I think I am going to start a support group for people who overbuy at the farmers’ market. I can’t be the only one who does this, right? I actually have to bring my kids’ Radio Flyer wagon with me when I go to the Oak Park Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings because I can’t carry all of my purchases. The other week, for example, I bought a dozen ears of corn, four heirloom tomatoes, two pints of grape tomatoes, nine poblano peppers, a huge thing of soft/bruised peaches (for cheap!), three zucchini, a five-pound box of blueberries, a dozen eggs, goat butter, a bunch of basil, a quart of nectarines, five pounds of green beans and some fresh mozzarella. The green beans all got pickled. The peaches became a peach slump and a batch of delicious jam. The corn went into the zucchini-corn fritters and the stuffed poblano peppers that I wrote about last week. My family ate the nectarines and blueberries out of hand. But that still left a lot of tomatoes and zucchini to use. By Thursday night, I was feeling rather desperate.
After seeing a recipe for a Provençal Vegetable Tian in this month’s issue of Martha Stewart Living — to which I now have a free digital subscription thanks to my attendance at BlogHer ’12 — I knew that I had hit on the perfect way to use up the rapidly aging vegetable in my kitchen. Of course, I had to play around with the recipe to accommodate what I had in my refrigerator and my husband’s selective palate. (Eggplant and olives? Not in this lifetime.)
A tian sounds very refined, but it’s actually a rustic country dish from the south of France . Tian is the name of a shallow earthenware baking vessel, but it has come to also mean the layered vegetable casserole that is typically baked in that kind of dish. Tians are very variable, so feel free to do as I did and adapt the vegetables used and seasonings to your family’s tastes. Your family members may like olives, for example, and I hope for your sake that they do.The key is to slices the vegetables thinly so that they become tender — except for the tomatoes, which should be sliced thicker so that they don’t just melt into nothing when cooked. The thin layers of colorful vegetables give this dish its appealing presentation. The prep work is somewhat time-consuming, but it can be done in advance.
This tian makes a satisfying vegetarian entree — or a vegan one if you omit the cheese — for Meatless Monday or a vegetarian dinner guest. But it could also be a nice side dish to some grilled chicken or lamb at your next dinner party. At the very least, it’s a great way to use up some of your excessive farmers’ market purchases.
Serves 2 as a main course; 4 as a side dish
1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced thinly
3 large heirloom tomatoes, in 1/4 inch thick slices
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 TB capers
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Gruyere
1/4 cup fresh basil cut into a julienne
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 450.
Coat the bottom of a 2 quart baking dish with olive oil. Spread a single layer of onion slices on the bottom of the dish. Top with a layer of potato slices followed by a layer of zucchini slices and a layer of tomato slices. Season well with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle the capers and half the basil over the vegetables. Repeat the layers, seasoning again with salt and pepper and drizzling with oil. Mix the bread crumbs and the grated cheese in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the vegetables. Cover the dish loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Press down on the vegetables with a spatula. Uncover and bake for an additional 45-50 minutes until the vegetables have caramelized and cooked through. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.