July 21st, 2014

BIG Tomato Suppertime


I’m not one to boast, but the scores (hordes, legions, truckloads) of plump, ripe, succulent tomatoes that I’ve been picking from my little garden have afforded me bragging rights.

Never–and I really mean NEVER–have I had such success.

Biggest Juiciest Tomatoes EVER!

Check it out—this handful is more the norm than the anomaly.


My friend Kimmie, an avid gardener who follows the Farmers’ Almanac, tells me that it is because I planted them in alignment with the full moon.

I checked back on the calendar, and why, yes, I did. Unintentionally.

Bill speculated that it is because our winter was extra cold, killing off the destructive insect larvae and/or fungus-mold-rot starters hidden in the soil.

I figured the damp spring got our plants off to a terrific start in making blooms, and now that the hot summer days are here, they are bearing beauteous fruits.

And, maybe, it was just time.

Bill’s dad, who was a dedicated farmer by profession, always said you could count on 1 great growing year in 7. Maybe this is that year.


Whatever the case—and I suspect it is a serendipitous confluence of all these factors—I am the happy harvester of Cherokee Purples, Lemon Boys, Sun Golds, Black Krim, Amish Paste, Bradleys, German Pinks, Teardrops, and one other heirloom variety whose clever name escapes me.

We’ve been eating them all ways—caprese, savory tart, pasta sauce, on sturdy bread swiped with mayo—but this salad, a featured recipe in my cookbook, has been favored both at the dinner table, and in my cooking demonstrations.

Cornbread Panzanella is a Southern take on the much loved Italian bread salad. The season’s bounty of ripe sweet tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and sharp red onion are at the heart of each version. But, instead of using hunks of leftover, stale rustic bread, you make cornbread croutons. (Hint: the cornbread is the only part of this dish that requires turning on the oven. Everything else is either chopped or whisked!)


Instead of tossing the vegetables and bread cubes in a red wine vinaigrette, you make a tangy buttermilk ranch to coat the mixture.


It works beautifully.

After chopping the tomatoes, you put the chunks into a bowl and sprinkle them with salt to coax out their juices. When you toss the mixture with the herbed buttermilk ranch,(enlivened with lemon, flat leaf parsley and scallions) those juices meld with the dressing, creating a luscious rose-tinged sauce.

That soaks into the cornbread croutons, which you’ve toasted to a toothsome crunch. There’s a marvelous combination of textures and tastes.

You could add bits of bacon or pancetta, shavings of parmegianno-reggiano, or a good sharp white cheddar, if you wanted to make it “meatier.” But this big tomato salad makes satisfying summer meal, just as it is. The bread salad theme can be expansive: this BLT version from Cooking Light is mighty tempting.

It has been fruitful outside the garden too–busy promoting the Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook. It’s been getting great reviews, I am happy to report, and I’ve been compiling the blogpost and articles here. I appreciate everyone’s kind words and support.




1 1?2 cups cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
1?2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking sheet.
In a large bowl whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Whisk in the eggs, melted butter, and milk until well incorporated. Do not overbeat. Pour onto the baking sheet.
Bake until set—golden brown—about 20 minutes.
Allow to cool. Cut into cubes and spread out onto a lightly oiled baking sheet.
Toast for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool.

Makes 2 cups.


1?2 cup buttermilk
1?2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 green onions, chopped finely, tops included
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1?2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1?4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of black pepper

In a medium bowl combine the buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, green onions, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Taste for seasonings and adjust. This will keep, refrigerated, for a week.

Makes 1 generous cup.


1 1?2 cups diced Bradley tomatoes
1?2 cup peeled, seeded, and cubed cucumbers
1?2 cup sliced red onion
1?2 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, basil, salt, and pepper. Add 2 cups of cornbread croutons. Pour the Real Ranch Dressing over the croutons and toss well. Serve immediately.


Posted in Breads, Recipes, Salads, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes

20 Responses to “BIG Tomato Suppertime”
  1. Eileen Says:

    This sounds so delicious! I’ve never heard of using ranch on a panzanella, but I will take it. :) Definitely keeping this in mind for the future tomato crop.

  2. Joyti Says:

    Ranch and cornbread in Panzanella – I like it, it’s like an American take on an Italian classic :)

    Your tomatoes look great too.

  3. Kath Says:

    That is a BIG tomato! I like bounteous years. I am not sure we are going to be so lucky and I have a feeling that those tomatoes that will come will do so when we are away. I have heard about the lunar effect and whilst I am not convinced I would like to believe that is the reason.

  4. JP & Lynn Evans Says:

    CORNBREAD CROUTONS, what a great idea, we’re on it!

  5. Barbara Says:

    Amazing, Nancy! Kudos to your gardening skills. Those are gorgeous tomatoes. And what fun to make a corn bread panzanella with them. One of my fave salads.

  6. Maggie Says:

    Hey Nance, I love your tomatoes! Gardening is iffy business and it’s always such a good feeling when everything aligns!! Great salad!!

  7. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Thanks Everyone! It has been a treat having this tomato bounty—which should continue (fingers crossed!) through the summer.

    Two things I love about this salad: how the dressing becomes pink, as it mingles with tomato juices, and how the croutons soak up the buttermilk dressing–a combo of crunch and tangy cornmeal mush.

  8. Beth Says:

    As you know, I made this salad last month and thought it was fabulous. What a great way to use the freshest ingredients!

  9. fluffy Says:

    I had this for dinner last night

    the best!

  10. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    what! are you kidding me. Did I really just see that huge tomato? WoW! that is one monster of a tomato and one my dad would go crazy over. He eats them like they are candy with a dash of salt and pepper:) Love the cornbread salad with the juicy tomatoes. Makes me think of summer

  11. Gerlinde Says:

    What a great salad. I can’t wait to make it when I return to California. I love the combination of corn bread and the ranch dressing, both are favorites of my husband. At my mom’s farm here in Germany the tomatoes are still green.

  12. Michele|Cooking At Home Says:

    Gorgeous tomatoes. I love the idea of using cornbread croutons. Looks delicious.

  13. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    This looks delicious! And I’m totally in the mood for some homemade ranch dressing.

  14. Juliana Says:

    OMG Nancy…the tomatoes look beautiful…all size, shape and color…wonderful!
    I like the idea of using cornbread for the salad…and the dressing just sound and look delicious.
    Hope you are enjoying your week :D

  15. heather Says:

    This looks AMAZING, great recipe! Thank you Nancy!

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  17. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    My cherry tomatoes have started to ripen but all the large heirlooms are still very green. When they do, I’ll be making your salad.

  18. Teresa, foodonfifth Says:

    Nance, this looks amazing. Aren’t we the lucky ones to have such a fine tomato crop? I can see there will be many future tomato blog posts coming out of Middle Tennessee.
    As you know I am a fan of any recipe where cornbread can be added so this is just up my culinary alley.
    Beautiful ‘maters my friend.

  19. goodfoodmatters Says:

    my crop is slowing down—somewhat—with this dry weather. nonetheless, I have a several large bowls of ‘maters ready to can. what a wonder!

  20. Good Food Matters » Blog Archive » Warm Eggplant-Tomato Salad with Fried Tomato Skins Says:

    […] heavy rains have inspired the tomatoes to produce again, although not in the gargantuan sizes of July, and their skins are a bit […]

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