Tian d’aubergines (also known as Provencal Aubergine Gratin)

As I’ve mentioned in the previous post, I love aubergines.

To make the long story short, I love them because they are pretty, because they are healthy and good for you, and because frankly, cooked properly they have one of the most amazing savory flavors ever, all on their own.  And I’m not even a vegetarian!  I mean… I am a carnivore, really, but aubergines – cooked this way – are something no one in their right mind should turn down.  Well ok, maybe if they hated one or more of the components specifically, but not otherwise!

So, what is a tian?  Tian is a French (specifically, Provencal) word for a shallow gratin dish, which is universally and frequently used in French cooking, the rustic variety in particular.  Also, it’s the term for what is cooked in it, which is in this case, a fantastically flavorful gratin of assorted vegetables.  To me, this is the flavor of Provencal cooking, and it is truly amazing.  To top it, while it takes a bit of time and assembling, it’s reasonably failproof, and easy to make, which makes it a very, very worthwhile thing to try.

Like in case with the previous recipe, this one is suitable for low-GI/LCHF diets, and in the case you wondered, yes, I eat like that at the moment.  Though, I wouldn’t say I am on a diet, precisely.  It is more that whenever the trousers and I disagree about my size, which happens whenever I’d been overindulging in pizza or ice cream (for I am weak and human), I routinely begin watching my carbs a little more until the trousers and I are in agreement about our relationship again.  And before you wonder, no I don’t believe in cutting out all the carbohydrates, going on a diet of protein bars, or any such silly faddy thing.  That’d be against my idea of what a healthy relationship with food is all about.  But eating more meat and vegetables and less bread and potatoes is simply common sense and a healthy dose of understanding human metabolism (thank you, my university instructors, I owe you a lot in regards to my health!).

But I digress.  Back to the tian d’aubergines – not only is it delicious, easy to assemble, and good for you – it’s also great either fresh and hot, later at room temperature, cold (not my favorite but a lot of people love it as cold tapas-style dish with some crusty bread), or reheated with a lid on the next day.  So, it is also versatile in terms of leftovers, and the only question is – why aren’t you making one yet?

What you need:  (serves 2 as dinner side, 4 as starter)

  • A shallow gratin dish (preferably one with a lid, but if yours is unlidded it can be covered with foil) or four individual ceramic casserole dishes (those have lids), or else little individual gratin dishes.
  • 1 large aubergine
  • 2 large or 3 small tomatoes
  • 1 medium zucchini (courgette)
  • 1 medium to large onion
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Good-quality cheese of your choice (entirely optional and very worthwhile)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

What to do:

  • Wash and dry all vegetables.  Peel onion and garlic.
  • Slice aubergine into ~6mm (just over 1/2cm) thick slice, salt on both sides and lay to rest on a plate to drain.
  • In the meantime, chop the onion, and preheat a generous 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil in a small cookpot with a tightly fitting (if possible) lid on medium heat.
  • Put onions into the pot, stir to coat in oil and cover.  Lower heat to medium-low and cook onions until they are all soft, just begin to color, and are strongly aromatic.
  • While that is cooking, slice courgette into 5-6mm thick slices, chop garlic finely, and butter or oil your gratin or casserole dishes.  Check on the onions frequently, stirring occasionally so they do not stick.
  • When the onions are ready, turn heat up and add another tablespoon of oil.  Toss garlic into the onions and fry for a few seconds to a minute, until aromatic and just beginning to color.  Take pot off heat, stir garlic in, and spoon the onion and garlic mixture into the bottom(s) of your dish or dishes.
  • Wipe the aubergine slices and drain them on paper towels.  Preheat a tablespoon of oil in a nonstick frying pan and fry aubergine slices in a single layer until beginning to color on both sides.
  • In meantime, set oven to preheat to 190°C (or 170-180°C if it’s a fan oven)
  • Assemble your tian or individual mini-tians:  Lay a layer of fried aubergines over the spooned-in and evened onion mix.  Then layer the courgettes over that and salt+pepper lightly.
  • Slice your tomatoes just as you are going to assemble tian, else they will lose all their juices.  Layer slices of tomato over the courgettes.
Ready to bake!
  • Drizzle tian with olive oil (a little or a lot, up to you!) and sprinkle with a bit of salt, pepper and chopped rosemary.  Cover with lid or aluminium foil and place in the oven.
  • Ovens vary, as do sizes of dishes, and since I do not know either one of yours, the times ahead are a guideline.  The slower the oven/larger the dish, the more time you should use.   Check tian after 45 min to 1 hour, and remove lids/foil.
  • Add cheese if using and bake further 20-45 minutes, until bubbling is less violent, and the cheese is completely melted and browned.
Tian d’aubergines

Serve hot, or later warm, or cold, or reheated, with bread or without.

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3 thoughts on “Tian d’aubergines (also known as Provencal Aubergine Gratin)

    1. Thank you!

      If I may offer a tip – if you want the flavor really rich and concentrated, it is better to cook longer on slightly low heat, though I usually fail at the patience required for that myself. Original French recipes often specify temperatures as low as 160°C and 1:45 cooking time – an hour closed and 45 minutes open (of course, both to be shortened for using the tiny individual casseroles). Hope you enjoy it!

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