Tian of Tomatoes and Summer Squash with Basil and Mint

Recently at my local farmers’ market, I was selecting tomatoes when the farmer whispered to me. “Better buy plenty because they’re not going to be around too much longer!”  I didn’t want to hear these words. I was hoping that the luscious red orbs that have been exceptionally sweet this season would last forever, but it was September, and I knew he was right.

I bought a bunch along with that some zucchini and yellow squash to make a Provencal dish I had been working on for the new book I am writing, Sunday Casseroles (it’s due in 2014). I’ve just started to create the recipes for this collection, and am happy to share one here.

A tian is a Provencal specialty of layered vegetables that are baked in a shallow dish, also called a tian. In this recipe a popular quartet—zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and ripe, juicy tomatoes—are baked until they are soft and tender, their flavors melded lusciously together. Fresh mint and basil plus some crumbled feta make good accents.

Gather ye tomatoes and summer squash while you may, and cook away!

Tian of Tomatoes and Summer Squash with Basil and Mint

1 1/4 lb zucchini
1 1/4 lb yellow squash
9 tbsp olive oil, plus more for the baking pans
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
3 lb ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4-in thick round slices
1 cup (6 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs (whole wheat ones work well)

1. Arrange racks at upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Generously oil two baking sheets and a 9-by-13-in baking pan.

2. Trim and discard ends from zucchini and yellow squash and then slice them into 1/4-in thick rounds. Arrange the zucchini in a single layer on one baking sheet and the yellow squash on another. Season the zucchini and the yellow squash generously with salt and pepper. Then drizzle 2 tbsp of the olive oil over the zucchini and 2 more tbsp oil over the yellow squash. Place baking sheets in oven and bake 10 minutes. With a metal spatula, turn zucchini and squash, and then reverse sheets top to bottom. Continue to roast until squash is tender when pierced with a knife and lightly browned on the bottom, 12 to 15 minutes more. Remove pans from the oven.

3. Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a medium, heavy skillet set over medium heat. When hot, add onions, and cook and stir until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook and stir 1 minute more. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper.

4. To assemble the casserole, arrange the zucchini in a single layer in the baking dish. Spread half the onion mixture on top. Top with a layer of tomatoes. Salt and pepper the tomatoes and sprinkle with one-third of the basil and mint, and half of the feta. Repeat making another layer of yellow squash, onions, tomatoes, basil, mint, and cheese. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top layer, and then drizzle with remaining 3 tbsp olive oil. (Casserole can be prepared 3 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate; wrap the remaining basil and mint in a dampened paper towel. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before baking.)

5. To bake, arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake 20 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees F. Bake until vegetables are tender when pierced with a sharp knife and cheese is lightly browned, about 15 minutes or more.

6.Remove and cool 15 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining basil and mint over the tian. Serves 4 as a main course, or 6 as a side dish

© Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2012

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