Kale and Barley Gratin

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.

Recipe:
(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.

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9 Responses to “Kale and Barley Gratin”


  1. 1 Katerina February 16, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Amazing! I love vegetables, but it doesn’t mean I don’t like them all dressed up. I wish you had taken a picture of a gooey scoop of it?

  2. 2 Cate February 16, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Katerina – I should have, but my photography skills are a little lacking and I don’t think it would look too good!

  3. 3 elly February 16, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Mmm, this looks so simple but delicious. I love spice like nutmeg with creamy sauces, and I love barley and kale!

  4. 4 Sweets at Vicky's February 17, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Oh yum, this looks like a way to eat kale without feeling overwhelmed! I would probably have to replace the barley with quinoa or millet though, I’m allergic to barley. But thanks for a great idea!

  5. 5 Lori February 18, 2010 at 11:18 am

    So can we fit into both groups. 🙂 I’ve just recently been introduced to kale and love it. This looks like a nice twist on having it sauteed and I like the use of barley.

  6. 6 jenna August 16, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    this looks amazing!!!!!!

  7. 7 Bethany February 21, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    I just made this and it was pretty good! I did mine with skim milk and it turned out fine. It was a tad bland though, which may be because I backed off a bit on the spices because I didn’t have as much kale. I may have to try it again with a little seasoning salt or some other flavor incorporated into it. Thanks for posting!

  8. 8 Steph January 3, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Hey Cate, great recipe, thanks! Do you happen to have the caloric content for it as well? I need to skim down from the holidays but absolutely adore cheese and gratins AND kale so was just wondering if this meal should be for a ‘me’ day LOL. Cheers!

    • 9 Cate January 3, 2013 at 9:52 am

      Hi Steph,
      I don’t calculate calorie counts, but I’d guess it’s sort of on the high end just because of the cheese.


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