You know how there are certain things that are love at first sight, or rather, love at first bite? Well, it was certainly not the case for me when it comes to kale. Kale was all the fuss on social media in the last couple years, but I’d been hesitant to try it. As I continued to read about it nutritional benefits, how it’s considered as “one of the best vegetables you can eat”, anti-cancer and cholesterol lowering and whatnot, I decided to try a small portion of a kale salad at the Whole Foods salad bar. Most of the time Whole Foods does a pretty good job with their salad/hot food bar. But this kale salad, ugh, It was bitter and rubbery. I HATED IT. And that’s when I gave up on kale.
But. Something changed.
As you already know, I’m a HUGE fan of Smitten Kitchen. 80% of the things I make are from Smitten Kitchen’s recipes. One day as I was doing my daily browsing of the site, I came across a recipe of a kale salad with pecorino and walnuts. It’s sprinkled with raisins, bread crumbs and all the good stuff. The combination sounded too good. Plus…if Deb from Smitten Kitchen said it’s good, then it’s got to be good, so I decided to take away my prejudice against kale and give it a try! AND…I LOVED it! This is the story of how kale came back to my life (still not the kale salad from Whole Foods).
But as you see in the picture, this is not about the kale salad. We’ll talk about that another time.
It is, however, about a rice gratin with caramelized onion and kale from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. It is vegetarian, but you won’t even miss the meat eating it. It’s full of texture and flavor and nutrition. It’s easy to make. And did I mention it’s got cheese? Like, lots of cheese? Enough said.
The original recipe called for wild rice. But I’m not made of money, and couldn’t shake $9.99 for a small bag of rice when I’m used to paying $12.99 for rice that would last me six months from the Asian market (Trust me, I eat lots of rice). But I also know that regular Japanese rice would be too moist and sticky for a gratin. I needed something with more texture, so I settled with a $5.99 whole grain rice blend that contains traces of wild rice.
And it worked wonderfully!
You will be tempted to eat it half way through. And technically, you can, since everything is cooked at that point. But be patient, my friend, the prize is at the end.
You will feel accomplished by the time you have assembled this. Now pop it into the oven, get a glass of wine, sit back and wait for magic to happen.
Voila! Look at THAT. That beautiful golden crust. The rice has now absorbed the fragrances from the caramelized onion, chicken broth, and swiss. I had to stop myself from finishing the whole dish at once.
What are you waiting for?
Rice Gratin with Kale, Caramelized Onion and Swiss
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Serving: 4-5 dinner servings, 10-12 as sides
1.5 cup wild rice/whole grain rice/brown rice
2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 cups of kale (I used the ones from a salad bag, a fresh bundle works too), roughly chopped
2 cups of Swiss cheese
2.5 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
3/4 cup of vegetable/chicken broth
1 cup of dry, fine breadcrumb (I used panko)
1. Cook the rice according to package instructions.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over med-low heat. Add onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for about 20 minutes until onion is browned and sweet.
4. Add the kale to the onion until it wilts.
5. Pour kale-onion mixture into the cooked rice and mix together.
6. Add 1 cup of cheese to the kale-onion-rice mixture and stir it.
7. To assemble the gratin, grease the bottom of a baking dish with butter. Spread the rice mixture to the baking dish, then pour broth over it. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Mix breadcrumbs with the remaining tablespoon of butter and toss it over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
8. To the oven it goes! Bake for 30-35 minutes until it bubbles and browns.
I hope you enjoy this hearty and healthy dish!