Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mediterranean Zucchini, Tomato, and Bell Pepper Tian

I know that some people avoid using their ovens or spending much time near the stove during the heat of the summer. I understand the logic of this, but I’m not one of those people. I’ve been trying to figure out why that is. I remember that a few of my cooking firsts happened during a hot summer back when we lived in an apartment with not-so-great air conditioning. I baked my first banana bread on a 106 degree day, and I stood, stirring and stirring a bubbling pot of risotto for the first time on a sweltering July evening in that warm, little apartment. I guess I was more interested in trying new recipes than trying to keep the apartment cool. That way of thinking hasn’t changed for me. Besides, with our summers, it can be so hot for so long I’m not sure the heat from the stove even makes a difference. I’m hoping I can convince you to turn on your oven for this recipe I’m showing today, and it has to happen during the summer while zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers are in season. It’s a slowly baked dish, but it’s worth every minute of the oven being in use. I’ve made a similar tian with summer vegetables before, but this one was different and better. After tasting it, I declared it the best ever summer tian, and there are a few reasons for that. First, the zucchini and tomato slices are marinated in a balsamic and honey vinaigrette before being layered into the dish. Next, there’s a layer of chopped sun-dried tomatoes in the middle. And, last, the topping is a crispy mix of bread crumbs, pine nuts, and parmigiano reggiano. It’s from the new book The Fresh and Green Table by Susie Middleton, and I received a review copy.

With vegetable-focused dishes for main courses, sides, pasta, eggs, pizza, soups, salads, and tarts, the book is full of food that I want to eat for each season of the year. There wasn’t a single recipe in the book that I would not want to try. This weekend, I’ll be making the Smoky Chipotle Black Bean Chili with Rice Pilaf and Summer Vegetable Salsa. I’ve marked the pages for Spicy Noodle Hot Pot with Bok Choy, Shitake Mushrooms, Ginger, Lime, and Peanuts; Baked Penne with Silky Fennel in Hot Pink Sauce; Savory Bread Pudding with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Corn, and Cilantro; and Farro with Balsamic-Rosemary-Roasted Shallots and Grapes over Roasted Portobellos. These are vegetable dishes with big flavors, great texture, and plenty of decadence. There are buttery crusts, melted cheeses, crunchy toppings, and chewy grains. And, the photos throughout the book show how beautiful the dishes are as well. I’m sure several more things from this book will be showing up around here soon.

Making the tian was simple enough after slicing and chopping all the vegetables. Onion, bell pepper, and garlic were sauteed before becoming the bottom layer in a baking dish. Chopped sun-dried tomatoes and thyme leaves were the next layer. That was followed by rows of marinated sliced tomatoes and zucchini, and the breadcrumb topping was the finishing touch. It was a really good reason to use the oven in the summer, and this makes great use of zucchini that’s always so abundant this time of year. So, I say, go for it. Turn on your oven in July.

Mediterranean Zucchini, Tomato & Bell Pepper Tian with Pine-Nut Crumb Topping
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from The Fresh and Green Table.

{Tians} It wouldn’t be possible for me to write a main-dish vegetable cookbook without including one of my layered summer vegetable dishes. Over the years, I’ve done lots of variations on these Proven├žal tians, and my friends tell me they make them over and over again. The secret to their flavor is letting them cook long enough for the tomato (and other vegetable) juices to reduce, caramelize, and mingle with the onions. But this particular recipe gets added flavor from sun-dried tomatoes and bell peppers on the bottom, and pine nuts in the top crust. I love to cook it in my enameled cast-iron oval gratin dish, but other 2-qt/2-L shallow baking dishes, like a 9-by-7-in/23-by-17-cm heatproof glass one, work fine, too. Take this dish to a potluck or picnic. It will be a hit, I promise. But if by chance you wind up with any leftovers, you’ll love those, too, as it tastes great the next day.

Serves 4

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus 5 tbsp/75 ml and more for the baking dish
3 tbsp chopped toasted pine nuts
3/4 cup/115 g cup fresh bread crumbs
3/4 cup/85 g coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (I use the food processor)
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey
Kosher salt
1 1/2 small zucchini (about 12 oz/340 g), cut on the diagonal into thin (1/8- to 3/16-in-/3- to 5-mm-thick) slices
1 1/4 lb/570 g (about 4 or 5) small to medium red and orange ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 3/16 -in-/5-mm-thick slices (If using medium tomatoes, halve them before slicing.)
2 small onions, cut crosswise into thin slices (about 1 3/4 cups)
1 small or 1/2 large red or yellow bell pepper (about 4 oz/115 g), cored and very thinly sliced
2 tsp minced garlic
3 tbsp finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained

1 Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°/gas 5. Rub a shallow 2-qt/2-L baking dish with a little olive oil. In a small bowl, combine the pine nuts, bread crumbs, 2 tbsp of the Parmigiano, 1/2 tsp of the thyme, and the 2 tsp olive oil. Mix well.

2 In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, honey, 2 tbsp of the olive oil, and 1/4 tsp salt. Put the zucchini slices in one medium bowl and the tomato slices in another. Add a pinch of salt and 1 tsp thyme to each bowl, and drizzle each with half of the vinegar mixture. Toss gently. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

3 In a medium heavy nonstick skillet, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, bell pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and bell pepper are limp and the onions are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer the onions and bell pepper to the prepared baking dish and spread them in an even layer. Let cool slightly. Top the veggies with the sun-dried tomatoes and the remaining 1/2 tsp thyme.

