southern panzanella

it’s that time of year where tomatoes are fresh & ripe & delicious & everywhere.

but it’s not the time to let them go bad just because you can’t stand to eat another blt, caprese salad, or plain ol’ tomato sandwich.  charleston’s lee brothers have taken a chock full of tomato, classic italian favorite, panzanella, given it a lowcountry twist & turned it into something unforgettable that will have you scooping up all the tomatoes you can get your hands on, just to have it one more time.

we had leftover cornbread from another meal that we tossed in here, so i’m including the lee brothers cornbread recipe with this, because i think it may be a better match than the smoky/savory kind we just happened to have on hand. also? the lee bros blanched & peeled their tomatoes. i think that’s just nonsense, but do what you wish.

adapted from the lee brothers southern cookbook via smitten kitchen

for the cornbread
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (the lee bros prefer whole, but you can get by with low fat)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. preheat the oven to 450°.  with the first tablespoon of butter, grease the sides and bottom of a large cast iron skillet.  place the pan in the preheating oven.

2.  in a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  in a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg until it’s frothy, then add buttermilk & whisk some more.  add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix together until combined thoroughly.  whisk in the melted butter.

3.  the skillet is ready once the butter is smoking.  carefully take out of the oven & turn the pan, so the butter evenly coats the bottom & sides.  pour the batter in & it should sizzle.  bake for 15, until the top is golden brown & it begins to pull away from the sides of the skillet.  set aside and let cool.

for the buttermilk lime dressing
3/4 cup buttermilk
5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup finely minced fresh basil
1/4 cup finely minced fresh flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely minced green onions
salt to taste
4-5 tablespoons crème fraîche (optional, we just happened to have some)

1.  whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl.  set aside.

for the salad
1 recipe crispy corn bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes (about 4-6 medium ones)
6-7 cups sturdy lettuce (like boston, butter, or bibb), roughly torn into manageable pieces
1 large vidalia onion, sliced into rings as thinly as possible
1 recipe buttermilk lime dressing
salt & pepper

1.  preheat the oven to 250°.  spread the corn bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet.  bake for about 7 minutes, until cubes are lightly toasted.

2.  in a large bowl, add the lettuce, corn bread cubes, onion & tomatoes and toss to combine, making sure the onion rings get well separated.  drizzle with dressing, season with salt & pepper & toss to coat.  serve immediately.

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