One that caught my eye and immediately went into the “must-try” category was Panzanella Salad with Cornbread Croutons. I have been the Cornbread Queen ever since my first cookbook, Way Back in the Country, was released some years back and I traipsed from TV station to TV station in the promotion of it. During this interesting time I had to learn a new skill: preparing food under the glare of TV cameras. The programming person at each TV station requested that I make Golden Cornbread, one of my family’s staple recipes. I can’t tell you how many batches of cornbread I whipped up for the TV lights so I would have the finished product on display while I stirred up a demo batch.
As a result of this blitz I grew to the point at which I could make cornbread in my sleep. So, to get this new recipe started, I tested myself to see whether I could remember the oft-baked Golden Cornbread Recipe (find it on page 23 of my cookook, Way Back in the Country) by heart. Once I baked a pan of it and let it cool completely, I cut up the cornbread into the 1-inch cubes that this recipe required and then toasted these cubes briefly in the oven so their edges would be brown and crouton-like.
From the garden the recipe called for red onion, a yellow bell pepper, tomatoes, and cucumber. How I look forward to some of those items being abundantly arrayed in my own garden a few weeks hence! (The tomato crop looks as though it will be particularly vast. As I gaze out my patio door, I see row after row of Hubby’s tomato stakes gleaming in the sun.)
We loved the honey-and-lemon vinaigrette that tied this unusual mixture together and gave it a slight Italian accent. I forgot to say that besides the other items in this somewhat unorthodox combination, the recipe also called for Hubby’s favorite condiment—black olives. I’ve always read that cornbread salad is a guy thing and that the heartiness of it makes it a man favorite. Truly, Panzanella Salad with Cornbread Croutons was a Hubby-pleaser through and through.
Panzanella Salad with Cornbread Croutons
One pan cornbread (made from your favorite recipe), cooled completely
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey
salt (or salt substitute) and pepper, to taste
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cucumber, quartered and sliced
1/2 cup black olives, sliced
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cornbread into 1-inch cubes. Bake in a single layer on a lightly greased cookie sheet 15 minutes or until edges are golden. Stir halfway through. Meanwhile saute bell pepper and onion in 1 tablespoon hot olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until pepper and onion are crisp-tender. In a large bowl whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, remaining 7 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper. Stir in onion mixture, tomatoes, and next 3 ingredients. Add toasted cornbread cubes and toss to coat. Serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.