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I could eat an entire meal made up of just appetizers. Actually, I’ve often done this. It’s fun eating little bites of something. Appetizers scream: Time to get your boogie on! Put on your party hat (or sombrero) and get ready for fun! If you’re looking for an easy appetizer (or light meal) that very few people have heard of north of the border and involves only a few ingredients, you should try Panela Cheese in Mexican Red Salsa (or Queso Panela en Salsa Roja).
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You start with Queso Panela. You will find this in the dairy section next to the cream cheese and sour cream. It is usually by the Queso Fresco, but don’t confuse the two cheeses. Queso Fresco is more crumbly and you do not want to make a crummy dish. Queso Panela is firmer, and you can cut into it without the cheese falling apart. That’s why it’s perfect for this recipe.
For my Panela Cheese in Mexican Red Salsa (or Queso Panela en Salsa Roja), I diced the cheese. You can leave it in long strips as well. Some people will even leave it in large, steak-like cheese slices. This is a totally different kind of “cheese steak.” Not the Philly kind. Although those are pretty good too…
To make the red sauce, I’m using very ripe tomatoes. Not “squeezably soft.” Just ripe. I also like diced onions. Some people use sliced onions. Whatever you prefer is fine.
To this recipe, I’m adding Epazote. This is a Mexican herb that gives incredible flavor, but it can be hard to find. If that’s the case, have no worries. Your Panela Cheese in Mexican Red Salsa (or Queso Panela en Salsa Roja) will still be delicious without it. The cheese only needs a few minutes in the pan to warm up so keep a close eye on it. Serve immediately with tortillas, tortilla chips, or saltine crackers. You can also serve this dish as a light yet satisfying meal next to some refried beans and a small salad. Hope you enjoy!
Panela Cheese in Mexican Red Salsa (Queso Panela en Salsa Roja)
- Add the tomatoes and garlic to a blender.
- Blend until smooth.
- If you need water, add a splash. Only what is necessary to blend.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.
- Add the onion and stir until translucent. 1 minute.
- Add the serrano pepper, stir for 1 more minute.
- Now add the tomato mixture to the pan along with the epazote (if using) and a pinch of salt.
- Stir to combine.
- Add the queso panela, coating everything with the sauce.
- Let simmer uncovered for 3-4 minutes.
- Serve with tortillas, tortilla chips, or saltine crackers.