Cornbread Salad

When Italians have leftover bread, they make panzanella.

When Southerners have leftover cornbread, we make Cornbread Salad. Because a good pan of cornbread is a terrible thing to waste.

If we were stalking cornbread salads in the wild, I’d take you to a church potluck or family reunion and tell you to keep an eye out for a trifle bowl with Ranch dressing on top. Because that’s how most cornbread salads are presented, with very defined layers of cornbread, beans, corn, onion, bell pepper, tomato, bacon, cheese and the contents of an entire bottle of Ranch dressing.

This recipe is different.

There’s no Ranch. No trifle bowl. No fussy layering.

Nothing to distract you from the simple goodness of what’s in that bowl.

Like most bread salads, this version uses one- or two-day-old bread as its base instead of lettuce or greens. However, instead of just tossing stale bread into your salad bowl, you cube your cornbread, place it on a baking sheet, and toast it under the broiler until it’s crisp.

These cornbread croutons add a lot of crunch to the salad at first, and then they start to absorb the flavors of the salad’s other ingredients (e.g. the vinaigrette, black beans, red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, scallions and basil) and bring everything together.

Most cornbread salads are pretty heavy, but this Deen Brothers’ recipe is really summery and satisfying. It’s definitely not your mama’s cornbread salad.

Not their mama’s anyway.

Cornbread Salad with Black Beans, Red Bell Peppers and Cherry Tomatoes

Adapted from Jamie and Bobby Deen’s “The Deen Bros. Get Fired Up”

If you’re taking this salad on the road, pack the cornbread separately, and add it to the other ingredients just before serving.

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1/2 to 1 pan cornbread (any recipe, preferably 1 to 2 days old), crumbled or cut into 1-inch cubes

Dressing:

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 or 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered (or 2 large tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (white and green parts)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1. Place an oven rack 6 inches from the heat source, and preheat the broiler.

2. Place the cornbread on a baking sheet, and toast under the broiler until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes (check often to see that the crumbs do not burn). Transfer to a large salad bowl.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

4. Add the black beans, bell peppers, tomatoes, scallions and basil to the salad bowl. Toss gently.

5. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad, and toss to combine well. Serve immediately.