Provençal Vegetable Tian with Goat Cheese and Basil Pesto


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
Serves 8-10

Olive oil
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.

Assemble tian:
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.