A tian is a classic Provençal dish, famously mistaken for ‘ratatouille’ in the Disney movie Ratatouille. Remember when Remy the rat reinterprets that French recipe? Well the outcome looks very much like a tian to me. Typically, the thinly sliced zucchinis, eggplants and tomatoes are beautifully layered in an earthenware dish called… a ‘tian’. Flavors meld as vegetables cook together in the oven, merely seasoned with olive oil, garlic and Provence herbs. Hmmm…
A tian is really easy to prepare, and can be made a day in advance. When I have little time to prepare food (as it is often the case), I simply fry onions, garlic and thyme in olive oil and I pour the mixture in my oven dish, before arranging the sliced vegetables on top. Tian doesn’t need much more than that, but today I prepared a little sauce to spice it up. I used the same onion-garlic base, adding to it chopped paprika and what was left of my vegetables. Goat cheese felt like the right final touch to this already perfect dish.Now couple of tips before putting your apron on: slice the vegetables 2-3 mm thick, using a mandolin or a very sharp knife. When you arrange the vegetables on your dish, don’t take any pressure about creating the perfect pattern: just have fun alternating the colors! If your eggplant slices are slightly too large, trim them a bit. More important is to choose organic vegetables, as we keep the skins to play with their bright yellow, green, red and purple colors.
Speaking of having fun in the kitchen… what do you say of my humble take on plating up a tian the Ratatouille way?
- 1 green zucchini thinly sliced
- 1 yellow zucchini thinly sliced
- 1 eggplant thinly sliced
- ½ red paprika (chopped)
- 3-4 tomatoes thinly sliced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Unrefined sea salt
- Olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Provence dry herbs (or mix dry oregano, thyme and rosemary)
- Fresh basil leaves, to garnish
- Goat cheese
- Preheat oven to 180 °C.
- To make the sauce: In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the chopped half paprika, cook for a few minutes until tender. Then add the remaining of zucchinis and eggplants, turning, until tender. Add remaining of tomatoes last (if you don’t have any left, use one extra tomato for the sauce). Sprinkle with thyme.
- With a mixer or blender, puree the mixture. Spread it on the bottom of your baking pan.
- Alternate sliced zucchinis, eggplant and tomatoes to create colorful layers. Continue until the baking dish is filled. Sprinkle the surface of the vegetables with salt and pepper, Provence herbs, goat cheese and drizzle with olive oil.
- Cover the baking dish with parchment paper, cut at the size of your dish. Cut a small cross hole in the center of the paper, to allow steam to come out. Place in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle with fresh basil leave before serving. Bon Appétit!