Remember Linguine, the chef with the rat under his hat, in the movie Ratatouille? Remember the beautiful dish of ratatouille that he made that transformed evil food critic Anton Ego into chef Linguine's adoring fan?
In the movie, the dish was made with alternating slices of vegetables. I remember thinking, "That doesn't look like any ratatouille I've ever eaten."
The dish called ratatouille Nicoise is usually made with chopped squash, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, and herbs. These are generally stewed together in olive oil, herbs, and garlic on the stove top. Some people like their ratatouille firm, and some prefer the vegetables to be very soft. And some like their ratatouille prepared in a tian--like in the movie.
The word tian actually describes an earthenware dish from Provence. Like the dish called a casserole elsewhere in France, foods prepared in the baking dish take its name. You can put any kind of ingredients in a tian (or a casserole).
Whoever did the food consulting for the movie came up with the visually brilliant idea of having chef Linguine prepare a ratatoille Nicoise as a "tian," with alternating vegetable slices. The movie has made the "ratatouille tian" famous. Here's the way I make it.
When making this with vegetables from the garden, I often cut up all the vegetables I have on hand and fill up as many baking dishes as needed to contain them all. Ceramic or ovenproof glass dishes work equally well.
The proportions given here should fill a large round baking dish. If you have any vegetables left over, you can make a second tian in another dish.
- 1 pound ripe, firm tomatoes, sliced thin
- 1 white onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 pound summer squash or zucchini, sliced
- 1 long eggplant (about a pound), sliced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, plus a few sprigs
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 2-quart rectangular or oval baking dish.
Combine the squash, eggplant and onion in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and the fresh herbs. Add the olive oil, chopped rosemary, and thyme leaves and toss gently.
Alternate slices of the vegetables in the baking dish in this order: tomato slice, eggplant slice, squash slice, onion slice, etc. The vegetables should be stacked sideways in the dish with the rounds slanting slightly to one side. Cover tightly with foil.
Place in the oven and bake 1 hour. Remove the foil and continue to bake for another 30 minutes, until the vegetables are thoroughly tender and lightly colored on the edges.
Yield: 6 servings.