Winter is here. Sigh… But one way I’ve found to beat the winter blues is to cook something really delicious and warm and filling. So I decided to try out a variation on this delicious, hearty barley and greens gratin that I’d spotted in the New York Times’ excellent Recipes for Health column last year.
As usual, I took Martha Rose Schulman’s excellent, health-conscious recipe and made it a little less healthy by substituting cream for the 2% milk (though my version is still pretty good for you.)
I was primarily drawn to this recipe by the barley – it just sounds so filling and unpretentious. I can imagine a big, bustling family of French peasants devouring this dish with gusto after hours in the fields, n’est-ce pas?
I was also glad to have a chance to use some of our fresh thyme.
I substituted Swiss chard for the beet greens since I found the thought of chard’s brilliant greenery appealing.
I served this for lunch along with a green salad topped with roasted beets, a nice crumbly sheep’s milk feta cheese, and sliced cucumbers. Delicious!
Swiss Chard & Barley Gratin
* 1 generous bunch Swiss chard (or beet greens or spinach or kale), washed and dried with the ribs removed (chop the ribs and set them aside)
* 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced or pressed
* Salt to taste
* 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
* 3 eggs (use organic, free range)
* 1/2 cup half and half or whole milk (use organic, grass-fed, if you can get it)
* 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
* 1 tsp Dijon mustard
* Freshly ground pepper
* 1 cup cooked barley (regular pearled or purple), brown rice or arborio rice
* 1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese (2 ounces)
* 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 2-quart gratin dish with butter or olive oil. Steam the chard leaves or other greens over 1 inch of boiling water for two to five minutes until wilted and tender. Rinse with cold water, squeeze out water and chop medium-fine. Set aside.
2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic, the chopped chard ribs and a generous pinch of salt. Continue to cook for another minute or two until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the cooked greens and the thyme, and toss together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and milk. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir in the greens mixture, the barley or rice, and the cheeses. Mix together well. Scrape into the oiled baking dish.
4. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until sizzling and lightly browned on the top and sides. Remove from the heat, and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.
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