"Choose eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes that have a similar circumference. This will make assembly tidier," says head chef Danielle Alvarez of Fred's in Sydney. "Buying these vegetables at their peak, in summer, means you'll have a flavourful, juicy, but not watery casserole. You'll need a casserole dish around 20cm x 30cm, preferably made of earthenware. Cool the tian before serving to get a nicer slice, then you can just reheat the sliced casserole. Otherwise just dig in straight from the oven."
- 125 ml (½ cup) olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp finely chopped thyme
- 30 gm (½ cup) dried coarse breadcrumbs (either panko or from crusty white or sourdough bread)
- 4 large zucchini (about 500gm)
- 4-5 ripe Roma tomatoes (about 500gm)
- 2-3 Japanese eggplant (about 500gm)
- 1 cup (firmly packed) basil, plus extra to serve
- 1-2 tbsp coarsely grated Gruyère, or to taste, plus extra to serve
- 1-2 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or to taste, plus extra to serve
- 1Preheat oven to 180°C. Place 80ml oil in a saucepan over low heat, add onion, garlic and thyme and cook gently, stirring often, until softened without colouring (20-25 minutes). Remove from pan. Add breadcrumbs and remaining olive oil to pan, increase heat to medium and fry until golden (7-8 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
- 2Thinly slice vegetables into 3mm-4mm-thick rounds with a mandoline or a sharp knife. Spread onion in the base of an oiled 20cm x 30cm casserole, then, starting with zucchini and pressing firmly against the side of the dish, form rows of each vegetable across the dish, standing them up, overlapping and pressing in firmly. Season each row lightly with salt as you go and and tuck a few basil leaves between the layers.
- 3Drizzle tian with olive oil, then cover casserole with baking paper, then foil and bake until vegetables start to soften (35-45 minutes). Remove foil and paper, and gently press vegetables into the juice with a spatula (this prevents them drying out and compacts them so the tian is easier to slice). Increase oven to 200°C and bake until vegetables soften and juices thicken (20-30 minutes). Sprinkle with cheeses, scatter with reserved breadcrumbs and bake until cheese is melted and golden (10-15 minutes). Serve warm or at room temperature topped with basil and cheese.
Drink suggestion: Crisp Hunter Valley semillon. Drink suggestion by Max Allen.