I have been making this dish for years and it’s still one of our favorites. « Tian » refers to both the name of the vegetable-based dish from Provence and of the earth ware vessel used to cook & serve it in. I don’t have one of those special dishes and it turns out delicious. Sometimes I make it in a pie plate and other times I use a baking tray. Originating from Provence, this recipe contains the usual suspects: tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, onions, garlic and olive oil. These are the same vegetables used to make ratatouille, however the presentation is different. In a tian, the vegetables are cut into rounds and stacked in the dish whereas in a ratatouille, the vegetables are diced and cooked into a stew. When I use a pie plate, it is especially pretty as there is a spiral decoration, starting from the middle and fanning out. Put it out on your next buffet table! This is a great dish when you can find ingredients at their peak. Serve this warm from the oven or at room temperature – it is equally delicious. It can be made the day before & the flavors only get better !
Ingredients – for 8 people
Note : The quantities listed below are estimates only. Exact quantities will depend on your mold size and vegetable size. Please adjust accordingly.
2 small onions + olive oil + salt/pepper + fresh thyme sprigs
2-3 medium eggplants
12 small, vine-ripe tomatoes
2 medium zucchini
2 medium yellow squash
2 small garlic cloves, or 1 large
1 tablespoon of white wine (or lemon juice)
Grated parmesan – about 1/3 cup or quantity desired
Fresh herbs of choice to taste, if available – finely chopped
Salt, and piment d’Espelette (or cayenne pepper), Herbes de Provence*
- Prepare the onions. Chop onions. Heat frying pan; add olive oil & then the onions. Add salt & pepper and some fresh thyme sprigs. Stir. Cook about 5 min. on medium heat until translucent. (Optionally add a splash of dry white wine and cook until evaporated.). The onions can even caramelize – it also adds nice flavour. Add the garlic and turn off the heat. Stir to incorporate. It will cook in the heat of the pan. Sprinkle with dried herbes de Provence (or equivalent) – this is optional but adds more flavor. Adjust seasoning if need be. Let cool and reserve. Remove thyme before using.
- Prepare the eggplant & pre-cook. Pre-heat oven to 200°C (400°F). Peel & cut the eggplant into rounds, with a thickness of about 6mm (¼ inch). Lightly oil and season each slice with salt and piment d’Espelette or Cayenne pepper. Depending on your baking sheet, you may or may not need to lightly oil it (we didn’t oil my sheet pans but the eggplants were well oiled). Place eggplant rounds on baking sheet(s) in a single layer. Bake about 10 minutes or until soft, but still retaining its form. Over baking can make them mushy which is no good for this recipe. Let cool. You can alternatively pan-fry them, working in batches until all are nicely golden on both sides. This method takes more time to do.
- Prepare the zucchini – no need to pre-cook. Slice the unpeeled zucchini into rounds - about the same thickness of the eggplant (6mm or 1/4”). Set on a large tray. Drizzle a little olive oil over the zucchini, then season with salt and piment d’Espelette. Repeat with yellow squash if using, or double the amount of zucchini.
- Prepare the tomatoes – no need to pre-cook. Core & peel the tomatoes; cut them into slices of approximately 1cm (1/2 ”). Set on a tray. Season with olive oil, salt & Herbes de Provence* (or a dried herb of choice, like basil or oregano). Reserve.
- Line your pan with the vegetables. Place layer of onions on bottom of pan. Stack the vegetables in your hand, alternating between the 3 vegetables (or 4, if using yellow squash): place a slice of eggplant, then zucchini, then tomato – one next to the other snugged together. Repeat until you can’t hold any more in your hand! Place stack from your hand to the pan. Repeat until mold is filled. You may have leftover vegetable rounds – try to squeeze as many vegetables as possible into your « tian »! Before baking, sprinkle the top of the dish with Parmesan & herbes de Provence.
- Bake in pre-heated oven at 180°C (360°F) for about 15 minutes. It’s done when the vegetables are soft and wilted slightly, but still vibrant. Before serving: top with freshly chopped parsley, a sprinkle with fleur de sel, and an optional drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (or spiced olive oil is great, too!).
- To serve: Use a spatula to carefully transfer a line of vegetables from the pan to your plate. Add other toppings and sauces as desired. Enjoy!
* Herbes de Provence = a dried blend of Rosemary, thyme, savory, oregano, marjoram.