One summer we travelled with two other families to the Cahors region of France. There were fifteen of us, six adults and nine children. We visited castles, wineries, churches, audacious gardens, bridges where no battles were fought, and the caves of pech merle. One night we shared the excitement of France competing for the World Cup with townies in a local tavern in the quaint village of Sauveterre. Another evening we watched as a colony of bats exited the side of our country house, crawling out from spaces in an ancient rock wall. Our group leader discovered a three-star restaurant, Privilege du Perigord, in the bastide town of Monpazier. This unassuming restaurant provided us with one of the most memorable meals of our lives. We are all still close friends, and it is no surprise that our recent Culture and Cuisine Club dinner celebrated the fabulous cuisine of southern France.
I have an extensive collection of cookbooks, and Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris has many wonderful recipes and is an interesting read. Below is her recipe for Vegetable Tian, my contribution to the C&C Club dinner. I used a mandoline to slice the veggies except the tomatoes, which I cut with a serrated knife. I have one small adjustment to her recipe. The next time I make this I will drain the onions by scooping them into the casserole with a slotted spoon. After all the veggies are lined up, then I will drizzle a bit of the juice over the top. Otherwise, there is too much liquid.
Good olive oil
2 large yellow onions, cut in half and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound medium round potatoes, unpeeled
3/4 pound zucchini
1 1/4 pounds medium tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs
2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Brush a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with olive oil. In a medium saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the onions over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.
Slice the potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes in 1/4-inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly, making only 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and thyme sprigs and drizzle with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Uncover the dish, remove the thyme sprigs, sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake for another 30 minutes until browned. Serve warm.
Per Serving (based on 4 servings): Calories: 289 ; Total Fat: 15.5 grams; Saturated Fat: 4 grams; Protein: 9 grams; Total carbohydrates: 31 grams; Sugar:6 grams; Fiber: 4 grams; Cholesterol: 16 milligrams; Sodium: 550 milligrams