I discovered a recipe for some version of this salad years ago on one of those Saturday "Crap, there's a potluck Sunday!" recipe hunts. I happened to have a half-pan of cornbread (No, not that cornbread. My life wasn't that good yet.) and some pinto beans left from a safely recent dinner, and I already loved to use leftovers magically (You should see how I doctored leftover macaroni salad into our dinner tonight. Or not.). I gave thanks for my luck, layered her up, and loved it.
I say that I found a recipe. I guess I did. But I did not keep it or write anything down. You really don't need written instructions for this salad. All you need is the idea. Just layer crumbled cornbread, beans, and, really, whatever else you like. Some crunchy or colorful things are good. Cheese is de rigeur. Bacon is sexy. Then top with dressing and refrigerate. So yes, it's a make ahead wonder. Something else to love about it.
I used brown beans because I like the overtly Southern USA character of them. When I searched for recipes out of curiosity this time around, I found several versions that use black beans, corn, and salsa for a Tex-Mex taste. That approach could be fun, too.
My dressing on top was my homemade Ranch (another use for that, too!), but you could also use the mayonnaise, vinegar, and sugar mixture that's ususally cole slaw dressing. Either one is tasty.
Aside from transformative leftover potential and make-ahead ease, I love to make this salad is because I get to use my trifle bowl, which shows off the layers so prettily. However, any glass bowl that's a good bit taller than it is wide will do. But it has to be glass. What's the point otherwise? Ok, there's the eating, but we eat with our eyes, too. So, please---glass. Please?
Well, whatever container you use, you now have another use for leftover cornbread. My work here is done for the night. If you'll excuse me, I have to go feed my inferiority complex by reading award-winning blogs. (At least I have dinner.)
Half a 9-10 inch pan of cornbread
Beans--2-3 cups cooked or 2 15-oz cans
Chopped vegetables--bell peppers, celery, tomatoes, onion, grated carrot, etc
Bacon--5-10 strips, cooked and crumbled
Shredded cheddar cheese
Ranch dressing or cole slaw dressing (bought if necessary)
Shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, and/or scallions for garnish if you wish
Crumble the cornbread into the bottom of your glamorous vessel. Top with the beans, layers of whatever veggies you chose, the crumbled bacon and cheese. Spread dressing over the top. Garnish now or at serving time. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.