When we think of summer, we often equate it with being stress-free or being able to worry less. We’ve planned our family vacation to the lake house and the quiet Sunday picnic in the park. We enjoy a glass of wine on our patio and relish at the sight of our blossoming tomatoes. It’s the perfect time of year to brush up on those culinary skills with the local farmer’s markets overflowing with produce and there’s no shortage of recipes on the inter-webs. You might even try asking your local farmer’s what they enjoy making with their own produce. I’m sure you’ll encounter an endless sea of inspiration for your summer cooking.
Oh, yes! While we were in the midst of discussing all this summer goodness, I forgot to share with you. I was selected as The Local Palate Magazine’s favorite blogger of the month which is the best form of flattery. TLP is a southern-based magazine that celebrates the food culture of the south. I delight in knowing there are people out there who enjoy my passion for food and I’m elated to be working with them this month. You can check their blog tomorrow for my post on comfort food in Nashville. I’d love to hear your thoughts on places you find dishes that remind you of home or simply take you to that ‘happy place’.
In my spare time, I enjoy surfing through recipes to find inspiration and challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone when it comes to meal preparation. We don’t typically eat a lot of salad around Casa de Hunter, we enjoy cooked veggies and sometimes there’s even cheese sauce involved. But I saw this recipe for Cornbread Panzanella Salad on The Local Palate Magazine’s website and I couldn’t resist the temptation to try it out. If you’re a fan of southern cooking, you should definitely check out their recipe archives for some of the best recipes from southern chefs. I mean, if cornbread is involved, then enough said.
I’m often looking for ways to bring some southern influence into other genres of cuisine and I love the addition of cornbread to this Tuscan salad as opposed to the typical rustic country miche of some sort. If there’s a food that can take me on a stroll down memory lane, cornbread is definitely at the top of that list. I can hear the butter sizzle around the edges of the cast-iron skillet and smell that rich nuttiness erupting through the corridors of my childhood. And what better way to use those beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh herbs than in such a simple salad with great layers of flavor.
The preparation doesn’t take too long and the best part is the ‘left-overs’ are even better, which is always a plus. As you make this recipe, remember that recipes are merely guidelines. You always have room to improve and with that being said, I added two tablespoons of red wine vinegar and about two teaspoons of kosher salt to this recipe and it was killer. It may even make a guest appearance at the Thanksgiving table wearing fall produce selections. It has such a clean flavor with those fresh vegetables and then a rich corny-nuttiness from the combination of the butter and toasted cornbread croutons. You’re family and friends are guaranteed to love it and if they don’t, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy.
I always recommend reading the recipe all the way through before tackling it. It ensures the least amount of mistakes made. No one likes to backtrack when hunger is involved.
1 pint teardrop tomatoes, cut in half
2 each cucumber – cut in half, seeded, cut into half moons 1/8-inch thick
2 each large red and golden beats roasted (*see below)
2 tablespoons chiffonade basil
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
2 cups toasted diced corn bread
1 tablespoon garlic
2 bunches frisée lettuce, rough cut
Salt & pepper to taste
½ cup grated fontina cheese
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
1. Whisk the lemon juice and the oil profusely with a wire whisk until you form a temporary emulsion.This means the two liquids will look as though they’ve combined, but its only temporary.
Side Note: This is where I included the ounce of red wine vinegar and two teaspoons of salt into the original dressing recipe. Once you’ve emulsified the mixture, I add the salt and whisked until barely any crystals of kosher salt were left.
1a. Mix all ingredients, except the grated fontina, together in a large bowl. Add a little dressing at a time to the salad until to your liking. Salt and pepper to taste. Top with cheese and serve.
8 ounces butter, softened (plus 2 tablespoons for pan and cubes)
2 ounces sugar
2 ounces powdered sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 ¼ cup milk
1 1/3 cups cornmeal
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10×14 inch square pan.
2. In large mixing bowl whip together the butter, sugar, and powdered sugar until in looks creamy. Add the eggs and continue mixing. While mixing add, a little at a time, the dry ingredients and then a little of the milk.
3. Continue by alternating both ingredients a little at a time until all ingredients are blended. Place in a buttered pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
4. Remove from oven and let cool. Cut into ¼ inch squares for salad. Toss together in a bowl with melted butter. Toast in oven on sheet tray until browned.
*To roast beets, coat lightly in oil, place on a sheet tray, roast in oven at 375 degrees until fork tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Take a towel and remove the skin from beets. Cut into a medium dice. Set aside.