Panzanella salads are a staple of summer. While traditionally made with tomato, the real lynchpin ingredient is actually bread–cubed and toasted and braced to soak up all of the liquidy juices of its counterparts.
Cornbread, which is denser and drier than a loaf of, say, sourdough, is one of our favorite tweaks to the classic panzanella salad–even more so because we typically keep some cornbread on hand in our freezer (it freezes beautifully).
Here’s a recipe for a watermelon-cornbread panzanella; for more ideas and recipes for using frozen cornbread, pick up a copy of Ashley and Kait’s cookbook, It’s Always Freezer Season. Need more cornbread salad inspiration? Visit Poole’s Diner for a tomato-cornbread salad with blue cheese and red onions.
Cornbread Panzanella with Watermelon, Feta, and Za’atar Vinaigrette
⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
⅓ cup canola oil
¼ cup red vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ cup za’atar
3 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 wedges (½ of a 9-inch loaf) cornbread
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 English cucumber, quartered lengthwise and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 cups cubed watermelon
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Preheat the oven to 450°.
Make the vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and whisk well. The vinaigrette won’t emulsify; it is a broken vinaigrette by design. You should have about 11⁄2 cups. It will keep in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Cut the cornbread into 1½-inch cubes and put them into a large bowl. Pour the butter over the cubes and toss to coat evenly. Arrange the cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 5 to 6 minutes, until golden brown and toasted on the first side. Flip the cubes over and bake for 4 to 5 minutes longer, until toasted on the second side. Set the cornbread aside to cool to warm.
Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, watermelon, and onion. Drizzle with ¼ cup of the vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. Mix gently, taking care not to break up the watermelon too much. Add the cornbread cubes and fold together a few times to mix well.
Pour the salad out onto a platter and sprinkle with the feta, mint, basil, and dill. Drizzle with an additional 2 to 4 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and serve.
Recipe excerpted from It's Always Freezer Season by Ashley Christensen and Kaitlyn Goalen (Ten Speed Press; 2021)