Yes, yes, OK. You’re right, I DO love puppies, rainbows, and ice cream. But I also love shiny new words – especially when they just dress up something I’m already kind of familiar with.
So you can imagine my delight when I learned the word tian. Huh? According to Slashfood, a tian is a, “layered, baked vegetable dish that originated in Provence but is also common to city kitchens…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.”
Some sources disagree with Slashfood’s ban on bread crumbs and cheese, others say it’s simply a cognate of the word tagine, and others still add eggs – in any event, tian is a fancy word for gluten-free, delicious veggies.
The recipe linked above has a lot in common with this Barefoot Contessa tian recipe; both allow zucchini, potatoes, and other assorted veggies to shine. Note that Gruyere cheese comes out to play in the Barefoot Contessa recipe, but of course if you don’t do dairy there’s no harm in skipping it.
However, what good is a fancy word for simple food if you can’t take it and have a little fun? Whether because you don’t like zucchini and potatoes, or you simply have other vegetables you want to get rid of, there are plenty of alternatives.
The Splendid Table, from American Public Media, has a great twist on the tian that’s bound with rice and egg. Of course, you’ll want to either omit the breadcrumbs or use a gluten-free variety.
This spinach and lentil tian from My Shiny Kitchen would maybe more appropriately be called a crustless quiche. Given that it combines some of my favorite flavors – mushrooms, lentils, fresh spinach – into an easy, high-protein, gluten-free dish, I’m not going to quibble.
The Food Network’s Have Fork, Will Travel cooked up an apricot tian, with an intriguing combination of stone fruit, almonds, cream, and a touch of black pepper for contrast. There’s been some quibbling over the recipe on Chowhound – but whichever way you dice it, no one is going to wonder where the gluten is when you serve them something called apricot tian. If you’d rather put a little sweet in your savory, how about a spinach and raisin tian?
Now, there’s also an Anglicized idea of the tian, which is often a layered, round dish with at least one strata of seafood salad and some cream. But we’ll talk about that another time.
Have you ever had or cooked a tian? What was in it, and how did it come out?