Bread Salad Days: Summer Cornbread Panzanella with Honey Dressing

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Everything changed when we “discovered” panzanella. Suddenly salad could have chunks of bread and the definition of “greens” began to shift to include all manner of decidedly non-leafy fruit and vegetables. A classic tomato-mozz-basil-and-ciabatta became our go-to potluck offering and friends and family raved about our “bread salad.”

Eventually we came to terms with the fact that our discovery wasn’t so novel and its contents not so deserving of the term “salad,” and so our panzanella days dwindled out of fashion. Besides, we never had ciabatta just lying around or freshly pulled mozzarella lounging about in the fridge. And as much as my mother tried, she killed every basil plant she ever owned. The classic panzanella, as much as we wanted to hope, was never really meant to be ours. We were quick bread folk, single skillet users, proud screened-porch picnickers.

But that’s exactly why panzanella, that humble little Tuscan country catch-all, does work for us, because it can be remade in our southern image with things we do have on hand. Things like day-old cornbread, tomatoes from the garden, and syrupy sweet nectarines or peaches. So we throw it all together, toss it in a simple dressing, and think back on those bread salad days of our past when we thought we knew best.

Summer Cornbread Panzanella with Honey Dressing

We are panzanella purists and don’t bother with leafy greens in our mix. However, I will admit that this flavor combination goes exceptionally well over a bed of arugula or baby spinach.

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pan (8-inch skillet) of day-old cornbread
  • 1/2 pint yellow gem tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 nectarines, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • Bee pollen (optional)

Directions:

  1. Set the oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut the cornbread into 1/2-inch slices and spread on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven until toasted, flipping once, about 15 minutes total. Allow to cool and then slice into big bite-sized pieces.
  3. In a small bowl, add the honey, olive oil, and vinegar and whisk to combine. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  4. In a large dish, combine the tomatoes and nectarines. Drizzle on half the dressing and gently toss to coat the fruit. Add the cornbread and goat cheese and gently toss again. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes, sprinkle with bee pollen, and serve with the additional dressing on the side.
Photo styled and taken by Katherine Hysmith

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