Tiring of Ratatouille? I am a big fan of the Provençal-inspired stew of summer vegetables, but by the end of August I find myself seeking cues for inspiration in a hungry quest for different ways to use the heaps of squash, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes harvested from our summer gardens. So, prompted by this month’s Grow Your Own event hosted by Andrea’s Recipes, armed with a shiny new lime-green enameled cast iron pan, and inspired by a scrumptious article on tians in my favorite French magazine, Côté Sud, I decided to create a Provençal Vegetable Tian with homegrown heirloom tomatoes and basil.
Tian is the the French word for a casserole baked in an earthenware dish, layered with seasonal vegetables and cheese. Originating in the south of France, and possibly influenced by the North African couscous pot, the ingredients are decoratively arranged and slow cooked for simple, rustic, flavorful results. What better way to present a typically Provençal selection of vegetables than in a tian? The sliced veggies are tossed in a coulis of puréed basil leaves, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil to give moisture and the unmistakable flavor of summer. Crumbled soft goat cheese adds a creamy, tangy depth to this vegetarian dish. Baked until the vegetables are tender but not too soft, this tian is delicious straight from the oven or even the next day. Just like a good ratatouille – but different.
Provençal Vegetable Tian with Goat Cheese and Basil Coulis
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium, firm eggplant/aubergine, stemmed, quartered lengthwise, cut in 1/2″ thick slices
3 large ripe vine or heirloom tomatoes, cut in 1/2″ thick slices
2 small yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 red or orange sweet peppers, halved, seeded, cut in 2″ square pieces
1 medium zucchini, cut in 1/4″ thick slices
1 medium yellow squash or 2-3 large patty pan squash, cut in 1/4″ thick slices
6 oz. (180 grams) fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Prepare Basil Coulis:
Combine basil and garlic in bowl of food processor. While the machine is running, pour in 1/3 cup (80 ml.) oil in steady stream until consistency resembles a vinaigrette; add more oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Arrange eggplant slices in one layer on oven tray. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill in oven until eggplant turns golden brown and softens, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven.
Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.)
Lightly oil an earthenware baking/gratin dish. In a large bowl, toss slices of grilled eggplant, tomatoes, onions, zucchini and yellow squash with 3/4 of the basil coulis. Arrange slices overlapping on the diagonal in baking dish. Crumble goat cheese over vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake in oven 50 minutes. Remove and allow to cool briefly. Drizzle remaining basil coulis over tian. Garnish with whole basil leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.