4 Starting at a narrow end of the baking dish, arrange a row of overlapping tomato slices across the dish, propping the slices up against the end of the dish at an angle as you go. Sprinkle a little Parmigiano on the row of tomatoes and then arrange a row of zucchini slices, slightly overlapping each other and slightly overlapping the row of tomatoes. Sprinkle Parmigiano on that row and continue to arrange alternating rows of tomatoes and zucchini, sprinkling each with Parmigiano, until you get to the other end of the dish. You should have just about the right amount of zucchini, but don’t worry if you have extra slices; you will definitely have extra tomato slices (and ones that you’ve chosen not to use because they’ve fallen apart!). But as you are going along, if it looks like you will have a lot of extras, gently push the rows back up toward the end of the dish where you started to make room for a few more rows.

5 Scrape any remaining seasoning and juices from the bowl with the zucchini over the veggies. (Leave the extra tomato juices behind or use them in a gazpacho!) Sprinkle any remaining Parmigiano over the veggies. Drizzle the veggies with the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil and top with the bread crumb–pine nut mixture. 6 Bake in the preheated oven until well browned and the juices have bubbled for a while and considerably reduced, about 65 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

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30 comments:

  1. I don't have a problem turning on my oven for this dish Lisa! It sounds "exciting" and looks scrumptious! I'm of the notion that says if my tummy wants the oven on I don't care what degrees it is outside. (as long as there's air conditioning that is:) Sometimes a "girl" just needs "real" food!!!

    Thanks for sharing...

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  2. I have no problem turning on our oven at the moment - it's a great way to warm the house. We're very cold down under! This is a lovely looking vegetable dish. I'm sure it has amazing flavours xx

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  3. A gorgeous looking veggie tian!
    It's never really HOT over here, so I have no problem to use oven in summer time.

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  4. Yummy! That is one of my favorite summer dishes. Yours looks wonderful.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  5. I love this, Lisa! So many wonderful flavors. And turning the oven on is no problem for me. :)

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  6. I've never been one to stop using my oven in the summer either!

    This recipe looks amazing. I'd love to try it - and I'm definitely going to look for that cookbook!

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  7. What a wonderful dish Lisa. Looks very inviting :-)
    I agree with you - I still use the oven during the summer - no problem at all.

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  8. Oooo this looks so perfect for dinner tonight. I was planning on making these vegetables but no idea how I wanted to cook them. I'm still using my oven this summer though I keep swearing I'll stop soon.

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  9. That looks beautiful and delicious, healthy too. Love all the ingredients there. Thanks very much for sharing.

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  10. This looks amazing, Lisa! The breadcrumb topping is wonderful atop all the delicious veggies. Yeah, I still bake all summer long, too...especially towards the end when I'm sick of grilled meats and BLTs!

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  11. So beautiful. Love the crunchy top! Perfect for a Winter night on the couch :)

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  12. It's winter and that dish would be perfect on my table. I can't wait to try this next week!

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  13. Another mouthwatering dish! So colorful and so delicious!

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  14. Tian or crumble (as I would call this), this is one fabulous meal and just the kind of summer recipe I've been looking for. It looks fantastic! And I love the pine nuts in the crumble.

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  15. This is perfect for those vegetables I need to be using. We have air conditioning, so I'd much rather hole up in the kitchen that go out on the searing hot deck and grill.

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  16. this is all grand, but my favorite element is the pine nuts in the crumb topping--perfect choice!

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  17. A beautiful and very delicious Mediterranean dish :D
    Great job!
    Oh and finally subscribed :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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  18. I really like the sound of this. I've never made a tian but all of that goodness melding together sounds wonderful. You know, I cook more with my oven as well. Sometimes, just lighting up the grill OUTSIDE in the HEAT seems like too much for us. The oven doesn't heat up my kitchen so I just continue using it quite a bit too!

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  19. Great recipe! Love the flavors, and the topping looks superb. I admit I'm one that is a little reluctant to use the oven much, though an hour or so is OK (it's those long, long braises that I don't do in the summer). And when the weather is cooler, the zucchini and especially the tomatoes won't be as good. Really good post - thank you.

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  20. I can hold out a few days, but then I give up! I have to bake! This looks so good and it's perfect for everything coming in from out garden.

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  21. I'm going to try this tian tonight! Looks fantastic! I have everything in my garden!

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  22. What a great way to enjoy summer veggies! I've been turning on the oven, but only in the mornings or evenings when it's a little cooler.

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  23. Lis, I am making a version of this now.....how much honey would you say, about a tbsp?

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    1. The honey was on the same line as the kosher salt--I just fixed it. 2 tsp honey. Hope you enjoy!

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  24. I just love the thought of having lots of veggies in this!

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  25. Well, you almost convinced me. I'd probably break my rule about turning on the oven rule any other time for this but since I have my own little personal heating pad strapped on my belly these days, I'm even warmer than usual so there's just no way. I'll have to bookmark this recipe for next summer as it looks and sounds fantastic!

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  26. I just bought that book and have many of the same things bookmarked. The pasta with fennel is amazing, I wrote about it on my site. SO GOOD. I think it's a really terrific cookbook. I like what you had to say about cooking in the heat. Oakland is not nearly as hot as where you are but it certainly is warmer than Seattle. I have been wondering about how I will cook in my new house, if I will bake as much, etc. But I like your approach!

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  27. Lover your tian dish. Thank God I am not crazy as I never stop baking even with 40 degrees C and in Greece we have high temperatures every day during the summer.

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  28. Lisa--So glad I found your review and thank you so much. Your photos of the tian are so beautiful -- the best I've ever seen! I've done a number of versions of these over the years (they're kind of a signature dish for me) and they always wind up being challenging to photograph. Anyway, glad you enjoyed it and hope you enjoy the rest of the book! Best, Susie

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    Replies
    1. Susie,

      Thank you! I loved this version of a summer tian. The sun-dried tomatoes were fantastic in it. And, I'm really enjoying the book. I'll be cooking from it repeatedly!

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