Locally grown barley and chard from the farmers market (only 2 weekends left!) and a vision of stuffed manicotti were the inspiration for this dish. Really. I had all the ingredients with which to stuff manicotti shells, but I didn't have the shells and was not going to drive to the market for just one item. So, take a breath, step back 10 yards, and punt . . . Put barley on the inside and leave the pasta off of the outside. Goal!
This is organically grown rainbow chard; isn't it beautiful? And big!
The most time consuming task in making this healthy and delicious dish is cutting the chard stems away from the leaves. (And please!, don't toss those stems away. Wrap them in plastic and put them in the fridge - I've got another recipe up my sleeve.)
Christine's Barley, Chard And Ricotta Cheese Casserole
Christine's original recipe
20-22 large chard leaves on stalks
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups cooked barley, cooled
15-ounces ricotta cheese
2 extra-large eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cut the leaves from the chard stems by chosing a point up in the leaf where the stem is thin then cutting the stem away from both sides of the leaf. You will be left with a chard leaf that has a deep V at the bottom.
Set the leaves one on top of the other as you finish stemming them.
Roll the leaves up lengthwise like a fat cigar then slice crosswise into 1-inch wide strips.
When that's done, with your knife at a right angle to the first cut, cut into 1-inch wide pieces. This doesn't have to be perfect, just make them a rather uniform size that will be easy to cut with a fork and eat.
Put a teaspoon olive oil into a warm, large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic and allow it to soften, about 1 minute.
Add the chard and stir to incorporate the garlic pieces into the leaves. Saute until tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, nutmeg, thyme and salt and mix well. Stir in the barley and some freshly ground black pepper.
When the chard is cooked, stir it in to the ricotta mixture until it is fully incorporated.
Stir in the grated parmesan, season with salt and pepper if desired.
Spoon the mixture into a rectangular glass baking dish that has been lightly coated with olive oil or cooking spray. Smooth the top and bake in a 375-degree oven for about 25 minutes. A knife inserted into the middle of the casserole will come out clean when done.
Allow the casserole to cool for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
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