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October 8, 2018
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        Here in the Hudson Valley, WE ARE STILL IN “SO MANY VEGGIES, SO LITTLE TIME” MODE---completely up to our ears in bushels of tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini. With such an embarrassment of riches, I’m constantly thinking of different ways to use them up.
        HERE I’VE MADE A TIAN. WHAT’S THAT? A tian has two meanings. It’s a Provencal earthenware baking dish, that’s traditionally oval. But don’t worry, any baking dish will work just as well. It also refers to what’s baked inside of one. In Provence, they are CUSTOMARILY MADE WITH VEGETABLES, but meats, eggs or goat cheese are also sometimes included. Plus, this is the kind of French country dish that will make even a less than stellar basket of veggies taste really good anyway. THE KEY IS TO SLOWLY COOK THE DISH UNTIL THE FLAVORS ARE CONCENTRATED AND THE VEGGIES ARE MELTINGLY TENDER. In my case, all of those Hudson Valley veggies are up for grabs. Slow-roasting them in a bath of olive oil, garlic, herbs and salt results in an almost jammy version of a ratatouille.
        This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan and the late Roger Verge. And, it can be easy as pie to make, or if you choose to make it pretty too, a little fussy to assemble. I’ve used upright alternating layers of tomato, eggplant, zucchini and red onion, assembled in circles around the casserole dish---a little more time consuming, but a very attractive presentation. You can more easily tile them, overlapping them about ¾’s of the way over each other in rows as well. Because the top edges or layers are more exposed to the heat and tend to dry out, I add one more step to Dorie’s recipe. I HOLD BACK SOME OF THE OIL AND USE IT TO BASTE THE VEGGIES MIDWAY THROUGH THRE BAKING TIME, keeping the tops moist.
        You can serve this tian in so many ways---as a chunky spread on crusty bread, as a side dish, use it as one of the layers in a sandwich, or dollop it on top of fish or chicken. And WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T THROW AWAY THE FLAVORED OIL LEFT IN THE BOTTOM OF THE PAN! That’s yummy for bread dunking too, or even a flavorful start to a salad dressing. FYI---This tian will taste even better the next day.

LESSONS Learned:
1. This recipe works with an 8” or 9’ round casserole dish. But any size can be used—just adjust the recipe to fit.
2. If you have one, using a mandolin will cut perfectly even slices, but a steady hand and a knife will work just as well. I cut them freehand.
3. Worried about the amount of oil? You can reduce it down to 1/4 cup if you like, and it will still be delicious.
4. Peeling the eggplant is optional. The skin does add a little more texture though.
5. If you are missing a vegetable or herbs, just use the ones you have.
6. Be generous with all the herbs and seasonings.

(adapted from “Everyday Dorie” by Dorie Greenspan)

4 - 9 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
10 sprigs fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary
½-3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lb. tomatoes, cored
1/2 lb. zucchini, green or yellow, scrubbed and trimmed
1/4 lb. eggplant, washed and trimmed—peeling optional
I large red onion, peeled

Make the tian:
        Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking pan with foil or parchment and set aside.
        Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into the baking dish, tilting it so the oil coats the sides. Evenly scatter over half of the garlic and half of the herbs in the bottom of the dish. Season generously with salt and pepper.
        Slice all the vegetables about 1⁄4 inch thick, using a mandolin or by hand. They should all be about the same size, if possible. So, if any are particularly large, you might want to cut them in half to fit better. This is for beauty. If you choose not to stand the slices up in the pan, it’s not a necessary step.
        Alternate the veggies –tomato, zucchini, onion, and eggplant. If standing up in the pan, try to make them all about the same height. Arrange the vegetables in the dish in tight circles, starting from the outside in. As they will shrink once baked, try to keep the vegetables packed as tightly together as you can. Season generously with salt and pepper, and tuck the remaining slivers of garlic in among the vegetables. Scatter the remaining herbs over the top and drizzle another 1-3 Tablespoons of the oil over the top.
        Place the tian on the baking sheet lined with foil or parchment, and bake for 40 minutes. Drizzle another 1-4 Tablespoons of oil over the top, and bake for another 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are very tender and the juices are bubbling.
        Let the tian rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Or, cool to room temperature. Serve as a veggie side, scoop onto bread slices or dollop on top of chicken or fish. Don’t discard the extra oil in the bottom of the pan, but use for bread dunking or as a flavorful start to a salad dressing.

Makes 4 servings.      YUM!
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