Every summer starting with the Tour de France, my family goes through a Francophile phase. It's definitely more about Provence than Paris -- yellows and blues, and lavender and grapes, and tomatoes and herbs and olive oil.
We read Peter Mayle books, watch “A Year in Provence,” and go to the cheese factory for an assortment of brie (Sister1’s favorite), camembert (mine), and breakfast cheese (Sister2’s favorite) to take to picnic at Matanzas Creek Winery and Lavender Garden.
At the house we lived at when I was in elementary school, my mama actually took it so far as to plant her own acre-square lavender garden. Rows upon rows of pretty-smelling plants patterned our front yard à la un champ de lavande Provençal.
And the food – la cuisine – well let’s talk tians. A tian is a layered, baked vegetable dish that originated in Provence. It’s kind of like a tart sans crust. Yummmmm.
I saw this recipe last week and realized that I already had everything it called for (thanks to my CSA). Done and done. It’s beautiful and summery and easy to make and délicieux.
I ate it with a fried egg on top to call it dinner (a common theme in my real food...an egg on top makes almost anything dinner).
Provençal TianServes 4
- 1 small onion or a medium leek
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1 or 2 small yellow squash (summer squash), or zucchini
- 1 or 2 small eggplants
- 1 or 2 small potatoes
- 2 or 3 medium plum tomatoes
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 leaves fresh basil (optional)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Thinly slice the onions (or leeks) and peel and mince the garlic. Coat a small pan with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and onions (or leeks). Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions (or leeks) have begun to soften and the garlic smells awesome -- approximately two to five minutes.
- Spread the onion/leek-garlic mixture across the bottom of a 9-inch baking dish or cake pan. Sprinkle with salt and a few grindings of fresh black pepper; strip the leaves from two of the sprigs of thyme and sprinkle over the mixture.
- Remove the ends from the yellow squash and eggplants. Cut each crosswise into coins 1/8-inch thick. Cut each tomato crosswise into rounds 1/8-inch thick. Scrub and dry the potatoes and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices.
- Layer the squash, eggplant, potato, and tomato on top of the onion/leek-garlic mixture, alternating each and overlapping slightly. I made sure to put the juicier things (squash and tomato) between the drier veggies (eggplant and potato) to keep the whole thing consistently moist. If you’re using a square or rectangular dish, layer in rows; if you’re using a circular or oval dish, work in fans from the center.
- Once you’re done layering, drizzle with olive oil (however much you like – I did about 1 tablespoon), and pour the wine over it all evenly. Sprinkle with salt and a few grindings of fresh black pepper; strip the leaves from the remaining thyme and sprinkle over the whole tian.
- Cover it all with parchment paper or foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove cover and finish baking (about another 10 minutes, but it depends on your oven) until the vegetables are soft but not mushy while the edges are nicely crisp and brown.
- Julienne the basil and sprinkle it over the top.