Serious Eats: Recipes

French in a Flash: Easy Awesome Eggplant Tian

[Photograph: Kerry Saretsky]

Discovering eggplant tian is like sending the man you love (in this case, Eggplant Parm) out for a makeover then having him return ten times more handsome than he was to begin with. Sure, Eggplant Parm is wonderful. I've been eating it since I was six years old. It's comfortable as flannel pajamas. But it's fattening, and doesn't look so hot on the plate.

Eggplant Tian, my new and improved Eggplant Parm, comes from Provence, the land where eggplant is king. Kind of like our New York-style Eggplant Parm, it's made with slices of eggplant, tomato sauce, and cheese.

But instead of being breaded and fried, the eggplant is sweet and softly roasted. Instead of just mozzarella, the tian can be topped with Gruyère or Valbreso or any number of gooey, salty cheeses. And most notably, tians are named for the dishes in which they are baked, round or oval porcelain gratin dishes, which adds a lot to the look of the dish, turning an Italian takeout classic to an elegant French dinner.

This version has a few steps but it's the easiest version of eggplant tian I've ever found. I roast the eggplant in a vinaigrette of olive oil and garlic (very Provençal) tempered with balsamic vinegar, which sweetens the eggplant as it roasts. Then, into the tian dishes with bought tomato sauce and a simple topping of fresh mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. A drizzle of pesto or pistou over the top finishes this gorgeous vegetarian main course.

And no time is better for eggplant than right now. Gather ye eggplants while ye may—there's nothing worse than out-of-season eggplant.

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way.

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