Mediterranean zucchini, tomato and bell pepper tian with pine-nut crumb topping
Over the years, I've done lots of variations on these Provençal 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.
- 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 13⁄4 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.
Excerpted from The Fresh & Green Table: Delicious Ideas for Bringing Vegetables Into Every Meal by Susie Middleton. Copyright © 2012 by Chronicle Books. Excerpted by permission of Chronicle Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.