After a few, all-too-brief days of glorious blue skies, sunshine and warm breezes, it has been raining for the past five days straight. And, if we believe the weather forecast (even though that's often a foolish thing to do), we're in for more of the same for the foreseeable future. Blech.
Unfortunately, I am not blessed with the "sunniest" of dispositions and when it is gray out for days on end (or, to be honest, even just a few hours), I begin to feel tired, cranky and a tad despairing.
One way I've found to beat the rainy
day week blues is to cook something really delicious and cozy. So when Sunday dawned just as gray, wet and depressing as the previous few days had been, I decided to try out a variation on this delicious, hearty barley and greens gratin that I'd spotted in the New York Times' Recipes for Health column earlier in the week.
One way I've found to beat the rainy
As usual, I took Martha Rose Schulman's excellent, health-conscious recipe and made it a little less healthy by substituting cream for her 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 finally moved our plant outside last week after a long winter indoors and it seems to like this endless rain. At least one of us is happy...
I substituted Swiss Chard for the beet greens since I did not feel like dealing with beets and also 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. It did the trick. I am REALLY hoping that the sun comes out soon, though!
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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