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Too much kale

Too much kale

I wrote about Too Much Cheese a few weeks ago. Now I’ve got too much kale. This time the source is my garden. I planted a lot of kale seeds and they struggled along for months. Something was chewing little holes in the leaves, but it was still useful. Then last month, all of the plants took off. Growing out, growing up. I couldn’t let all this go to waste.

There are plenty of healthy-diet reasons for eating kale, so I won’t repeat myself. I’ll assume you’re on board with kale. Now the problem is moving beyond kale salad and kale smoothies. What are some interesting ways to include kale at meals? I searched “kale recipes” and voila! A long list of recipes, many of which can be used as vegetarian main dishes.

I scrolled through the list and found several that sounded appealing, easy enough, put the kale front and center and didn’t involve smoothies:

  • Greens Gratin with All The cheese (#3)
  • Winter Crunch Salad (#4)
  • Chickpea Pancakes with Kale and Fennel (#6)
  • Fried Brown Rice with Kale and Turmeric (#11)
  • Just Keeps Getting Better Lentil Salad (#12)
  • Soba Noodles with Crispy Kale (#13)
  • Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Lots of Kale (#19)
  • Green Tacos (#37)
  • Kale and White Bean Soup (#45)

Of course there were lots of other delicious-sounding recipes in this list, and you can certainly find hundreds more on other websites. If you’re growing your own kale, or have a good source at your farmer’s market or grocery store, try some of these out.

Meanwhile I thought I should at least try one of these recipes and report on my experience. I picked the Greens Gratin with All The Cheese. It wasn’t complicated, and I can use up some of my cheese supply.

I frequently adapt recipes to improve the health aspects, and this recipe was no different. It calls for heavy cream, which I didn’t have around. Plus cream adds a lot of fat, but no protein. Instead I made a light cream sauce with a combination of milk and stock, which would boost protein and add rich flavor.

The recipe notes that you won’t believe how much kale you need. Kale, like other greens, cooks down, so don’t skimp. It’s helpful to have a kitchen scale to be sure you’re in the ball park for weight of the kale.  By the way, I highly recommend chopping the kale into smaller pieces (unlike the original recipe).  Big kale leaves at the bottom of the gratin tend to mesh together into a mat, making it very hard to serve the gratin.

Kale Gratin

August 22, 2023
: 2-3
: 1 hr 30 min
: 40 min
: 1 hr 30 min
: moderately difficult

My recipe uses a from-scratch cream sauce, not heavy cream. This boosts protein and cuts overall fat, emphasizing healthy fat.


  • 1 lb fresh kale leaves
  • 2 TB olive or canola oil (or a combination)
  • 2 TB flour
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 tsp salt, or more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 3 oz cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup Panko crumbs
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Step 1 Wash the kale leaves. Tear or chop into small pieces, removing the tough ribs. Set aside.
  • Step 2 Cut the onion into 2 pieces
  • Step 3 peel and mash 2 cloves of the garlic. Set aside.
  • Step 4 Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pan over moderate heat. Whisk in the flour and stir until smooth and slightly bubbly.
  • Step 5 Slowly mix in some of the milk, stirring vigorously to prevent lumps. Add more milk, alternate with stock, whisking after each addition.
  • Step 6 Add the salt, pepper, onion and mashed garlic. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes until onion is soft.
  • Step 7 Mix in the red pepper flakes and half of the lemon zest.
  • Step 8 Blend in a blender until smooth.
  • Step 9 Put the Panko crumbs in a bowl. Mince the garlic clove. Toss the Panko, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil and salt and pepper with a fork.
  • Step 10 Slice the cheese into thin slices, or grate.
  • Step 11 Heat an 8-10 inch oven proof pan over medium heat. Put 1/4 of the kale leaves in the pan. Cover and cook 3-4 minutes until the leaves wilt.
  • Step 12 Push the wilted leaves to the side and put another 1/4 of leaves into the pan. Cover and cook until wilted. Remove from heat.
  • Step 13 Press the remaining leaves onto the wilted leaves. Pour the cream sauce over the top.
  • Step 14 Arrange the cheese on top. Sprinkle with the Panko topping.
  • Step 15 Bake about 40 minutes at 350º

I made this gratin, took photos and then tasted it.  Yum!  The lemon zest and garlic really add punch.  The gratin alone could be enough for a light eater, or you could serve it with brown rice or a crusty bread for a heartier meal.