Vegetable and Lentil Tian

This recipe is so good that it doesn’t even matter that I don’t know what a tian is. Not one bit. It doesn’t even matter that I was too lazy to Google it. And it especially doesn’t matter that I thought it was a typo for “gratin” for a good 10 minutes while I wondered why it didn’t have any cream in it. All those things don’t matter because I can whip one up with the best of them and now you can, too.

And I hope you will.

The original recipe can be found here. Ina Garten is behind this casserole dish of deliciousness. Surely, you are not surprised. She has that way about her — that “let’s just use thyme, salt and pepper” way. Simple dishes that exceed expectations. It’s a classic under-promise/over-deliver. Potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, thyme, a little cheese. “Sure, sure.” you think. “That sounds good.” but really it knocks your socks off and I can’t explain why. It just does.

This recipe seems rather forgiving but here are some tips I’ll pass along for good measure:

1) Be the weirdo trying to match the circumference of your potatoes, zucchinis and tomatoes in the produce department. Just embrace it. It doesn’t really matter for cooking time but if you are looking to impress, starting with the same size produce will make that a little easier.

2) When slicing, be generous in width for the tomatoes and zucchini but go thinner on the potatoes. Not a crazy amount thinner, but a little. It will make for more even cooking.

3) I bought vine-on tomatoes but I think roma tomatoes would have worked great, too. (And more circumference matching friendly, I suspect.)

4) I initially wanted to add a bunch of stuff like eggplant or spinach but I didn’t and am glad I didn’t. There really is something quite lovely about this combo as is and I’d make it at least once without adding an interloper.

5) And now that I said that, I’m confessing that I added lentils. I didn’t want a vegetable side dish, I wanted a main course which requires a little protein punch. The tomatoes and zucchini release a lot of water while cooking and the dry lentils had no trouble absorbing what they needed in the hour plus this bakes.

And lastly 6) If I were to make this vegan, I think I’d substitute dollops of vegan ricotta for the Gruyere as opposed to a mozzarella-melty type cheeze. I think it would be quite lovely. Or just leave the cheese off all together.

Vegetable Tian

(slightly adapted from Ina Garten)

Olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4-5 small yukon gold potatoes
4 zucchini or summer squash (or a mix)
3 vine-on tomatoes or about 4-6 roma
1/2 c. dry lentils, rinsed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, plus extra sprigs
As much Gruyere as you’d like, I used about 4 ounces

Preheat oven to 375.

Brush a 9 by 9 baking dish with olive oil or coat in cooking spray.

In your favorite saute pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook onions over medium heat until translucent – about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Line the bottom of the baking dish with the onions. Sprinkle the dry lentils over the onion and garlic mix.

Slice the potatoes about 1/4 of an inch thick. Slice the zucchini, and tomatoes in 1/3-inch thick slices. Layer them alternately on top of the onions, fitting them tightly, kind of standing up, making just 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and thyme sprigs and drizzle with some olive oil. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover the dish, remove the whole thyme sprigs, sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake for another 30 minutes until browned and bubbling.



  1. Posted July 7, 2010 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    looks like ratatouille

  2. altrooheather
    Posted July 7, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I was thinking that, too!

  3. Bean
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    A tian — a layered, baked vegetable dish that originated in Provence but is also common to city kitchens — is the perfect complement to this French holiday (Bastille Day). Unlike a gratin, a tian does not include bread crumbs or cheese, which allows the juices in the vegetables to evaporate in the oven’s dry heat, concentrating their flavors.


    Looks just lovely Heather.

    Read more:

  4. altrooheather
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    Hello Bean! Thanks for doing the research! I feel extra happy about this dish now that I know it’s French. So much fancier. Oui.

  5. Dorothy
    Posted September 7, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    I can’t wait to try this tian. All your food looks so great. The raspberry almond muffins, oh wow. I got excited about the nut burgers until I realized they call for a food processor which I do not have. Oh rats. I always call anybody who annoys me a “nut burger” so I hoped this could be my signature dish. I just subscribed but if my computer won’t let me, you are on my Favorites list. Thank you very much for all your wonderful ideas.

  6. altrooheather
    Posted September 8, 2010 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Thank you for all the kind words — you’ve made my day! : D

    Good news! The nut burgers don’t call for a food processor! You can mash them up by hand (or use a kitchen aid) and totally make them your signature dish! If you have any questions e-mail me and I can go into more detail! (my e-mail is on the “about me” page!) Go nut burgers!


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