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Best of summer cooking: Vegetable Tian

Ratatouille's less fussy cousin

Vegetable Tian image

Cooking original meals that are interesting and new has become increasingly harder as we have all been stuck at home. We are all kitchen-fatigued and our food is boring and tired. Summer produce cooked low and slow with fresh herbs and rich caramelized flavors might be the ticket to your family's new favorite dish. 

A tian is a pottery "casserole" dish that is typically made from earthenware. The classic Provençal recipe-also called a tian-is a jammy, fragrant, and delicious concoction of tomatoes, eggplant, onions, zucchini, and fresh herbs. Much less fussy than ratatouille, but with similar ingredients, which is layered with a sauce, a tian is vegetables sliced and arranged in the tian and then cooked, long and slow until each vegetable has given off its juices and the caramelized end result is a fragrant and stewy dish.  

A tian can be made with whatever veggies you have on hand, but is typically made with eggplant which soaks up the juices from its best friends- tomatoes, zucchini, and onions. Slivered garlic, fresh herbs, and served with crusty bread to sop up the juices make a tian summer's easiest and best way to enjoy produce.  

Similar to the sheet-pan method of piling vegetables on a pan and drizzling with extra virgin olive oil, the tian adds a little something extra. Cooking the veggies in a baking dish with higher sides, makes the juices mingle, and the veggies cook down becoming caramelized and pronounced as the water cooks out. A tian can be customized with favorite herbs, olives, sundried tomatoes, anchovies, and breadcrumb crusts. 

I love this rustic casserole because I can quickly assemble it and enjoy it with a salad as the main or roast it alongside chicken, fish, or beef and serve it as a yummy side. Use the technique of slow roasting with any vegetables you have or with the classic recipe here. If you do not have a ceramic dish, you can use a heavy-duty skillet, casserole, or other oven-safe dish. I often use a cast-iron skillet and park the tian on the grill alongside chicken or a salmon filet. 

Summer Vegetable Tian: Serves 6 as a side or 4 as a main 

About ½ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil 

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 

1½ pounds tomatoes, thinly sliced 

½ pound zucchini, thinly sliced into rounds 

½ pound eggplant, thinly sliced into rounds 

½ pound red onion, thinly sliced into rounds  

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper 

Several sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary  

Garnish with some or all: freshly chopped flat parsley, additional extra virgin olive oil, chopped olives, crushed red chili flakes 

Preheat oven or grill to 375F. 

1. Lightly coat the bottom of a baking dish with extra virgin olive oil. Arrange a few slices of garlic on the bottom of the dish.

    2. Arrange vegetables in concentric circles. Try to nestle eggplant near tomatoes so the eggplant can soak up the tomato juices. Sprinkle veggies with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Top with remaining garlic and herb sprigs. 

    3. Roast the tian in preheated oven until vegetables are caramelized, juices are bubbling, vegetables are jammy, and the dish smells absolutely wonderful (about 1 hour or more). 

    4. Sprinkle fresh parsley over the tian and drizzle with olive oil. Serve tian hot. 

    Laura Frankel is a noted kosher chef, a cookbook author, and Culinary Director for a media company. Currently, she serves as Director of Catering at Circle of Life catering at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El.        



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