Charred spring asparagus panzanella recipe

Recipe by Toronto chef Toben Kochman

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Whether you are more aware of your meals because it's National Nutrition Month or you just enjoy eating light and healthy in general, this zippy and smoky salad from chef Toben Kochman is something you'll want to eat over and over again. The recipe is simple and easy to follow, and gives you big flavours.

Better yet, get chef Toben and his team to cook for you at your next private or corporate event. Toben Food by Design is a Toronto catering company that specializes in providing fresh, local, artisan cuisine. 

1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 pint red cherry tomatoes, halved from top to bottom
1/2 pint yellow cherry tomatoes, halved from top to bottom
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
1 loaf day-old focaccia, cut into 1-inch cube and toasted until crunchy
1/4 cup pickled red onions
1/4 cup thinly shaved red radish
1 bulb fennel, cut into 1/2-inch wedges and grilled
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed, grilled and cut into 2-inch pieces
4 cups loosely packed baby arugula
3/4 cup sherry vinaigrette

Preheat oven to 400°F.

On a parchment lined baking sheet, make thin and even round piles of the grated Parmigiano Reggiano approximately 2 inch in diameter. Bake in the oven until the fricos are evenly golden browned (approximately 5 to 7 minutes) remove, set aside and allow to cool. 

Once the parmesan friccos are done, turn the heat in the oven down to 300°F.  

Toss all the tomatoes in a small mixing bowl with the olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Arrange all the tomato halves on a wire rack lined baking sheer cut side up and slowly oven roast or confit for approximately 30 to 45 minutes until tomatoes are semi-dried but still plump. Remove and set aside. 

Pickled red onion

1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 large red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced

In a small mixing bowl, combine the hot water, vinegar, salt and stir until the salt has dissolved. 

Transfer the sliced red onion into a food safe jar and pour the warm pickling liquid over top until completely the onions are completely submerged. Allow to cool completely. Can be stored in the fridge up to 3 weeks. 

Sherry vinaigrette

1/2 cup sherry vinegar
1 tbsp grainy mustard
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 ½ cup olive oil

In a food processor, combine the sherry vinegar, grainy mustard, honey, salt and pepper, blitz until smooth. 

With the food processor running, slowly stream in the olive oil until a fully emulsified vinaigrette is formed. Transfer to a food safe container and store in the fridge for up to 2 months. 


In a large mixing bowl, combine the confit cherry tomatoes, the toasted focaccia cubes, grilled fennel wedges, grilled asparagus pieces, baby arugula and toss lightly with the sherry vinaigrette. Transfer to a large serving platter, garnish with the pickled red onions, shaved red radish and parmesan fricos, serve immediately.