The French dish Tian is a kind of a gratin but then upright. And without the potatoes. Oh, and I don’t do eggs in my gratin. Well, thankfully it is as great! Maybe because I put some lavender in it for a real Provençal feel?
After being released and got things started at the official office, I crossed the street. The air-conditioned room where I had to wait for almost an hour and a half had made me shivering multiple times. I probably never get used to feeling cold when indoors. Coming from a country with short summers I want to feel the sunny, warm, yes even the hot weather all the time, wherever I am. Thankfully the sun already was warming my goose-bumped legs a bit.
The little shop that had got my eye had multiple umbrellas and sunscreens to protect the produce from the hot sun. I hesitated to step into the shade while I was still not completely warmed up.
But from my inside, a little spark lightened up. The shop made me feel like I was in my favorite neighborhood in the city where I learned myself to cook. I lived close to a large street where multiple small ethnic stores showed their fruits and veggies in crates on the sidewalk. The shopping public was as colorful and varied as the produces displayed; young bleu students, hipster couples with kids, elderly who had live there their entire life, Islamic immigrants and curious cooks like me.
Every store there had its own specialty. I visited the Persian store with their huge display of all kinds of olives, their sweet seasonal imported Persian lemons and for just being a very complete greengrocer. The more ordinary vegetables I bought at the store across, where the owner made it a sport to prepare your exchange money almost before you could hand him over your paper money. And my favorite cheeses I found at the cheese store managed by a friendly fled Iranian interpreter.
I scooped the colorful bright Heirloom tomatoes in a bag, picked up a bunch of kohlrabi, couldn’t resist the watercress and with my hands full I neared the counter. Forgotten was the hustle and coldness of arranging the official stuff, I was warmed by the culinary inspiration glowing inside of me.
RECIPE PROVENÇAL TIAN WITH LAVENDER [vegetarian]With the tomatoes, an eggplant and the first zucchini from my small vegetable garden I made this Provençal Tian. The lavender I got from my neighbor, who has large bushes growing in her garden.
You need for 2:
1 small zucchini
1/2 red onion
1 T olive oil
1 glove of garlic / 1 t roasted garlic
1/2 cup fresh herbs *
3 oz cream cheese (or ricotta)
* You can use (a selection of) these: parsley, chives, thyme, oregano, citrus balm, lemon thyme, rosemary, lavender – well every herb that you associate with summer. Oh and please do use lavender only in small amounts, you don’t want to feel like you’re eating soap or dishwasher detergent. One ‘flower’ will be more than enough.
Preheat the oven at 300 F/160 C degrees.
Prepare the veggies. Cut the eggplant lengthwise in 4 pieces and then in small slices. Peel the onion and cut it also in thin slices. Zucchini and tomatoes need to be sliced as well, as thin as you can.
Fill your casserole. But grease it first with some olive oil. Layer the vegetables upright after one another. First a slice of tomato, than zucchini, eggplant and then the onion. Or in any order you like. Doesn’t matter. Use all vegetable slices.
Add more flavor. Beat the eggs and mix the cream cheese through it. Chop the garlic and all the herbs and mix with pepper and salt through the egg mix. Pour over the vegetables.
Cook in the oven for about one hour, add some extra 15 minutes if the vegetables aren’t cooked fully by then.
And serve it like I did: with Isrealian couscous that I boiled in vegetable stock and flavored with lots of fresh herbs, pepper and salt.