Summer Vegetable Tian
I love summer vegetables - tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, corn. One of the benefits of living in Hawaii is the year-round growing season but maybe it's because I lived in the northeast for so long that I still associate certain vegetables with certain times of the year. Regardless of where I am, this recipe is a great way to highlight the abundance of vegetables available at this time of the year.
A tian is a vegetable gratin from the Provence region of France. It also refers to the earthenware dish in which it is baked. Typically in the United States we think of a gratin being a heavier winter dish with potatoes being the vehicle for heavy cream and cheese. This dish is just the opposite, where the vegetables are the stars, highlighted with fresh herbs, olive oil, and a light sprinkling of cheese.
For this dish I use summer classics - zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and thyme. I use Japanese eggplant which are more readily available in Hawaii but are also similar in size and shape to zucchini. The same goes for the sweet Italian peppers we have growing in the garden - they are also similar in size and shape to the other vegetables. I prefer to use Roma tomatoes as they are firmer and less watery.
The vegetables are uniformly sliced (or as close as I can get them). I then make stacks of alternating vegetable slices. I find it makes it easier to assemble the final dish.
The vegetable stacks are laid on their sides and arranged in a concentric pattern in the casserole dish. With a light topping of olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme leaves, it's ready to bake.
Served warm or at room temperature, this tian makes a great side dish. It also makes a light main course, served with crusty bread and a green salad.