Tian is the word for both the pottery casserole in which this dish is cooked and the dish itself. I always think of a tian as having a mélange of tomatoes, onions, zucchini and sometimes eggplant (like ratatouille), but I think that’s because I’ve taken my notion of a tian from Roger Vergé, the late Provençal chef who popularized the slow- roasted dish. My friend, the cookbook author Lucinda Scala Quinn (Mad Hungry), summed up the dish perfectly: She said the best ones should have too much oil, enough salt and a long cooking. In other words, if your vegetables melt and border on jam, you’ve made a good tian.
I’m giving you a range on the oil. Use the lower amount, and you’ll have a flavorful tian with just enough “sauce” to keep the vegetables moist; use the higher amount, and you’ll have enough oil to use as a dunk for bread.
This way of cooking makes even less-than-wonderful vegetables taste good. Since the eggplant will soak up more juice than it will give off, it’s good to bookend it with slices of tomato. It’s also nice to put the zucchini and onions together. Use whatever herbs you have and use them abundantly, and don’t be afraid of salt, pepper, and garlic. If you’ve got a mandoline (such as a Benriner), use it for the garlic—it’s nice to stud the dish with slivers of garlic.
A word about the baking pan: I use a 9-inch pie plate to make my tian, but you can use any ovenproof casserole of a similar size. If you have a bigger or smaller pan, just multiply or divide the recipe—it’s completely flexible.
This recipe comes from my latest cookbook, Everyday Dorie (out October 23). —Dorie Greenspan
- Prep time 30 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
- Serves 4
to 9 tablespoons (75 ml to 135 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
garlic cloves, thinly sliced
fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, tarragon and/or basil
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds
(680 grams) tomatoes
(227 grams) zucchini, green or yellow, scrubbed and trimmed
(113 grams) eggplant, washed and trimmed
(113 grams) red onion(s)
loaf or so good bread, for serving
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 400° F. Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into the baking dish, tilting it so the oil coats the sides. Scatter over half the garlic and a little more than half of the herbs and season generously with salt and pepper.
- Slice the vegetables: they should be cut about 1⁄4 inch thick. Ideally they should all be about the same size, so if any are particularly large, you might want to cut them in half the long way before slicing them. This is a nicety, not a necessity.
- Arrange the vegetables in the dish in tightly overlapping circles. Try to squeeze the eggplant between slices of tomato and get the zucchini and onions to cuddle up to one another. Keep the circles tight, since the vegetables will soften and shrink in the oven. Season generously with salt and pepper, tuck the remaining slivers of garlic in among the vegetables, top with the remaining herbs and drizzle over as much of the remaining oil (3 to 7 tablespoons) as you’d like. Place the tian on a baking sheet lined with foil, parchment or a silicone baking mat. Bake the tian for 70 to 90 minutes, until the vegetables are meltingly tender and the juices are bubbling.
- Serve the tian a few minutes out of the oven or allow it to cool to room temperature. Either way, you’ll want bread...a lot of it.