Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development
Dan Camp

Daniel Camp
Senior Director of Menu & Beverage Innovation
On the Border Mexican Gill & Cantina

Grilled Panela in Roasted Tomato Sauce

Recipe courtesy of Chef Daniel Camp
Sponsor: California Milk Advisory Board

Servings: 12


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 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 oz garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 ½ tsp dried oregano

Cilantro Oil:

  • 1 qt boiling water
  • 2 c cilantro, rough chopped and packed
  • 1 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp sea salt

Chile-Lime Salad:

  • 6 oz baby arugula
  • 12 oz yellow and red grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp Tajín chile-lime seasoning

Grilled Panela with Roasted Tomato Sauce:

  • 3 ¾ lbs Real California panela cheese
  • 6 oz pickled red onions
  • ¾ c Real California cotija cheese
  • ¼ c toasted pepitas


Roasted Tomato Sauce:

  1. Place guajillos and chile de arbol on a 350 degree F flattop or sauté pan on medium heat and heat each side for approximately 30 seconds, or until toasted.
  2. Remove and place in the boiling water. Remove from heat, keeping chiles submerged, and let rehydrate for approximately 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place onions and tomatoes on a well-oiled 350 degree F grill. Cook, turning occasionally, until tomatoes are blistered on all sides and onions are well charred.
  4. Drain rehydrated chiles and put them in a food processer or blender with the grilled vegetables. Blend on high until smooth.
  5. 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.

Cilantro Oil:

  1. 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.
  2. Place blanched cilantro, oil, and salt in a food processor or blender. Blend on high for approximately 30 seconds or until smooth.
  3. Strain through cheesecloth and reserve the oil.

Chile-Lime Salad:

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

Grilled Panela in Roasted Tomato Sauce:

  1. For each serving: Cut 5 oz panela cheese in 2 ½-oz circles, squares, half-moons, etc.
  2. Place sliced panela on a 350 degree F flattop or sauté pan over medium heat, and cook for approximately 2 minutes on each side, or until well browned and heated through.
  3. Ladle ½ c Roasted Tomato Sauce in the center of a plate.
  4. Shingle grilled panela in center of sauce.
  5. Top cheese with 2 ½ oz Chile-Lime Salad and ½ oz pickled red onions.
  6. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp cotija cheese and 1 tsp pepitas.
  7. Drizzle plate with 1 Tbsp Cilantro Oil.

Chef’s Notes

The chiles a great depth of flavor to this sauce along with the roasted veggies. Make sure the chiles get toasted but not burnt. If you can use wood or wood chips on the grill, even better.

Panela is such a versatile cheese. It is a wonderful complement to other items but shines on its own as well. It also pairs perfectly with the salty cotija. It is important to keep panela cold before slicing to help ensure it doesn’t break.

This a great dish that is lower in calories than you might expect and is vegetarian and gluten-free as well. Serve by itself as an entrée or as an appetizer with fresh tortillas or tortilla chips. Once you try this you will be thinking about it for days—trust me!


Project Management: Summit F&B
Photography: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley & Bree Williams

About The Author