I had huge plans to write recipes every single day this summer. I always have a (crazy) idea that summer “break” will afford me all kinds of time that I don’t have during the school year. About three days in it dawns on me that I have the company of my children…all day long. In years past I have kvetched and moaned, and will surely do that again sometime this year, but for now I’m surrendering to the general idea that nothing is going to get done, the house will not get organized, the lists will not be checked off and I will not write recipes every single day. We have been doing lots of bike rides and swimming and picnics though, so all in all it is a great summer. But I’m doubting you want to see a recipe for the turkey sandwiches, trail mix and baby carrots I throw into a bag for the park play date. Here is a nice one from a few nights ago. I’ll be honest and tell you the kids wanted nothing of it, but Dave and I love this dish and eat it all the time as an entree for a light supper, or alongside some grilled chicken or fish.
A summer vegetable tian is a dish that can either be amazing or insipid, depending on your level of courage in the kitchen. A tian is basically a baked dish with layers of vegetables. This could be called a casserole, I guess, although the word casserole implies a level of richness that does not exist here. Assembly is easy–tomatoes, eggplant and summer squash are sliced into pieces that are somewhat the same thickness, layered in a lightly oiled dish, sprinkled with garlic, herbs, salt, and then baked. When you are assembling, it will look like you have way too many vegetables in the pan, but they cook down a great deal, so overcrowding your pan is OK.
The secret to greatness is baking this dish for a long, long time. For the first half hour, cover the dish so that the vegetables steam slightly and release their juices. Remove the cover and bake for at least another hour. If the top is burning, take the backside of a spatula and press the vegetables down so that they are covered a bit more in the juices. The longer you cook this dish, the more the juices will reduce, the vegetables will take on a rich, caramelized flavor and the whole thing will come together…to be amazing! Don’t skimp on the cooking time, the longer the better. Don’t be afraid to push the limit on how long you can leave the thing in there. If the top is slightly charred in places, no big deal. Serve alongside a grilled meat like chicken, lamb or fish. Serve as the entree with a green salad and a good, crusty loaf of bread. Serve with a poached egg and thick toast. Just don’t serve it before you’ve cooked as long as humanly possible.
|Summer Vegetable Tian||
- 2 medium eggplant
- 5 medium zucchini
- 5 tomatoes
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- handful of fresh basil
- salt and pepper
- 1 TBLS olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice the eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes so that they are all roughly the same size and thickness.
- Drizzle the olive oil in the bottom of a 9×13 casserole or large oval gratin.
- Layer the vegetables in however you think they look pretty. Be artistic.
- Sprinkle well with salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle garlic and basil leaves on top.
- Cover the pan with foil.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove foil and use the back of a spatula to press the vegetables down so that the juices wash over the top of the gratin.
- Continue to bake for at least another hour, until the juices are reduced and the vegetables are caramelized.
- If the top begins to burn, use the back of a spatula to press the vegetables down into their juices.
- Eat warm or room temperature.