I generally think there are two kinds of people in the world: those who embrace vegetables in their natural form, and those who are less fond and prefer them hidden so they don’t realize what they’re eating. This amazing gratin is a perfectly happy medium that will suit both types of people. It starts with an entire bunch of kale, and the finished product is so in-your-face green there’s no getting around the fact that it’s full of good-for-you vegetable. But it also has a nice nutmeg and allspice-enhanced cream sauce and bubbly brown cheese on top, so it’s not exactly rabbit food.
I was bracing myself for complete failure when this went into the oven. It seemed like a soupy mess and I didn’t see how it would get to the right consistency. But it did! It thickened up beautifully and my husband even said “I guess I like kale” – so I must have done something right.
In the original recipe, the cream sauce starts with a roux, but I opted to boil some whole milk with corn starch instead, and it worked nicely.
(adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison)
2/3 cup pearl barley
1 1/2 cups water
salt and pepper
1 large bunch kale, washed and stems removed
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tbsp corn starch
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup grated provolone
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and add the barley. Simmer, covered, until the barley is tender, about 30 minutes, then remove from the heat and let stand with the lid on.
Put about 1/2″ of water in a skillet and bring it to a boil. Add the kale and cook, stirring, until the kale is tender (about 8 minutes). Transfer the kale and a few tablespoons of cooking liquid to a food processor, and puree.
Bring the milk and corn starch to a boil in a medium saucepan, whisking constantly. Cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, then season with salt and pepper and add the nutmeg and allspice.
Grease a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Stir the cream sauce, kale, and barley together and pour into the dish. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top and bake until the cheese is bubbly and brown, about 30 minutes.