Rustic cornbread croutons, delicate, crispy lettuce, fresh tomatoes that taste like summer sun, and fresh mozzarella, all soaking up a tangy buttermilk-herb dressing – is your mouth watering yet?
A panzanella is a traditional Italian bread and tomato salad, which is a fun base to create variations like this: a celebration for a summer’s bounty of produce studded with springy cubes of toasted cornbread. The number and quantities of the veggies in my recipe are flexible, as this salad can accommodate just about any fresh, firm produce chopped small enough to fit on your fork.
As soon as I saw this recipe I knew I was going to love it. I usually have a box of Hodgson Mill Cornbread & Muffin Mix in my cupboard anyway, for a quick, hearty, and delicious whole-grain side for all kinds of meals.
NOTE: If you eat gluten free, I think you could substitute Hodgson Mill Gluten Free Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix in place of the regular cornbread mix for equally delicious results – but I haven’t tested it in my kitchen yet.
I made just a few substitutions from the original recipe. I couldn’t find any heirloom tomatoes today, but cherry tomatoes are super flavorful and available more often during the year, so they’re a great substitute – you can use any tomatoes you can find that have the best flavor. I also gave a nod to the recipe’s Italian roots by adding in some mozzarella balls and artichoke hearts, and I tossed in some cucumber, just because I wanted more crunch.
Some people see it as a chore, but I personally don’t mind chopping lots of veggies. As long as I’m not feeling rushed, I find it very calming. It’s also nice to look down and see your cutting board looking as fresh and gorgeous as this at the end of it.
The cornbread croutons are really easy, especially if you split the process over two days. First, make the cornbread in a 9”x 9” pan, (slightly larger than usual 8” x 8”) so the cornbread is a little thinner. Then let it cool, overnight—or for at least an hour. (There may or may not have been a few square inches missing by the time mine was cool.)
Then, the next day, I cut the cornbread into 1-inch squares and spread them on a baking sheet for a quick toasting in the oven to crisp them up.
That’s it. Once your veggies are chopped, your cornbread croutons are toasted, and the dressing ingredients are whisked together, each bowl quickly becomes a work of art.
After preparing all these pieces of the recipe – laying down a layer of soft and flavorful lettuces, scattering it with bright tomatoes and veggies, warm, springy cornbread croutons, and drizzling on the creamy, tangy dressing overflowing with herbs and flavor, I predict you’ll want to dig in immediately!
I think it’s best enjoyed in direct sunlight.
The salad will store beautifully if you keep the veggies in one container, the cornbread croutons in another, and the dressing tightly sealed in yet another, and combine everything just before serving. So it’s great for taking to a potluck, or as a portable lunch that will make your coworkers jealous!
Cornbread Tomato Panzanella Salad
- 1 recipe Crispy Hodgson Mill Cornbread Croutons (below)
- 2 cups tomatoes cut in 1/2 inch pieces
- 4 cups lettuce such as Bibb, butter or boston, torn
- 2 cups arugula or spinach, torn
- 1 cup mozzarella balls chopped
- 1 cup artichoke hearts chopped
- 1 cup cucumber cut in 1/2 inch cubes
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup green onion finley sliced
- 1 recipe Buttermilk-Herb Dressing (below)
- salt and pepper to taste
Toss together vegetables, cornbread crouton, and mozzarella. When ready to serve, drizzle with Buttermilk Herb Dressing, and toss gently until coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve within 30 minutes of mixing.
- ¾ cups whole or low-fat buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¼ cup finely minced fresh basil
- ¼ cup finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ cup finely minced green onions
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- Black pepper to taste
Whisk together in a small bowl until combined. Can be made ahead, covered tightly and stored in the fridge for up to two days.
Crispy Hodgson Mill Cornbread Croutons
Preheat oven to 400° F. Oil a 9”x 9” square pan and set aside. Place contents of package in a mixing bowl, and cut in oil. Add milk and egg. Mix until just blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 17-19 minutes. (Cornbread is done when toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, and top is springy and firm. Edges will be slightly browned. ) Let coolcompletely (at least 1 hour.)
When cooled, preheat oven to 250° F. Cut cooled cornbread into 1” cubes and arrange on a baking sheet (line with parchment paper for easy cleanup). Bake 7-9 minutes, turning halfway through so cubes are crispy, dry, and toasted on all sides. Let cool slightly.
Makes about 3-4 cups of cornbread croutons. For gluten-free option, use Hodgson Mill Gluten Free Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix (prepare according to directions on box, but use a 9”x9” pan).
Feel free to substitute or add any firm, ripe produce, chopped small to your salad (suggestions: zucchini, yellow squash, celery, red onion, or carrots). If using Gluten-Free Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix, you may need to adjust the sweetness of dressing by decreasing amount of honey and/or adjusting spice to taste. Grilled chicken slices or pan-fried tofu could be added to make this a heartier meal.
Serves 4 as a light main dish, or 6 as a side.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Corn Bread Salad