Panzanella, a classic Italian bread salad, gets a down South spin courtesy of my grandma’s sweet cornbread, thick bacon crumbles and Litehouse's popular Homestyle Ranch dressing whipped up with creamy buttermilk and garden-fresh herbs. Well, I do declare, this salad is at once over-the-top and inherently wholesome – just like the Southern belle that I am!
Meals in the South are about balance, typically pairing healthy fresh foods like the greens, tomatoes and roasted corn in my salad with little splurges – today, some bacon and croutons! These crunchy cornbread croutons are made from an old family recipe that I’ve “cleaned up” just a bit by reducing the sugar and swapping in heart-healthy olive oil for old-school shortening.
The cornbread is baked, cut into small cubes, and toasted into yummy croutons that hold up well in salad and soup... that is, if they aren’t all picked clean off the pan! While baking cornbread, multitask and throw a few ears of corn on a baking sheet to roast alongside. The aroma of both these foods doing their thaaaang in the oven will have your family and neighbors congregating in the kitchen as sure as they’ll be sweet tea with supper.
Family and friends, that’s one of the things that makes a Southern-style dinner so special– everyone’s welcome and recipes easily can be stretched to feed a crowd of 2 or 52 (in the case of this salad recipe, just add more lettuce)! The leisurely pace of rocking chairs and picnic tables encourages colorful discussions, tall-tale swapping and, dieticians sya, actually promotes good health. So, sit down and stay a spell . . . and don’t forget to pass the Ranch!