What's for Dinner? Creamy Tomato Basil Soup with Honey Wheat Sourdough Bread

I like to post food pics on Facebook, and I am often asked for my recipes when I do. I don't like to follow recipes precisely or measure ingredients when I cook. I have to when baking. But for my other creations, I prefer to improvise and invent my own versions. Food is my art, so it usually works out. But not always.

Yesterday I decided to try a new (to me) recipe for Honey Wheat Sourdough Bread. I liked the last one I made, but I wanted one with more honey. I found a recipe that called for commercial yeast. My starter is strong and doesn't need yeast. But I totally forgot that the rise time would be an all day process if I didn't use instant yeast too. I have only been baking sourdough bread since the end of August. So it didn't occur to me until after I was impatiently waiting for the dough to double that I had to adjust the recipe instructions for rising and shaping to a recipe that did not include yeast. Which meant we would not have honey wheat bread for my freshly made chicken salad until long after the dinner hour. 

Even though I'm a novice at sourdough baking, I am already a purist. I just didn't want to add the yeast. But I was disappointed when I checked the rise after a couple of hours and remembered it would not be ready to bake and cool in time to eat as I had in mind. I would have to be patient and refrigerate it overnight after the bulk fermenting. We wound up eating chicken salad on {gasp} store bought bread. And since I had already mixed up a honey wheat bread that would be baked a day late, I needed to come up with a dinner idea for tonight to go with my bread.

I started looking for soup recipes. Specifically, soup recipes that could be made with ingredients I had on hand. I thought about how good a creamy tomato basil soup would be with grilled cheese on homemade bread. I don't have any fresh basil, but I always have high quality pesto (because I use it in pastas and pizza regularly). So I searched for recipes with pesto in place of fresh basil. I found one and I adapted it. I took pictures as I made the soup so I could share.

I started by sauteeing half a sweet onion and one stalk of celery (finely diced) in a little olive oil (about a T), minced garlic (about a T), and pesto from a jar (about 3 T here, but added a 4th later for taste). 

Always read pesto labels for the best and purist ingredients. I like Alessi and Delallo. I seasoned with salt and pepper and dried oregano. (A rounded teaspoon of each.) I added a bag of frozen creamed spinach.

After that was heated through and blended, I added chicken broth and canned tomatoes. 

At this point, I tasted. I added a little more salt and pepper. 

We like tomato basil soup a little on the sweet side. So I added a bit of sugar gradually, tasting until it was "just right."

I also had a half used squeeze bottle of pizza sauce I wanted to use up. I squirted it into the soup for extra flavor.

And, last but not least, I added some heavy cream. I used about half of this carton or approximately one cup.

The soup can be eaten as is, or you can use an immersion blender to puree all the ingredients into a smooth texture.

I baked my bread while I was putting finishing touches on my soup! After taking out of the oven, I brushed it with melted butter and wrapped in a tea towel for a soft crust.

I am now glad that we couldn't eat the honey wheat bread last night and I am looking forward to dinner!