Homestyle Ranch & Bacon Cornbread Panzanella

Panzanella, a classic Italian bread salad, gets a down South spin courtesy of my grandma’s sweet cornbread, thick bacon crumbles and Litehouse Food’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!

Homestyle Ranch & Bacon Cornbread Panzanella

Serves 6 | Finish in 35
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Forgo the traditional cornbread and try this new take on a lifelong favorite.

Ingredients

For cornbread:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 ½ tablespoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large egg

For roasted corn:
6 ears of corn, husked and de-silked
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

For salad:
8 to 10 cups lettuce or lettuce blend of choice
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
14 slices thick hardwood-smoked bacon, cooked
2/3 cup or more to taste, Litehouse® Homestyle Ranch Dressing

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°. Add flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder in large bowl, mix to combine. In 2-cup capacity glass mixing cup, measure out milk and oil. Add egg into mixture, whisk to combine. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stir with spatula until combined. Add to 9”x 9” baking dish that has been coated in cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until turning golden brown on top and toothpick pulls clean from center. Remove from oven, let cool 5 minutes. Keep oven on for crouton making.

Croutons: Cut cornbread into approximately 1” x 1” cubes (does not have to be precise). The easiest way to do this is to cut cornbread into 4 large squares. Remove one large square at a time and slice in have crosswise to make a top and a bottom.  Restack slices and slice into 4 rows each direction. Repeat with remaining cornbread. Place on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven for approximately 8 minutes or until turning golden brown and crispy on edges (will still be soft in middle).

Roasted Corn: Drizzle corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place corn on rimmed baking sheet and bake at 400 F degrees for approximately 12 to 15 minutes. It is convenient to do this at the same time of initial cornbread baking. Let cool for 5 minutes and use sharp knife to shear kernels off cob.

Salad: To serve layered, add cornbread croutons to bottom of bowl. Next add lettuce, tomatoes, corn and bacon. Top with a big dollop of Ranch Dressing. Or, salad may be tossed by mixing Ranch Dressing thoroughly with all ingredients except cornbread and then gently tossing with cornbread.

Enjoy!


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