This salad is a great spring dish using fresh local and seasonal bounty. This dish not only looks amazing, but is also packed with flavour and nutrition. Swiss chard is an excellent source of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, and dietary fibre.
To easily peel asparagus, use a small, narrow food container to elevate the spear off the cutting board so your peeler won’t hit the board as you swipe it along the length of the spear.
In blender, combine vinaigrette ingredients, except for olive oil. Blend until smooth. With blender on low, slowly add olive oil to mixture until emulsified. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if you wish. Refrigerate in large jar until ready to use. It can be refrigerated for a couple of days.
In saucepan, combine all pickling liquid ingredients and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve honey or sugar and salt, about 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
Wash and dry Swiss chard. Remove leaves from stems. Take stems and slice on the bias into 1/8 in (3 mm) pieces. Stir into warm pickling liquid and steep for 20 minutes. Cut remaining chard leaves into bite-sized pieces and add to large bowl.
Snap the bottoms off asparagus spears where they naturally snap when pressure is applied. This will remove the woody fibrous end. You can reserve these pieces for soups or broths. Holding each asparagus spear by the tip, use vegetable peeler to peel long strands, and then cut off tips. Into large bowl with chard leaves, place asparagus tips and their long strands. Set aside.
To prepare fava beans, bring small saucepan with water to a boil. Pop beans from pods and blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the outer layer of beans. Using slotted spoon, immediately lift beans from simmering water and plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking. Reserve cooking liquid. Drain beans from ice water and remove any outer layers of beans that might still be attached before adding beans to asparagus and chard in bowl. Drizzle vegetables with 1/4 cup (60 mL) vinaigrette to lightly coat and marinate while poaching eggs.
Using simmering water from blanched fava beans, add a splash of vinegar and gently poach eggs to soft doneness, about 4 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to kitchen towel to drain.
To serve, divide salad among 4 plates. Build a round nest of asparagus ribbons and Swiss chard, reserving a few beans for the top. Using slotted spoon, scoop up some pickled Swiss chard stems from pickling liquid and gently shake to drain off excess liquid. Place chard stems on top of each salad along with remaining fava beans. Refrigerate pickling liquid and use for another recipe, if you wish.
Using vegetable peeler or microplane grater, zest flakes of Parmesan over each dish. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and finish with a poached egg in the centre of each plate. Drizzle each with one or two additional spoons of vinaigrette and serve.
This recipe is part of the Root to Stem collection.
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