When serving a crowd, I'm always thinking of recipes that can be fully or partially made ahead. That's why this panzanella is so great. The traditional bread salad was a way to use up stale or leftover bread. I thought it would be fun to add a Southern spin and substitute day-old cornbread and toast it in bacon drippings. Sounds yummy right? Well, it is!
Cook the bacon in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until browned and crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to cool, reserving the drippings in the skillet, then chop.
Add half of the Cornbread cubes to the hot bacon drippings in the skillet and brown on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the skillet and let cool. Add vegetable oil to the skillet if it becomes dry, then brown the remaining cornbread cubes. Let cool.
Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard and garlic in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, basil, capers, cucumber and onion. Toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, or serve right away.
Just before serving, add the cornbread cubes and bacon and toss. Garnish with additional basil, if desired.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch baking pan with vegetable shortening or cooking spray.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together the buttermilk, butter, vegetable oil and egg in a separate bowl. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until the dry ingredients are moistened. (The batter will be lumpy and thick.)
Bake the cornbread until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.