~ Ratatouille Gratin ~
It’s that time of year when the vegetables sneak up on you. A month ago, summer squash were elusive, appearing in the markets in small groups at a price. In the garden they were merely a hint of themselves peeking from their flowers. Purchases felt premature, tasting a little bitter, and costing too much for something you knew would soon be prolific.
Then, before you know it, a month has passed and squash are teeming everywhere. The garden is lobbing them to you like tennis balls, the market shelves are stacked with zucchini, crooknecks, and patty pans, ripe and ready for consumption. With the bounty, it’s time to get creative, because, ironically, it’s easy to tire of this abundance, and that is a shame. So, yesterday I was determined to use my imagination to celebrate summer squash. Instead of a traditional ratatouille, I made a gratin. And before I made the gratin, I played a little bit with my food and made Ratatouille Stacks.
~ Ratatouille Stacks ~
The ingredients are identical, only the arrangement is different. Serve the gratins as side dishes or a light vegetarian meal. The stacks are fun appetizers.
Be sure that the squash and eggplant have similar diameters. Makes 4 individual or 1 large gratin.
2 narrow Italian eggplant
2 yellow squash
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 red peppers, roasted, seeded, skinned (or 1 jar piquillo roasted peppers, drained)
1 bunch basil leaves
6 ounces soft, fresh goat cheese
Preheat oven to 375 F. Slice eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash 1/4 inch thick. Arrange in one layer on an oiled baking tray. Brush the tops with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Turn on broiler and broil briefly until the vegetables begin to brown. Remove and cool.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Cut the peppers in pieces no larger than the sliced vegetables and set aside. Place an eggplant slice on the work surface. Smear a pea-sized amount of goat cheese in the center of the eggplant. Top with a squash slice. Smear with the goat cheese and top with a red pepper piece. Smear with goat cheese and top with a basil leaf. Repeat process, alternating with squash, eggplant, red pepper and basil leaves, always adhering with a pea-sized amount of goat cheese. (If forming stacks, top with a basil leaf and a little goat cheese, then impale with a toothpick).
If making a gratin, carefully transfer stacks to an oiled gratin dish and slightly fan out the layers. Repeat until gratin dish is full. Sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese. Bake gratin in the oven until heated through and cheese begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Posted in Appetizers, gluten-free, Main Course, recipe, side dish, Summer, Tians and Casseroles, Vegetables and Salads, Vegetarian
Tagged appetizer, basil, eggplant, gluten-free, goat cheese, gratin, provencal, ratatouille, red pepper, side dish, squash, Tian, vegetable, vegetarian, zucchini
~ Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries: summer in a dish ~
This berry tian highlights the ease of summer in its simplicity of ingredients and preparation. The season’s best fruit – strawberries, blueberries and raspberries -are blanketed with a cardamom-infused custard and baked, resulting in a refreshing and delightful dessert. Tian is a french word for a shallow earthenware casserole, often gratineed, an appropriately simple and elegant name for this dish. Enjoy warm or chilled.
Summer Berry Tian (2 ways)
This recipe results in a thick liquid custard filling, begging for a spoon. For a more souffle-like consistency, add the optional egg whites. Makes 4 – 6 ounce tians.
6 ounces raspberries
6 ounces blueberries
8 ounces strawberries, hulled, quartered
Zest of one lemon
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.) Butter four 6-ounce shallow ramekins. Sprinkle with a little granulated sugar, tapping out excess. Place ramekins on a baking tray. Arrange raspberries, blueberries and strawberries in one layer in ramekins. Sprinkle with lemon zest. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Stir in cardamom and cream. (If using egg whites, beat in a bowl of an electric mixer until firm. Stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the egg yolks and mix to combine. Gently fold in remaining egg whites).
Pour egg mixture over fruit. Bake in oven until golden brown and custard is set on top (it will still wobble when jiggled), about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on racks. Serve warm (not hot) or chilled. Garnish with extra lemon zest.
Posted in Desserts, Fruit, gluten-free, Summer, Tians and Casseroles
Tagged berry, blueberry, desert, gluten-free, gratin, raspberry, recipe, strawberry, summer, summer berries, TasteFood, TasteFoodblog, Tian
I find it impossible to resist beets. Their colors are magnificent – it’s a miracle that nature can provide something edible that is so vibrantly hued. With the vivid color, of course, comes nutrients. Beets are a nutritional powerhouse, rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins and beta-carotene. I purchased these beets at the farmers’ market, without knowing how I would prepare them. I was simply happy looking at them.
