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Grilled Panela in Roasted Tomato Sauce

This recipe can be found at El Restaurante

Recipe by Chef Daniel Camp, On the Border; recipe and photo courtesy of California Milk Advisory Board

Makes 12 servings

3 ¾ lbs. Real California Panela cheese

6 oz. pickled red onions

¾ c. Real California Cotija cheese

¼ c. cup toasted pepitas

Roasted tomato sauce (recipe below)

Cilantro oil (recipe below)

Chile-Lime Salad (recipe below)

The Roasted Tomato Sauce:

2 oz. guajillo chile, stems removed

¼ oz. dried chile de arbol, stems removed

1 qt. boiling water

8 oz. yellow onion, peeled and halved

3 lbs. Roma tomatoes

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil

1 oz. garlic, finely chopped

2 ½ t. sea salt

1 ½ t. dried oregano

    Place guajillos and chile de arbol on a 350°F flattop or sauté pan on medium heat and heat each side for approximately 30 seconds, or until toasted. Remove and place in the boiling water. Remove from heat, keeping chiles submerged, and let rehydrate for approximately 20 minutes.

    Meanwhile, place onions and tomatoes on a well-oiled 350°F grill. Cook, turning occasionally, until tomatoes are blistered on all sides and onions are well charred.

    Drain rehydrated chiles and put them in a food processer or blender with the grilled vegetables. Blend on high until smooth.

   In a large saucepot over medium heat, add the oil and garlic. Cook until garlic is golden brown, approximately 30 seconds. Add blended veggie/chile mix, salt, and oregano. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Keep warm or cover and refrigerate. Reheat for service.

The Cilantro Oil:

1 qt. boiling water

2 c. cilantro, rough chopped and packed

1 c. extra-virgin olive oil

½ t. sea salt

Using a mesh strainer, blanch the chopped cilantro in the boiling water for 5 seconds, ensuring it is completely submerged. Remove from water and shock in an ice bath. Drain, ensuring all liquid is removed. Place blanched cilantro, oil, and salt in a food processor or blender. Blend on high for approximately 30 seconds or until smooth. Strain through cheesecloth and reserve the oil.

The Chile-Lime Salad:

6 oz. baby arugula

12 oz. yellow and red grape tomatoes, halved

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil

2 T. fresh lime juice

1 T. Tajin chile-lime seasoning

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss until well coated.

To Plate, per serving:

Cut 5 ounces of panela cheese in 2 ½-ounce circles, squares, half-moons, etc. Place sliced panela on a 350°F flattop or sauté pan over medium heat, and cook for approximately 2 minutes on each side, or until well browned and heated through.

Ladle ½ cup Roasted Tomato Sauce in the center of a plate. Shingle grilled panela in center of sauce. Top cheese with 2 ½ ounces of Chile-Lime Salad and ½ ounce pickled red onions. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cotija cheese and 1 teaspoon pepitas. Drizzle plate with 1 tablespoon Cilantro Oil.

Chef’s Notes: Make sure the chiles get toasted but not burnt. They add a great depth of flavor to the sauce along with the roasted veggies. If you can use wood or wood chips on the grill, even better.

El Restaurante

El Restaurante magazine was founded in 1997, and is read by over 25,000 owners and managers of Mexican and Latin restaurants in the United States. The magazine is published five times per year by Maiden Name Press, LLC in Chicago, Illinois.

El Restaurante also publishes a monthly e-newsletter, eMex, and maintains the popular website

El Restaurante is edited by Kathleen Furore, a veteran journalist. She has been the editor since the magazine was founded. Kathleen can be reached at 708-267-0023 or

For advertising information, please contact publisher Ed Avis at or 708-218-7755.


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