French Provençal

The Almost-Too-Simple Provençal Dish Dorie Greenspan Bakes Every Summer

August 17, 2018

This April, we visited the Emile Henry factory in France, where our team got to witness firsthand how their world-famous bakeware went from local Burgundy clay to the richly-pigmented dishes out of which we enjoy baguettes, tagines, poulet roti, peach cobblers, and so much more.

Our plan was simple: Mail an Emile Henry Pie Dish to Dorie Greenspan's Paris apartment; shoot a video of her making a dish of her choice in that pie dish. But the notoriously unreliable French postal service didn't let that happen. Instead, after our business trip to the Emile Henry HQ in Marcigny, a small town in Burgundy, Buyer & Shop Merchandising Manager Kristina Wasserman toted the ceramic grey dish in her carry-on bag when we flew to Paris. (We were supposed to take a train, but there were railroad strikes across the country. C'est la vie!)

By the time the dish got to Dorie's pied-à-terre, it was so ready to be covered in olive oil, ratatouille-esque vegetables, fresh herbs, and more olive oil, because that's really all it takes to make the Summer Vegetable Tian from her upcoming book, Everyday Dorie (out this October).

Okay, okay: It's hotter than what an Emile Henry pie dish can take outside and you probably don't want to turn on your oven. I get it! But believe me, this is worth it—especially if you're serving it at some sort of outdoor soirée, as it just so happens to be vegan and gluten-free. Think of this Provençal dish, which is named for the casserole in which it is made, as a gratin that's too easy-breezy to be weighed down by cheese. According to Dorie, "If your vegetables melt and border on jam, you’ve made a good tian." More oil means more sauce to dip some eager, crusty bread into; less oil means it will still be phenomenal.

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Top Comment:
“Tian is indeed a very delicious dish from our Southern region. I'm sorry to be picky about the language, but since it's from Provence, it's "Provençal". "Provincial" means from the provinces (everything not Paris), and "Provençial" doesn't exist. ”
— sonia

To get the alliums (garlic and onion) and vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes) needed for the tian, Dorie and I walked to a nearby farmers market. We chatted about how, pre-internet, her fans would simply walk up to her on the street to say hi, and there was a good chance she invited them over to share some of her food. (This is probably not feasible nowadays, considering her accurate-if-not-official web title of "The Queen of Cookies.") She told me that the flour on my denim jacket—leftover from the giant bite I took out of a fresh baguette—was an official sign that I was, in fact, in Paris.

When I admitted to spending absurd amounts of time at the market perusing and poking produce, she said it's likely that the vendors in France won't let you do that; it's the curse of the "5 o'clock melon." She was referring to how, while you're shopping at outdoor markets in France, a vendor might ask you: "What time do you plan on eating this [fruit/vegetable]? This one's good for 5 o'clock, this one is better for 9 o'clock." Talk about knowing your product!

Back in Dorie's apartment, I was pleased to notice that her kitchen was about the size of the tiny one I had in Brooklyn, and simultaneously dismayed, because I officially have no more excuses left to avoid making all the fancy-looking recipes of hers that I've bookmarked. I couldn't even blame my procrastination on my finicky oven, because Dorie, too, was griping about hers. And it was really really hot that day, as I can attest from sitting on her windowsill, asking her questions for the video.

So if Dorie can make a tian, so can we, because let me tell you: Whether or not she ended up using 3 o'clock tomatoes for our late lunch, it was divine. And yes, she is Dorie Greenspan, but I saw her make the dish from start to finish and there wasn't much more to it than slicing vegetables, lining them up, showering it with olive oil and herbs, and putting the whole not-enchilada in the oven. Joie de vivre is an optional ingredient, but with a dish that smells so good, it's easy to source; no ticket to France necessary.

Have you ever made a tian? Tell us about it below!

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golden M. August 8, 2022
Wonderful dish. I made it with all the vegetables coming from our garden. Very easy to assemble and so delicious with a good loaf of my homemade white and whole wheat breads. I made it in a Depp dish pie pan and the presentation makes it look difficult to put together. Thanks for a great recipe. Making it again tonight.
Bazarette July 25, 2020
The same applies to the way you pronounce tian. Since you claim to have lived for more than 20 years in France....I do not want to be annoying but to promote French dishes it might be appropriate to speak the language accurately.
Janice M. October 15, 2019
What's the difference between this and ratatouille ?
Nancy P. November 1, 2018
I make my tian with zucchini, tomatoes, pre-cooked sliced potatoes, and thick slices of onions. Then I top with grated Guyere and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs before baking. Really simple, really tasty!
Elisa D. August 26, 2018
If you don't care for eggplant, should you leave it out or replace with something else?
catalinalacruz August 26, 2018
You could use sliced potato instead.
Maryann H. August 27, 2018
I would add something else, just to keep the volume of the dish the same. Try mushrooms, both green and yellow summer squash, multicolored sweet peppers.
sonia August 21, 2018
I love how you translate the atmosphere so perfectly. Tian is indeed a very delicious dish from our Southern region. I'm sorry to be picky about the language, but since it's from Provence, it's "Provençal". "Provincial" means from the provinces (everything not Paris), and "Provençial" doesn't exist.