the appetizer:

Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking: Traditional and Modern Recipes to Savor and Share by Paula Wolfert, includes recipes like Ribollita in the Style of Siena; Tian of Eggplant, Tomato, and Fresh Cheese; and Beef Paupiettes with Tomatoes and Wild Capers.

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Tian of Eggplant, Tomato, and Fresh Cheese

Serves 4 to 5

Tian of Eggplant, Tomato, and Fresh Cheese


Here is a personal favorite, a tian of ripe summer vegetables at their peak—layers of small heirloom tomatoes, sweet bulb onions, thin-skinned eggplant, and fresh salty cheese such as ricotta or chevre. I like to prepare this tian in the morning and serve it no sooner than 6 hours after it has emerged from the oven, allowing time for the flavors to meld. It should be left at room temperature; refrigeration diminishes the taste.

My method of setting the tian in a preheated clay-lined oven and then, at the appropriate time, turning the oven off and allowing the tian to set for an additional thirty minutes in the receding heat simulates the way food cooks in a traditional wood-burning oven. That is, first the food is cooked in the hottest part over the wood fire; then the tian is moved to the coolest part of the oven to finish the development of its topping.

Preferred Clay Pot:

Suggested Clay Environment:


1. Trim and peel the eggplants. Cut lengthwise into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Rinse the eggplant slices and pat dry.

2. Use a serrated swivel-bladed vegetable peeler to skin the tomatoes or dip them briefly in a pot of boiling water and slip off the skins. Slice the tomatoes and spread them out on paper towels. Dust lightly with coarse salt.

3. In a mixing bowl, mash the soft cheese with the flour and milk until smooth. Beat in the egg. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, the pepper, and the nutmeg. Set the cheese mixture aside.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium conventional skillet. Add the bay leaf, thyme, parsley, spring bulb onion, and one of the garlic cloves. Cook over medium-low heat until the onion is soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf.

5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Set a ridged grill pan over medium-high heat; lightly brush with olive oil. When the pan is hot, grill the eggplant, in batches as necessary, turning once, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes on each side.

6. Rub the earthenware baking dish with the second garlic clove and brush with oil. Layer about half of the eggplant slices over the bottom. Combine the onion and cheese mixture and spread on top. Cover with a layer of half of the tomatoes. Add another layer of eggplant slices, sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and top with the remaining tomato slices. Sprinkle the sugar and remaining oil on top and bake for 1 hour.

7. Turn off the heat and leave the tian in the oven for another 45 to 60 minutes, or until the tomatoes acquire a lovely charred edge but remain shiny on top. Serve directly from the dish at room temperature. Do not refrigerate.


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Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking


This page created January 2010