was a fixture at 23 Wall Street 1974-1983 — years when vacant storefronts were the norm in downtown Asheville. Several years ago, she wrote The High Tea Cafe No Frills Recipe Book, a collection that includes a fascinating glimpse into the history of downtown Asheville. Here Orban shares a recipe from High Tea and her view on soup. Photo by Brigid Hannon Burns

“I’ve had good soups at many restaurants, and there are restaurants I haven't been to (Pho, Table, The Market Place, for instance), so I'm simply unable to choose whose soup is the best or which is my favorite. Plus, with soup of the day, they’re always changing. Loretta's tomato-basil-cheddar is on the menu every day, and it is very good. Chestnut's seafood bisque is very good, but it's not on the menu always. Choosing is a conundrum. The bottom line: There's nothing quite so soothing on a cold day as a good, hot soup.” — Nancy Orban


1-pound can red salmon
10½-ounce can tomato puree
2 sprigs fresh parsley, minced
2 cups water
1 medium onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups half-and-half
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
4 lemon slices, thin

To make: Remove bones from salmon and put it and its liquid in a soup pot with the tomato purée, parsley and water. Simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, warm the butter in a large skillet and sauté the onions until soft. Blend in the flour and, while stirring, gradually add the half-and-half. Cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add this mixture to the bisque with the salt and pepper and cook 3 minutes. Garnish with lemon slices and a dusting of paprika.

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