Guest Feature: Vegetable Tian/Ratatouille Side Dish
Provence is a region in southern France, known for its mild climate, olive trees and lavender fields. So beautiful and scenic, its landscape has attracted the likes of artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne… to name a few. Though there’s reason enough to visit the south of France for the scenery and lavender breeze alone, Provence might actually be recognized more for its signature cuisine. Vegetable Tian is one of my favorite regional specialties. It’s a simple and rustic dish that means roasted, layered vegetables with cheese. You might recognize it from that cute, animated Pixar film about Rémy, the rat turned chef. It’s called Ratatouille.
Vegetable Tian is a variation of the better-known Ratatouille, usually comprised of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers. But there are no real rules when it comes to recreating it. The name Ratatouille comes from the combination of words, “rata,” stew, and “touiller,” to stir. The version below calls for potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini. And instead of stirring these veggies into a stew, they are sliced and layered into a circular dish. Though it originated as a “peasant” dish due to its inexpensive and accessible ingredients, the finished product is stunning. After all, it’s good enough to silence Anton Ego, the harshest, most unforgiving food critic in Paris. Ratatouille’s finicky villain can’t help but to clean his plate.
Vegetable Tian can be prepared ahead of time, and baked just before serving. The vivid colors and small round shapes of the vegetables provide a perfect opportunity to include your little helper in the assembly. If it’s tasty enough to bring a tear to Anton Ego’s eye, it might even inspire the tiny food critics in your kitchen to love their vegetables too!
(**Tip: To make this dish look its best, choose potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes that are about the same diameter)
- 2 Tablespoons - Extra Virgin Olive Oil (+ additional to grease pan and drizzle on top)
- 1 Medium - Yellow Onion, chopped
- 1 Garlic Clove, minced
- 1 Pound - Medium Round Potatoes, unpeeled
- 3/4 Pound - Zucchini
- 1 1/4 Pound - Medium Tomatoes
- 1 Teaspoon - Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon - Black Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon - Fresh thyme leaves, plus extra springs
- 2 Ounces - Parmesan Cheese, grated
- Brush 9 x 13 x 2-inch pie dish with olive oil, set aside
- In a medium sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook chopped onion over medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes or until slightly caramelized. Add garlic, and cook for one more minute. Spread onion mixture on the bottom of the pie dish
- Slice the potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes in ¼-inch thick rounds. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onion mixture. Fit them tightly, and make only one layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and thyme sprigs. Drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil
- Cover the dish with foil, and bake for 45 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Uncover the dish, remove thyme sprigs, sprinkle with cheese, and bake uncovered for 50-60 more minutes, or until golden brown
- Remember: not all ovens are created equal, so keep your eye on it toward the end of the baking process. It may need a few minutes more or less.
Leigh is a Middle School Teacher of French and a Mom to a busy four year old. She loves to entertain family and friends, and prepare daily dishes for her husband and daughter. Leigh’s meals are often influenced by her mom’s love of cooking. Leigh also creates recipes based on her experiences of living and working in the south of France. She often uses food to provide authentic experiences for her students as well. On Fridays, it’s not uncommon to see her students making crèpes and sampling French “fromage,” as part of their lesson. Always inspired by fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients, Leigh’s dishes are simple, tasty, and always made with her family in mind. Her daughter, now three, is an enthusiastic helper in the kitchen. A lover of mealtime with family and warm summer nights, Leigh is excited to share some of her favorite recipes. Follow Leigh on her Instagram account @arecipeforeveryseason