Are you looking for a novel vegetable side dish for the holidays that will make you look like an incredible cook, but isn’t hard to make, and that everyone will be sure to enjoy?
Asparagus is often viewed as a gourmet vegetable, but its health benefits and ease of cooking suggest that one should enjoy asparagus more frequently.
Expand your repertoire of recipes cooked with asparagus by making this vegetable mix with Swiss chard and red peppers.
Maybe you view Swiss chard in the gourmet category as well? Let’s change that too.
You will need to purchase a bunch of it and chop and wash it yourself, but you will be rewarded with a texture that is soft and succulent like spinach, but more hearty, like kale or collards.
I just love the texture of Swiss chard when cooked. The very simplest preparation is to sauté it with a little garlic and olive oil.
Here, we are adding in the asparagus and red bell peppers for color, crunch, and variety. The dish is so colorful. It looks like Christmas.
Speaking of color, you can purchase Swiss chard with red stalk, green (or white) stalks, or rainbow-colored, which includes yellow stalks. These are all good. Just pick your favorite color.
How to prepare asparagus
When purchasing asparagus, you may find stalks that are very thin or very thick. Try to choose ones with medium thickness if you can.
The tips ought to be clean and fresh looking, and the stalks firm. When they get old they start to wilt and dry out, while the tips literally rot.
In nature, in the northern hemisphere, asparagus is an early spring vegetable - one of the earliest - but growers and grocers have their ways of making it available during the November/December holidays.
In this sense, asparagus has become a fall and winter vegetable as well.
The base of the asparagus spears are generally hard and woody, and so you need to discard them. The amazing thing is that the asparagus tells you exactly how to do it.
Grip the asparagus spear near the base with two hands and gently bend the spear. The end will be rock hard, then at some point it becomes juicy and crisp. It will break right where it’s edible and juicy.
For this recipe, you want to chop the spears into bite-sized lengths, and keep the tips separate since they are more delicate and don’t take as long to cook.
Health benefits of asparagus
Asparagus has some unique health benefits.
It supports cleanse and detox, particularly through your kidneys. It also stimulates urine production and can cause urine to smell differently, or even look different. This is normal.
It is high in folate, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
How to prepare Swiss chard
So I have a method for preparing bunches of greens quickly and efficiently that I’d like to share with you. I’m not sure where I learned it, but I know that it really works.
To prep an entire bunch of Swiss chard, start by cutting off the bottom third of the Swiss chard stems and discarding them.
Now chop the remaining stems off and set aside. Don’t discard them. To make this step easier, you can arrange and align the leaves, using the point where the stems start as a line. This will allow you to cut them all off in one slice.
Next, take the leaves and use your largest knife to chop in 1-inch strips lengthwise, then turn 90 degrees and chop in the other direction so that you have squares of green leaves.
Now, back to the remaining stems. Pull off any leafy bits, and add them to the chopped greens.
Then, set all the greens in a large bowl and cover with water. Swish with your fingers. The sandy dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl.
If you use the greens right away, you can leave them in the water.
If you wish to store any of the greens, dry with a salad spinner and keep in a plastic bag for 2-3 days.
You can cook the stems. Just chop them smaller, so they cook faster, and add them first to give them a few extra minutes of cooking. The stems will become soft, like celery.
Bell peppers, known as capsicum or sweet peppers in some parts of the world, come in many colors.
The red varieties are the sweetest, but you can choose orange, yellow, purple, white, chocolate, etc.
I just wouldn’t recommend green peppers for this dish because it might make it too bitter overall.
Did you know that bell peppers are actually fruits, but we cook with them as vegetables?
Bell peppers are part of the nightshade family, which some people find irritating, or they may be allergic.
This is due to the heating and light qualities of the peppers, which makes them quite stimulating, particularly if digestion is sensitive.
Bell peppers are not exactly a gentle food. Rather, choose bell peppers to bring crunch, flavor, and excitement to a meal.
Substitutions for the Swiss chard could include any mild leafy green, such as kale, collards, or spinach.
Substitutions for the asparagus could include kohlrabi, jicama, zucchini, etc. Substitutions for the bell peppers could include turnips, radish, eggplant, fava beans, mushrooms.
Asparagus, Swiss Chard & Red Pepper
Helpful Kitchen Tools:
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ teaspoon coriander powder
- ½ teaspoon fennel powder, (optional)
- 1 ½ cups asparagus
- 4 cups Swiss chard
- 1 cup red peppers
- ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon lemon, freshly squeezed
Prepare the vegetables
- Break the hard bottoms off the asparagus stalks and chop into 1-inch pieces. Separate the delicate tips from the stalks.
- Prep the entire Swiss chard bunch. You will not use it all in this recipe, but if you wash and chop it, you’ll have a portion ready for another use. Here’s how to do it. Cut off the bottom third of the Swiss chard stems and discard. Now chop the remaining stems off and set aside. Take the leaves and chop in 1-inch strips lengthwise, then turn 90 degrees and chop in the other direction so that you have squares of green leaves. Now back to the remaining stems. Pull off the leafy bits and add them to the chopped greens. Set all the greens in a large bowl and cover with water. Swish well with your fingers. The sandy dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl. If you use the greens right away you can leave them in the water. If you wish to store any, dry with a salad spinner and keep in a plastic bag for 2-3 days. You can cook with the stems. Just chop them smaller so they cook quickly, and keep them separate for this recipe.
- Wash and remove the seeds from the red pepper. Chop into bite-sized pieces.
- Finally, mince the garlic. Now you are ready to start cooking.
Cook the vegetables
- Heat olive oil in a medium skillet on medium heat. Add minced garlic, along with the coriander and fennel powder and sizzle for 30-60 seconds.
- Add prepared asparagus stalks, Swiss chard stems, and all the red pepper to the skillet along with the salt. Stir to coat with the spices. Cook uncovered for 2-3 minutes, then add the Swiss chard leaves along with 2 tablespoons of water. Cover, and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the asparagus tips and mix well. Cook, covered, for 2-3 more minutes, until the spears are just soft.
- Remove the lid and evaporate any excess water if desired, or enjoy a bit of extra vegetable juice with your meal.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and squeeze fresh lemon on top. Enjoy!