It’s a very rare day on Frittata because I’m sharing a recipe that includes beef. Let me be clear – I am not a vegetarian or vegan. I cook and eat a mostly plant-based diet by choice, but I do eat fish and meat. Meat is not frequently found in my fridge or on my stove, and beef is on the bottom of that list even when it is. That should tell you there must be something special about this recipe. The secret to Carne Asada and Corn Panzanella was the pre-made carne asada that I got after a shift at Whole Foods. Otherwise, this recipe would never have happened. But, if you can’t find pre-prepared carne asada, it’s easy to make at home.
What the H— is Panzanella?
Glad you asked! If you are new to Frittata, you may have missed my previous post introducing Panzanella as catch-all term for salads that include big chunks of crusty bread. My Simple Summer Panzanella recipe is an easy 15-minute weeknight dinner featuring store-bought rotisserie chicken, red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, and basil.
The actual definition of Panzanella takes into consideration that the crusty bread chunks must also soak up a vinegar-based dressing. Like salads but hate creamy dressings? Panzanella is perfect for you.
Carne Asada – Spanish for Delicious
By now pretty much everyone has heard of carne asada which is Spanish for “grilled meat”. That’s kind of cheapening the concept though.
The meat is usually prepared with flank steak but could be made with skirt steak. It’s marinated in a mixture that includes either orange or lime juice (or both), soy sauce, garlic, and herbs. If you want to try making your own, here’s a link to a marinade recipe by Rick Bayless. The guy is a master when it comes to Mexican cuisine. I feel confident this will be a winner and will get you the perfect carne asada for your Panzanella.
Or, you can see if this is available in your local Whole Foods and your life just got easier. Frontera is Rick’s product line so it should be a great option.
As I mentioned above, my Whole Foods makes their own carne asada so all I had to do was buy it and reheat it for the Panzanella salad.
Corn on the Grill
For this recipe, I used 2 ears of fresh corn on the cob. I was planning to heat up the grill pan to get the carne asada hot, so I decided to grill the corn as well.
Get the pan nice and hot, give it a quick spray of cooking oil, and lay your cobs down. Roll them 1/4 turn every minute or so until you have seared spots throughout. Use tongs to remove them from the pan.
The next part requires a little skill but this is the best way to get the corn kernels off the cob and into your dish without them going all over the floor.
Holding the hot corn upright with tongs in one hand, use a sharp knife to slice down from the top of the cob to cut the kernels off. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, if you get too close to the cob it gets much harder so just do your best to cut the kernels only. They slide right off.
Reheat the Meat
At this point, turn off the heat on your grill pan. Then lay your pre-prepared carne asada in the hot pan. You don’t want to lose that gorgeous pink color on the inside or your meat will be dry and tough. The goal is just to get it warm and juicy again. The pan is still hot enough to cook the meat for about 2 minutes per side to accomplish that. Once hot, remove the meat from the pan, cut it into strips, and then into bite-sized pieces.
The finishing touches for this Panzanella are crumbled Cotija cheese and pepitas. Cotija is a Mexican cow’s milk cheese that is similar to feta so you can substitute crumbled feta if you can’t find Cotija. Pepitas are a lesser-known snacking nut more commonly known as raw pumpkin seeds. They are not quite the same as the seeds you scooped from your Halloween pumpkin and roasted. They are green in color and nuttier. These days they are very easy to find, they are healthy and they are awesome on pretty much any salad. Here’s my favorite brand:
To build your Carne Asada and Grilled Corn Panzanella, you will also need to toast your bread, make the dressing and chop your other veggies. It might seem like a lot of steps, but a little organized prep is all you need and the entire meal comes together in about 15 minutes.
- 2 slices thick sourdough bread, ideally a little stale, cut into big chunks
- olive oil cooking spray
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar
- 1 lime
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium tomato, chopped into bite-sized chunks
- 1/2 med cucumber, sliced into half-moons
- 1 handful baby arugula, lightly chopped
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 5 leaves basil, sliced
- 2 ears corn on the cob, husked
- 2 servings carne asada *see notes
- 1 tbsp Cotija cheese
- 2 tbsp sprouted pepitas or roasted pumpkin seeds
- Preheat the oven to 325°. If you plan to use convection, skip this step . Place your bread chunks on a baking sheet, spray lightly with cooking spray but enough to coat and season with salt and pepper. Once the oven is preheated, place the baking sheet with the bread in the oven and toast for 7-9 minutes until turning golden but a tiny bit soft in the centers. It's better to overdo this step than to not toast long enough. If using convection, don't preheat the oven. Just turn it on to 325° when you put the baking sheet in.
- While the oven is preheating, place a cast-iron grill pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Leave it to preheat while you prepare the vinaigrette. In a large serving bowl whisk together the vinegar, juice of 1 lime and 2 tbsp of olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Chop the tomato and cucumber and add to the serving bowl. Chop the arugula and herbs and set aside.
- Your grill pan is now nice and hot. Spray your corn cobs with cooking spray and place in the hot pan. Turn each cob 1/4 turn every minute or so until you have nice searing around the entire cob. Using tongs in one hand, remove from pan and hold upright in your serving dish. Use a sharp knife in your other hand to cut the kernels off the cob and let them fall into the serving dish.
- Turn off the heat for the grill pan. Place your pre-prepared carne asada in the pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side while the pan is still nice and hot. This will reheat the meat just enough to make it juice but without losing that beautiful medium-rare color. Remove from the pan, cut into strips and then into bite-sized chunks. Add to the serving bowl.
- Remove bread from the oven and add to the serving bowl. Using a large fork and spoon, toss well to ensure everything gets coated with the dressing. Add the arugula and fresh herbs and toss lightly again to combine. Split between 2 serving bowls. Sprinkle each serving with half of the Cotija cheese and half of the pepitas. Serve immediately.
Are you a fan of Panzanella recipes but don’t like beef? Here’s a link to my recipe for vegetarian Halloumi Panzanella as an alternative.