BY TERESA TAYLOR
Lark Smith surely had given up hope by now. Several weeks ago, Smith, who travels to Charleston often, made a request for the roasted tomato bisque served for years at Sermet’s restaurant.
Sermet’s has been a fixture for nearly two decades on a prominent Charleston corner, King and Wentworth streets. Last year, the restaurant ownership changed hands, the interior space was made over, and a jazz club opened upstairs. Sermet Aslan stayed on as executive chef, so the menu remains Mediterranean-inspired. But these days you’re most likely to find Sermet at Sermet’s Courtyard on Daniel Island.
It took a few tries of back-and-forth communication, but Sermet agreed to share the recipe, and daughter Ceylan Aslan made it happen.
Roasted Tomato and Mushroom Soup
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, cut into small dice
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
3 ribs celery, washed and cut into small dice
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 cups wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
½ cup white wine
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 pound Roma tomatoes, cored, halved, roasted and pureed
1 cup vegetable stock or tomato juice
1 quart heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Pesto for garnish
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large stock pot, add onion and garlic. Sweat down; add the carrots, celery and dried thyme. Cook down until the vegetables are tender. Add mushrooms, stirring carefully trying not to break up mushrooms, cook down the mushrooms until they release all their moisture. Add wine and reduce by half. Add Worcestershire sauce, pureed tomatoes and stock. Give the soup a stir then add in the heavy cream and turn down the heat to medium-low; let the soup cook down for an additional 30-40 minutes until desired consistency is reached. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and/or pesto to taste.
Now, before I was able to procure this recipe, I had an offer from a former colleague, Robbie Yarnell of Charleston, when we saw each other at an office function. She then emailed the recipe, writing, “I found this recipe in a soup ad several years ago. I know it is not the one requested, but it is healthy, easy, quick and very good.”
2 (103/4-ounce) cans of Campbell’s Healthy Request Tomato Soup
1 (141/2-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
21/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
Fresh or dried basil to taste
Mix and heat thoroughly. Serve with a sprinkling of fresh chopped or dried basil.
Nosing around in some of the cookbooks at the office, I found an interesting tomato soup recipe in “Cooking With Les Dames d’Escoffier” (Sasquatch Books, 2008). One of the appealing aspects of this recipe is that its creator, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, was seeking a soup that tasted as rich as a cream soup but without the fat.
One trick is using a food processor or immersion blender to give the soup a lot of body and adding a bit of yogurt at the finish. Another flavor booster, especially during the winter when tomatoes are not at their peak, can come from pre-roasting the peppers. Their char will add depth to the taste.
Sweet Pepper, Tomato and Leek Soup
Makes 4 cups
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, both white and light green parts
1 clove garlic, minced
2 pounds (about 8) plum tomatoes, quartered
2 large red bell peppers, cored, seeded, cut into strips
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated gingerroot
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
About 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt to thin soup (also may use buttermilk or chicken or vegetable broth)
Fresh thyme leaves or minced chives
Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat; add the leeks and garlic. Cook and stir until the leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bell peppers, lemon juice, gingerroot, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the pepper are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and regulate heat so the mixture does not stick. Remove from heat, cool slightly.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the vegetable mixture in batches until smooth. Thin to desired consistency with the yogurt. Serve hot or cold, garnished with thyme.
Who’s got the recipe?
A West Ashley reader wants recipes in which fresh mushrooms are the “star” ingredient, or one of the star ingredients, at any rate. Casseroles, pastas, soups, all welcome.
Email food@postand courier.com or call Food and Features Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886.