One thing common to all Mediterranean cultures - from Provence to Malta is the array of fantastic vegetable dishes, using primarily market-fresh tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants and onions. While eating a Greek Briam or this Provençal tian, I have often thought that you could easily become a vegetarian and eat spectacularly well in these sunny climates.
I'll be sharing the recipe for a traditional Greek Briam soon, but in the meantime my kitchen - which is normally all about Greek food - has taken a little trip to visit a Mediterranean cousin and this Provençal tian. This dish is named after the earthenware pan it is traditionally baked in. Like a Briam, it is a gorgeous dish which melds the flavours of the vegetables together and just tastes like a big hug from summer. It tastes best the next day and if you are serving it as a standalone main meal, you can add a layer of partially cooked rice or quinoa underneath the vegetables to soak up all of their beautiful flavours.
This dish looks best if the vegetable slices are all around the same size, so it's good to keep this is mind when you are purchasing your vegetables. I like to serve this with a dark, whole wheat batard and a round of fresh chèvre or goats cheese - a chilled glass of rose or a Chablis doesn't go astray either!
1 large red onion, sliced
1 large brown onion, sliced
500 g small eggplants
500 g medium zucchini
1 kg of plum tomatoes
Extra Virgin olive oil
Garlic cloves, minced (to taste, I used a very restrained 2 cloves)
2 tablespoons of herbs de Provence
1. An hour or two before you plan to cook, you need to salt the eggplants to remove any bitterness. Using a mandolin slicer or very sharp knife, cut the eggplants crosswise into very thin rounds. Put them in a colander, sprinkle with a little salt and toss to coat. Let the eggplant rest for at least 1 hour. Pat dry with a clean kitchen paper. Then place in a bowl and dust with about 1 teaspoon of the herbs de Provence.
2. Using the mandolin or sharp knife, slice the zucchini and tomatoes into thin rounds. Place in two separate bowls and sprinkle each with a little salt and 1 teaspoon each of the herbs de Provence.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C and lightly oil a glass or ceramic baking dish. Scatter the sliced onions evenly over the bottom. Sprinkle with a little salt, the herbs de provence and a drizzle with olive oil.
4. Arrange a row of tightly packed, overlapping tomato slices along one side of the dish and sprinkle with a garlic. Repeat with a row of eggplant and then a row of zucchini slices, sprinkling each with a garlic. Keep repeating the rows until you have filled the dish and used up all the vegetables. Make sure the rows are packed together very tightly. Drizzle with some more olive oil, scatter over the remaining garlic and herbs de Provence. Cover loosely with foil, and bake for 45 minutes.
5. Remove the foil and bake until the vegetables are tender and the tips of the vegetable slices are lightly golden brown, about a further 30 minutes.