I have to admit that this recipe came out of a clean-the-fridge-and-pantry evening, where I had an excess of half-used grains and some duck eggs from a pizza extravaganza a few nights before. But making it again and for this column was wholly intentional—it turned out to be an easy, delicious, leave-you-feeling-good recipe.
When describing this dish to a friend who joined me for dinner, she said, "barley, as in the soup?" Her confusion is typical; I find that barley is one of those grains that's often underused and almost ubiquitously associated with soup. Its uses are actually vast and varied, and I like to introduce newbies to this version, prepared risotto-style. While I'm not adding hot water or broth in batches to the barley as you would with a risotto, the consistency ends up somewhere between pasta and Israeli couscous, so that it's soft with a slight bite.
Near the end of the cooking process, I fold in the kale in batches so that it shrinks down a bit and makes room for the remaining kale to make itself at home. Now you might ask, why drizzle oil on the dish before placing under the broiler? If you don't, the top of the barley will get a little skin on it and dry up, making it look stale and unappealing, so the extra bit of oil helps keep it looking and tasting delicious.
The recipe also uses chicken eggs instead of duck, but both are great options should you happen to have either on hand. Overall, this makes a quick and easy one-pot dinner—most of it's done on the stovetop, with just the eggs finishing under the broiler.