Last week, I had the flu, and all I wanted was cheese and crackers. Not the fancy artisanal ones that people photograph and show off on Twitter. Saltines and hoop cheese, the kind you use to bait mousetraps.

So, when my fever finally broke, I had a fridge full of ignored things that needed to be cooked, frozen or eaten pretty much immediately, including a bag of kale the size of a hotel pillow.

In my 20s, I drunk-dialed. In my 30s, I get feverish and buy enough kale to keep a third world country regular for a week.

I didn’t want to eat the kale, but I didn’t want to waste it, either, so I started looking for comfort foods with kale and found this Crispy Baked Kale with Gruyère: sauteed greens covered in a blanket of melted cheese and crunchy sourdough croutons.

It’s meant to be served as a side, but I’ve been eating it all by itself. I just think of it as a casserole, without the canned soup or cream.

So much healthier than anything you’ll find in a mousetrap.

Crispy Baked Kale with Gruyère

Adapted from Sam Hayward via “Food & Wine” (November 2005)

Makes 4 servings

  • 4-ounces sourdough bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/2-inch pieces (2 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound kale, large stems discarded, leaves chopped well
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups (3.5 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese (or substitute another melting cheese, like Cheddar, Emmentaler, fontina or Swiss)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spread the bread on a baking sheet, and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bake for 8 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Let the croutons cool on the baking sheet.
  3. In a large deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the shallot, onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes.
  4. Add the kale, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the thyme and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer the kale to an 8-by-10-inch baking dish.
  6. Scatter the cheese over the kale, and top with the croutons. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the croutons are golden. Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve.
To Make Ahead: The recipe can be made through Step 3. Store the croutons in an airtight container and the kale in the refrigerator overnight.