I can’t be sure about this, but I’m guessing Italian panzanella sprang out of that greatest of all culinary traditions: using up the leftovers. After all, who hasn’t grown up hearing “waste not, want not”? The original Tuscan recipe calls for making a caprese salad — tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, red wine or balsamic vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil — and tossing it with cubes of crusty, almost-stale bread. The bread takes on the deep flavors of the vinegar, oil, and tomato juice and winds up making the most delicious croutons you could imagine.
That’s the same idea here, except that you’re using southwestern ingredients rather than Tuscan ones and cornbread instead of crusty loaf bread. Like the original panzanella, this recipe is a great way to use up extra cornbread and to give it new life — cornbread is by nature a bit dry and crumbly, so it soaks up nearly as much liquid as the bread used in panzanella does. ¡Qué rico!
Cornbread “Panzanella” Toss
Using any cornbread* you like (my favorite is the Crusty Soft-Center Spoon Bread from the Highest Deity amongst the culinary gods, The Joy of Cooking), either cut the cornbread into wedges or cubes. Toss with drained black beans, chopped tomatoes, and chopped fresh cilantro. Drizzle on some lime juice and extra-virgin olive oil and gently mix again. Crumble soft goat cheese over the top of the salad and grind on a few rounds of coarse sea salt and mixed peppercorns. If you like, sprinkle on some slivers of minced red onions before serving.
* If you want to make this a gluten-free dish, simply use corn flour (not corn starch!) rather than wheat flour when baking your cornbread. The majority of the grain in cornbread is cornmeal, anyway, so substituting corn flour for the small amount of wheat flour called for won’t make too much of an impact on the overall recipe.
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