Monday, July 25, 2011


Green zucchini, red tomato, yellow squash, pink potato, green zucchini, red tomato...

That's the pattern I was following on Friday morning as I was putting together the couscous/vegetable tian that I was taking to dinner at Lynn and Walt's. Mary was talking with me and would occasionally remind me that I had messed up the pattern by putting a pink potato after the green zucchini instead of after the yellow squash.

For me, cooking is often as much about the colors and shapes of the ingredients as it is about the flavor.

My version of Vegetable Tian, before baking.
Includes zucchini, tomatos, corn and thyme from my garden.
The tian is a summer standby for me. The vary act of chopping vegetables is as calming and satisfying to me as watching golf on TV is to Ed. The dish has evolved over the years, starting out as a recipe from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris cookbook. A couple of years ago, at Mary's request, I added a layer of Israeli couscous between the sweet onions on the bottom and the vegetables on the top. Even though the recipe calls for Gruyere cheese, I use whatever I have in the frige. This time it was some local sharp cheddar from Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese. I also added a sprinkling of peaches-and-cream corn, just off the shuck and just out of my garden.

Good friends, good dinner.

Vegetable Tian
(loosely adapted from Barefoot in Paris

Good olive oil
2 large sweet onions, cut in half and sliced
1.5 cups Israel Coucous (large pearl)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound medium round potatoes, unpeeled
3/4 pound zucchini
3/4 pound summer squash
1-1/4 pound medium tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra springs
2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the onions over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Spread the onion mixture on bottom of a 9x13 baking dish, lightly brushed with olive oil.  Bring pot of salted water to boil and cook couscous for 15 minutes. Drain. Arrange a layer of the cooked couscous on top of the onions.

Slice the potatoes, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes in 1/4-inch-thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly, making only one layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and thyme springs and drizzle with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Uncover the dish, remove the thyme springs, sprinkle the cheese on top, and cook for another 30 minutes, or until browned. Serve warm.

serves 6

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