Vegetable tian.
August 02, 2011

It started with the zucchini.  One green zucchini and one yellow zucchini sitting on my counter, to be more precise.  I e-mailed my friend, who loves to cook, for help.  She suggested vegetable tian.

The first time that I had vegetable tian, I was living part-time with a conservative Sephardic family in Provence.  Every Friday afternoon, we gathered for Shabbat dinner.  Our fingers grazed the mezuzah and then touched our lips as we entered the door.  We hugged, we kissed cheeks.  While the women cooked and the children watched television, the men studied in the living room.

Sorry about the poor light - I snapped these after dark on the dinner table!

Sometimes when we went out to ask a question, the men were watching television with the children.  It was endlessly endearing.  The television turned off at sun-down, so the women joked that this was their way of sneaking in a little last-minute cartoon action.

In the kitchen, everything was divided up.  This was my first exposure to kosher eating and it fascinated me.  There were three sinks that were forever being filled with boiling water to ensure that they remained clean.  There were two stoves, each atop an oven, on opposite sides of the kitchen.  Two sets of cutlery.  Two stacks of tablecloths and napkins.  And in the pantry, there were two small refrigerators so that dairy products could be kept separate.

When dinner was finished, we all sat down at the table.  Yarmulkes were handed out to the boys who weren’t old enough to wear them all day long.  We sang a song and blessed the wine.  Challah bread was sliced and pieces were tossed across the table.  We caught them in wine glasses.  Then we dipped our fingers in a bowl of water and began to eat.

The dinner always began with bread and stew and wine and a vegetable tart.  The courses after that varied, but for months and months we ate a squash-based vegetable tian because that was what was in season.

This is the first time that I have eaten a vegetable tian since leaving France.  When I sautéed the onion, I remembered that kitchen.  When I chopped the garlic, I remembered the guilty looks of the men when we caught them watching cartoons with the kids.  When I layered the sliced vegetables in the tart dish, I smiled thinking about clapping our hands and singing while we caught chunks of bread in our wine glasses.  When I sprinkled (copious amounts of) the spices over the top, I remembered the way we laughed over dinner.  The way we came together every week, regardless of where we were born or what we believed, and broke bread and shared jokes and enjoyed one another’s company.

They may not have been my family and I may not keep Shabbat today, but to me eating vegetable tian will always feel a little bit like coming home.

Vegetable tian recipe is a combination of recipes found at For the Love of Cooking and within James Peterson’s book Vegetables.  I contacted the family in France, but apparently they don’t use recipes - just whatever’s on hand.  Another vegetable tian recipe that I found is this one at A Couple Cooks.  I think the extra onions and the Swiss cheese might actually be tastier.  Next time I’ll try it and find out!

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  1. By on September 11, 2011

    Hi Sarah! This looked so delicious that I hunted down a recipe minus the bell pepper for vegetable tain….oh my goodness it is amazing. Thank you for the inspiration.





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