Prompted by a batch of fluffy ricotta in my fridge, I decided to layer the yellow beets with the cheese as a riff on lasagna, with the beet slices replacing the lasagna sheets. Yellow beets are milder in flavor than red beets, and their nutty, buttery flavor wouldn’t overpower the cheese. I also feared the red beets would completely saturate the dish with their magenta color, which, while lovely to look, threatened to irrevocably tint my pristine ricotta. This is a visually motivated dish.
Roasted Yellow Beet and Ricotta Tian
Makes 1 – 8 inch square tian or 4 individual ramekins
1 1/2 pounds yellow beets (4 medium or 8 small)
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 cup fresh ricotta
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup finely shredded basil leaves, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 F. Trim and peel beets. Slice very thinly crosswise with a mandoline or knife. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beet slices. Cook until tender but firm, about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Blot dry with a kitchen towel. Place in a bowl and toss with juice of 1/2 lemon.
Combine lemon zest, ricotta, garlic, basil, 1/4 cup pecorino cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper in a bowl.
Arrange beets in one layer, slightly overlapping, in an earthenware or gratin dish. Smear some of the ricotta over the beets. Repeat layering process, finishing with ricotta on the top. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons pecorino cheese. Bake until beets are tender and cheese is bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve garnished with fresh basil leaves.
Posted in Appetizers, gluten-free, Tians and Casseroles, Vegetables and Salads, Vegetarian
Tagged beet, lasagna, recipe, ricotta, Tian, vegetable, vegetarian
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.
Posted in Food Blog Events, gluten-free, GYO, Summer, Tians and Casseroles, Vegetables and Salads, Vegetarian
Tagged Aubergine, Basil Coulis, courgette, eggplant, goat cheese, mediterranean, pepper, recipe, Tian, vegetarian, zucchini
How can you resist the beautiful vegetables that are ripe and ready to pick at this time of year?
I created the following recipe inspired by a photograph from one of my favorite French magazines Côté Sud. There was an article featuring tians, which is the French word for a casserole baked in an earthenware dish containing a variety of seasonal vegetables, meat or cheese. The article displayed beautiful pictures of tantalizing tians, but one in particular caught my eye – it looked like a deconstructed ratatouille, artfully arranged in colorful rows of alternating peppers, courgettes, and tomato. I decided to create something like that at home; instead of baking it in a large casserole, I divided it into individual portions in ramekins. EIther way works. This dish is very flexible – it’s delicious hot out of the oven or at room temperature, even the next day.
Provençal Vegetable Tian with Goat Cheese and Basil Pesto
4 red peppers, quartered, seeded
3 medium zucchini, thinly sliced on the diagonal
4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded
1 large red onion, peeled and quartered
10 oz. (300 grams) fresh goat cheese logs, sliced
16 kalamata olives, pitted, halved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For basil pesto:
3 garlic cloves
1 large bunch basil, stems removed, about 2 cups
1/3 cup (80 ml.) olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare basil pesto:
Combine garlic and basil in bowl of food processor. Pulse in enough oil to form a paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside, reserving 1/4 cup separately.
Arrange red pepper quarters skin side up on a lightly oiled baking sheeet. Roast under an oven grill until skin is charred. Remove from oven, place in bowl and cover. Let stand for 15 minutes. When cool, rub off skin with fingers. Cut quarters in half horizontally.
Arrange zucchini slices on lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush tops with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt. Roast under oven grill until zucchini is golden brown. Remove and set aside to cool.
Slice tomatoes in 1/4 ” rounds. Break apart onion quarters. Combine red peppers, zucchini, tomatoes and onions in a large bowl. Toss with basil purée.
Lightly oil one large rectangular baking dish or individual ramekins.
Arrange vegetables diagonally, alternating with cheese for color.
Garnish with kalamata olives. Salt and pepper to taste.
Roast in preheated 325 F. oven for 45 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and cheese is melted and golden in color.
Drizzle with remaining basil purée. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Tip: Try experimenting with other vegetable combinations, such as eggplant/aubergines, summer squash, portobello mushrooms. You can substitute other soft cheeses, such as mozzarella and ricotta, for the goat cheese, too.