One of my favorite food and entertaining authorities of all time is the great Lee Bailey. His long list of wonderful, Southern-influenced cookbooks are among my very favorite and, while many might not be quite as familiar with his name, he is often heralded as the original entertaining and lifestyle guru (we’re talking pre-Martha Stewart here). Working as both recipe developer and photographer, there was just something special about the effortless, fuss-free, and unpretentious way he captured food and dining scenes in his books. His work still inspires me daily.
One piece of advice I remember reading was his notion of The Rule of Four. In addition to the ole’ reliable veggie, protein, and grains on your plate, Bailey believed that a meal was truly complete – and much more enticing – if there was a fourth element to help draw people in. A small jar of pickles. A really great sauce. A freshly baked loaf of bread. A special salad to round out the meal. You get the idea.
I’m taking my cues from Bailey with this recipe, and incorporating an extra special North African chermoula sauce into a very traditional French recipe, the tian. The addition of this simple, quick, and exotic sauce instantly manages to elevate the dish a bit, making it seem a little more special.
This recipe uses Thrive® Algae Oil, a new product I was unfamiliar with due to its newness on the market. Thrive has harnessed the goodness of algae, one of the planet’s most sustainable food sources, to create this versatile cooking oil with the highest level of heat-stable good fats – in fact, it’s been deemed the best oil for your heart.
Thrive® Algae Oil has a high smoke point that allows you to sear, sauté, fry, and grill to your heart’s content, and its neutral taste makes it appropriate for just about any application. I used Thrive® Algae Oil for both the quick-sautéing of the veggies, as well as in the chermoula sauce that gets poured down over top and served alongside for bread dipping – and it works beautifully in both. Plus you can now find Thrive® Algae Oil at your nearest Earth Fare location!
If you’re unfamiliar, a tian is a simple, no-frills vegetable dish that hails from the Provençal region of France. Perfectly highlighting the season’s best produce, a tian is an easy way to feed a crowd, and one of my favorite ways to use up veggie odds and ends in my fridge. A summery casserole of sorts, the veggies in a tian are softened quickly on the stovetop, arranged in an ovenproof dish atop some fresh tomato sauce, topped with breadcrumbs or cheese, and then baked for a spell until bubbly and crusty. Nothing not to like there, right? But rather than use the traditional tomato sauce this time, I swap in a bright, fresh chermoula.
Chermoula is a North African condiment that is similar to an Italian pesto, an Indian green chutney, and an Argentinian chimichurri, and it’s packed with herbs, garlic, citrus, and FLAVOR. While you typically see it served with fish and meats, I find that a drizzle of punchy chermoula is a fantastic way to make vegetables pop, transforming them into the show-stealers of the table. Any leftovers are fantastic with eggs or even swirled into a little mayonnaise or sour cream for a great sandwich spread or salad dressing. Along with tahini sauce, pesto, and usually a homemade salad dressing, this is another “permanent” sauce that tends to take up residence in my refrigerator with regularity.
Summer Vegetable Tian with Chermoula
For the tian:
- 1/3 cup Thrive® Algae Oil, divided
- ¾ lb. zucchini, ends trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise (1/8 to ¼-inch thick)
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablesppon herbs de Provence
- ¾ lb. yellow summer squash, ends trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise (1/8 to ¼-inch thick)
- ¾ lb. Japanese eggplant, ends trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise (1/8 to ¼-inch thick)
- 1 russet potato, thinly sliced crosswise (1/8 to ¼-inch thick) and then halved
- 4 Roma tomatoes
- 1 to 1 ½ cups breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for sprinkling
For the chermoula:
- ¾ teaspoon coriander seeds
- ¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 garlic cloves
- ¾ cup Thrive® Algae Oil
- ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (packed) cilantro leaves with tender stems
- 1 cup (packed) parsley leaves with tender stems
- ½ cup (packed) mint leaves
- To make the chermoula, toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant, about 4 to 5 minutes. Then transfer toasted seeds to a blender along with the remaining chermoula ingredients and blend until very smooth. Set aside for later use.
- In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of Thrive® Algae Oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.
- Working in batches, add the zucchini, season lightly with salt and a pinch of herbs de Provence, and cook, turning, until just tender and lightly browned in spots; about 4 minutes total per batch.
- Add more oil as needed to prevent the pan from drying out, and adjust the heat as needed throughout to maintain a very hot, but not heavily smoking, pan. Transfer each batch to a baking sheet then transfer cooled slices to a second baking sheet or plate. Repeat with remaining zucchini, squash, eggplant, and potatoes (these will take about twice as long to soften as the squash and eggplant), until all vegetables are lightly browned.
- In an earthenware, ceramic, glass baking dish, or a cast iron pan, spoon just enough chermoula to cover bottom of dish in a thin, even layer.
- Arrange the sautéed veggie slices and the fresh Roma tomatoes in an alternating layered pattern on top of the sauce until the whole dish is filled. Drizzle a thin layer of chermoula all over the top of the vegetables; reserving the remaining sauce for dipping, extra drizzling, and everything else you can imagine.
- Add the breadcrumbs in a thin layer to the top of the vegetables (about 1 to 1 ½ cups worth) that have been tossed with a bit of melted butter to help with browning.
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Bake until your tian is fully heated through and lightly browned on top, about 15 minutes. Top with grated parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve.