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Tomato and Eggplant Tian

Tomato and Eggplant Tian
A tian is both a Provençal cooking vessel and a finished dish. The vessel is usually oval, slightly deeper than a gratin dish, and is made of terra-cotta. It is typically used for baking vegetables, but it can be used for meats as well. Try this dish at the peak of summer when the vegetables are at their ripest.

Ingredients:

  • 2 globe or 4 Asian eggplant
  • 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 6 ripe, juicy tomatoes, about 3 lb. total weight
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup coarse dried bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Trim off the stem ends from the eggplant and cut each one crosswise into slices 1/2 inch thick. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush both sides with 1 to 1 1/2 Tbs. of the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. of the salt and 1/4 tsp. of the pepper.

Cook until the undersides of the eggplant slices are lightly browned and a crust has formed on the tops, about 15 minutes. Turn the slices over and cook until the insides are soft and the undersides are browned, about 10 minutes more.

Meanwhile, coarsely chop the tomatoes and put them in a bowl with their juices. Add the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, the remaining 1/4 tsp. pepper, the garlic and thyme.

Increase the oven temperature to 450°F. Coat a gratin dish with the remaining 2 1/2 to 3 Tbs. olive oil.

Arrange the eggplant slices in a layer in the prepared gratin dish, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle with half of the basil. Spread the tomato mixture over the eggplant, slightly lifting the slices to let the juices run underneath. Sprinkle evenly with the bread crumbs and dot with the butter.

Bake until the tomatoes are bubbling and the bread crumbs are browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle the tian with the remaining basil and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of French Cooking, by Georgeanne Brennan & Sarah Putnam Clegg (Oxmoor House, 2009).