Cornbread salad is a favorite Southern side dish come summertime. It's a delicious old-fashioned recipe — one that we all need in our lives in some form or fashion. There are numerous recipes, all calling for cornbread either made from scratch or from a mix. And all call for some kind of beans, most often black beans or pinto beans. From there, the sky's the limit as to what ingredients you can add.

I've had cornbread salads with cucumber, crunchy green peppers, fresh corn, canned corn, goat cheese rather than cheddar, blue cheese dressing, Italian dressing and ranch.

But one of the best I've had lately — at a friend's house a few weeks ago — put a Southwestern spin on this Southern classic. Cumin and oregano, as well as chopped green chilies, marry to make this cornbread salad perfect for a side dish with everything from burgers to fish tacos.

The original recipe calls for cornbread mix to which you add green chilies and seasonings before baking. I've used leftover cornbread and added the green chilies and seasonings to the dressing mixture and it worked well. Also, as fresh corn comes into season, there's no reason to use canned corn. The sweetness of the corn and the spice of the green chilies is magic in your mouth.

Make the salad at least two hours ahead of time, preferably, though, the night before, allowing the flavors to blend, and it will be a delicious addition to your July Fourth menu.


Southwestern Cornbread Salad

1 (8 1/2-ounce) package cornbread mix

1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies, undrained

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano

Pinch rubbed sage

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix

2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained

2 (15 1/4-ounce) cans whole kernel corn, drained

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 cup chopped green pepper

1 cup chopped green onions

10 bacon strips, cooked crisp and crumbled

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Prepare cornbread batter according to package directions. Before baking, stir in chilies, cumin, oregano and sage. Spread in a greased 8-inch square baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool.

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream and dressing mix; set aside. Crumble half of the cornbread into a 13- by 9-inch dish. Layer with half of the beans, mayonnaise mixture, corn, tomatoes, green pepper, onions, bacon and cheese. Repeat layers (dish will be very full). Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Note: A cornbread mix makes preparation easy, but use your favorite recipe, if desired, crumble and add remaining ingredients.

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Anne Braly