What is tian, you ask? During the summer there are plentiful tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and many other summer foods in abundance. Provencal cooking celebrates the traditions of France’s countryside. And a tian is a layered baked vegetable dish that originated in Provence. Unlike a gratin, a tian does not include bread crumbs or cheese, which allows the juices of the vegetables to evaporate, thus allowing a deep concentration of the flavors. Tian is usually served around the holiday Bastille Day during the peak of the summer when all the vegetables are readily available.
While I didn’t have all the ingredients of a traditional tian, I made my own version of it with the vegetables on hand and it was delicious!
Some tian calls eggplant, leeks, zucchini, plum tomatoes but I think you could take any of the summer vegetables that you enjoy and make this dish. I only had summer squash, zucchini and potatoes on hand, so that along with onions and garlic is what I used. The simplified recipe that I found follows at the end of this post, however, there are many more authentic recipes that can be found online.
First gather together the vegetables that you will want to use. Finely chop your onion and sauté in extra virgin olive oil, adding your garlic at the end. I pushed 2 large cloves of garlic through a press.
While your onion and garlic sauté, spray an 8×8″-inch square baking dish with non-stick spray or lightly butter and set aside.
Next, thinly slice all your vegetables, potatoes, whatever it is that you will be using. Since I used zucchini, summer square and potatoes, I sliced them into thin coins. And since many vitamins and nutrients are found close to the skin, I did not peel my potatoes. I just scrubbed them really well when washing.
A friend of mine has an overabundance of vegetables in her garden this year and was nice enough to give me some and that is what I used in this dish. Look at the size of the summer squash!
Spread the softened onion and garlic sauté into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. As you can see, the steam fogged up my baking dish!
Now take the thinly sliced vegetable coins and neatly stack them, alternating between each veggie per row. I stacked my vertically for a different look. If you are using a round dish, layer in fans, working from the center. Either way, it makes a beautiful display.
Sprinkle with sea salt (I use Celtic Gray Sea Salt), freshly ground black pepper and thyme. Now since I did not have any thyme, I used a little pinch of sage. And because I like it, a nice sprinkle of paprika.
Cover the dish with buttered parchment, or foil if you have that. Bake in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. You can then add a sprinkling of cheese and bread crumbs if you wish, especially if you have kids or picky eaters in the house. Traditionally this dish does not include it.
1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp finely minced garlic – or 2 cloves pushed through a garlic press
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced into coins
1 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced into coins
1 medium potato, thinly sliced into coins
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
1 sprig of Thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheese – optional
about 2 handfuls Panko bread crumbs – optional
Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit. Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic. Sauté both in a skillet with extra virgin olive oil until softened.
While the onion and garlic sautés, thinly slice the rest of your vegetables.
Spray your baking dish and spread the softened onion and garlic in the bottom of the dish. Arrange the vegetable slices, alternating them, in vertical rows. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and thyme. Cover and bake for 30 minutes until tender. Top with optional cheese and bread crumbs and bake until the cheese is golden brown.
Serve as a delightful side dish with rice or noodles and your choice of main dish.