This year I've felt the urge to branch out with my cooking. I'm up for trying most vegetarian recipes, but especially those with a good history, because awhile back I started to think that my cooking overall could be a bit more exciting if I started learning more traditional recipes instead of just throwing things together (although I still do that when I'm short on time, and it's still tasty!).
This weekend I decided to go for the French tian. It's amazingly easy, so much so that while layering everything in the pan, you might be thinking to yourself that it looks kind of boring. You will be pleasantly surprised with that first bite, however, when you realize it's everything you had hoped it would be and more. And this is the perfect time to make the particular recipe I used, because it uses eggplant, tomato, and zucchini.
Step one, vegetable broth. It's expensive and you only need 1/4 cup, so I would recommend that you make it yourself. You can plan ahead and save the ends of the veggies you use for a few days, or you can make do by using the ends of the zucchini you are about to use, the tip of the eggplant (don't include the side with leaves--they are prickly and not to mention poisonous!), a pinch of parsley, and whatever else you have on hand (I threw in a chunk of an onion and one piece of celery--don't go overboard on strong tasting add-ins). Simmer all of this with at least a cup of water on the stove while you prepare everything else. I threw in a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil too.
Step two, roasting the veggies. Cut your eggplant and zucchini into 1/8 inch thick slices and roast them flat on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. They might look a bit ugly afterward, but don't worry about that, you'll be covering them up.
While that's roasting, prepare your bread crumbs and herbs. I used 4 slices of homemade bread and toasted them in a skillet with a little olive oil before making them into crumbs in my chopper. The recipe called for untoasted bread crumbs but I thought this would add a richer flavor. For herbs, you'll need to chop about 2 tsp each of thyme and oregano, 2 Tbsp of parsley, and 2 cloves of garlic.
In a casserole dish, begin to assemble your layers. First, a layer of eggplant and zucchini, then a drizzle of olive oil (the recipe is from Cooking Light and really limits you on the amount of olive oil, but I'm a little more loose with mine! Make it how you like, but realize that fat adds a lot of flavor). Next, a layer of very thin fresh tomato slices.
Then, a layer of breadcrumbs and herbs. Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper.
Finally, a layer of nutritional yeast (what I used) or parmesan cheese. Repeat all of the layers until you run out of ingredients (I made just two layers). Then pour 1/4-1/3 cup vegetable broth over your dish.
Bake it for 45 minutes to an hour at 350 degrees, no lid, until the bread crumbs on top start to brown.
Voila! You just made a tian. Now wasn't that easy? Let me know if you try it!