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A Road Less Traveled and Kale Barley Gratin

I find moving to be a rather emotional endeavor. It is not simply wrapping and unwrapping glassware, books and picture frames, it is unearthing things that have been buried for a while. Some of them are painful, like an unexpected photograph of the man who was going to marry me, and didn’t. Others are delightful: a forgotten candy cane, still in its wrapper, pictures from a dear friend in Germany, a scribbled note from someone who loves me. But all of them draw out emotions, both joyous and sad, and I’m officially tuckered out. 🙂

I was perusing Passage Paradis yesterday, delighting in her photographs of a bird market tucked away in Hong Kong, and it got me thinking about “taking the road less traveled” “getting off the beaten track” and other such things. I love to travel so very much, but I’m too broke to go anywhere for a while, so I’ve tried to look at my current surroundings with new eyes, as if I were a tourist in my own neighborhood.

Over the past week I have learned no less than FOUR different ways to get to my chiropractor up in Canada. 🙂 Two are rather dull consisting mostly of highways, gas stations and McDonalds, but the other two? Ohhh, they’re lovely, meandering past vineyards and hobby farms, through treed hillsides and alongside ditches filled with blackberry bushes.

On one particularly stormy day I had a few spare minutes and turned down a side road to a park I’d never noticed before. I found this:

It thrilled me to pieces and I couldn’t stop grinning, so happy with my discovery, so glad I had turned down that obscure road. 🙂

Thus inspired I got back to work and eagerly dug into my bowl of Kale Barley Gratin. Granted, this is not what you’d call a “pretty” dish, but it’s awfully tasty and so good for you. 🙂 Both barley and kale are simmered separately, then, while the barley drains, you puree the kale with a bit of broth. It turns into a vivid green sauce that is quite astonishing. 🙂 Then you mix it in with the barley, a roux seasoned with allspice and nutmeg, a mounded handful of grated Parmesan, and pour it into a baking dish and bake until it’s nicely browned on top. It’s great served hot from the oven, but is just as tasty reheated a few days later, or even eaten cold.

Kale Barley Gratin
(Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

Ingredients:

2/3 cup pearl barley, rinsed
Salt and freshly milled pepper
1 large bunch kale, about 1 1/4 lbs, stems entirely removed
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour (I used gluten-free)
1 1/2 cups milk or vegetable stock or chicken stock (I like chicken stock)
1/4 tsp allspice (I didn’t have grated, so I added a few whole to the stock while simmering)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Gruyere or provolone (I used Parmesan)

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, add barley to 1 quart boiling water with 1/2 tsp salt and simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain.
  2. While it’s cooking, cook the kale in a skillet of boiling salted water until tender, 6-10 minutes. Drain, then puree with 1/4 cup of the cooking water until smooth. 
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a small saucepan, whisk in flour, then add milk. Cook, stirring constantly over medium heat, until thick. Season with allspice, nutmeg, salt and pepper. 
  4. Combine all ingredients, check seasonings, then pour into buttered baking dish or ramekins.
  5. Bake until lightly browned on top, about 30 minutes.
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