Farm Vegetable Tian

Every couple weeks I have the great pleasure of collecting a cornicopia of fresh, local veggies, courtesy of my CSA.  I actually split my share with some girlfriends, which works out perfectly -- too much gorgeous produce, coupled with too-frequent summer travel can lead to a lot of past-their-prime organic garlic scapes staring reproachfully from the crisper drawer to welcome you home. Not that I would know anything about that....

A tian is a layered French vegetable dish, often involving cheese and usually finished in the oven.  If it seems a lot like a casserole, that's because it is.  But doesn't tian sound nicer?  A simple tian is a little bit of kitchen alchemy; no matter what combination of veggies I put in, the final product is always yummier than the sum of its parts.  And because it's so deliciously flexible, it's perfect for the bounty of wholesome surprises that await me in the back of Farmer Scott's truck.

Here's what I used this time:

From the farm:
4-5 small potatoes
2 long, skinny eggplants
1 medium zucchini
3 giant, juicy, real tomatoes

From the fridge:
about 6 oz. brine-packed feta cheese
about 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan

From the pantry:
olive oil spray
Kosher salt
coarsely ground black pepper
garlic powder (Farmer Scott actually brought fresh garlic this week, but I was too lazy to peel it...)

And here's what I did with it:

Turn the oven to 450.  While it's preheating, spray a baking dish (or two smaller dishes, which is what we did) with olive oil and arrange 1/3 inch slices of uncooked potatoes in a single layer on the bottom.  Spritz the potatoes with a little more olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder and a bit of salt (go easy on the salt, because you'll be adding salty cheese later).  Pop the potatoes in the oven and let them roast while you prepare the rest of the veggies.

Meanwhile, heat up a grill pan and slice the zucchini and eggplants into 1/4 inch rounds.  Spray the pan with olive oil, and grill the veggies quickly on each side, being careful not to move them except to flip once (so you don't mess up the grill marks).  Usually when I cook with eggplants, I like to salt the raw slices and let them sit for a while on paper towels to dessicate.  But I didn't do that this time and they were delicious.  Was it a fluke?  Have I been wasting my time all these years?  I'm not sure what to tell you....  Grill those veggies until they are just tender-crisp and have a lovely char on both sides. If you're slow-moving and easily distracted like I am, it will take you longer than you expect and your potatoes will be alluringly golden brown by the time the other veggies are grilled.  Perfect timing!

Take out your pan, layer the eggplants on top of the potatoes, and then add the zucchini, topping each veggie with a little salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Crumble the feta on top, and then arrange nice fat tomato slices.  Sprinkle each tomato round with a generous dusting of parmesan, then slide that baby back in the oven and bake 'til the tomatoes are saggy, the cheese is brown, and the whole thing looks... French. I usually end up broiling it a bit.

Brother Z helped me put this together for brunch the morning before he, Momo, Four and Five headed back West.  We ate it with fried eggs, fresh baguette, a hunk of Maribor cheese and strawberries mascerated with a bit of sugar and balsamic vinegar.   It was... a worthy sendoff. 

P.S. The last time I made it, we used sauteed spinach instead of the grilled veggies, and served it with roast salmon for dinner.  Yum.