Veggie Challenge: Tomato-Summer Squash Tian

I love it when friends include me in their culinary adventures. Whether it’s finding exotic ingredients in our neighborhood (“There’s an Indian grocery store where?), or sharing ideas for how to tackle the latest CSA delivery (“What do you do with a snake gourd?!”), or spreading a habit of eating rice for breakfast — that sense of discovery and genuine fun that comes when someone’s eyes light up with wonder is truly a joy for me. One of the reasons T. calls me a food evangelist.

Of course on a purely selfish note, one of the most fun ways to join in a food adventure is to receive foodstuffs. Some are homemade or souvenir gifts, some are pantry excess — but they are always appreciated and sometimes a culinary challenge. Since our most recent move, we find ourselves within hollering distance of our good friends who subscribe to a CSA. With weekly deliveries of fresh produce and precious little time to deal with their bounty, they will send us their bounty’s bounty with pleas of not having time to deal with the veggies before they go bad. A few weeks ago this meant the equivalent of 2 Trader Joe’s bags-ful of produce which included cauliflower, broccoli stems, green beans, eggplants, bell peppers, fresh pepperoncini peppers, red potatoes and yellow summer squash from their CSA, andmountains of tomatoes, basil, chives from their garden! This week it was 3 spaghetti squashes and a sweet potato that was as big as a spaghetti squash! This is what I tell them, and is, in fact, what I do with a great deal of fresh vegetables that we don’t have a specific plan to use and which is threatening to give us the stink-eye: Roast Them!

Let your oven do all the hard work of softening, sweetening, and gently dehydrating your produce so it will keep through the week and provide you with gourmet-quality pantry staples that will make weekday meal prep a snap! Eat as is as a side dish to another entree; or toss with pasta, potato, rice, couscous or your favorite grain or noodle and you have an instant meatless meal. Add cooked meats or fish or beans for extra protein. Or with a little extra effort, a provencale vegetable tian/casserole materializes from grated veggies, cheese and eggs!

This is just a quick look for how we dealt with the 2 bags of produce we received over that first weekend. You can do this! I hope you try it soon.

Clean and cut, if desired, and drizzle all with olive oil. The potatoes are pared just for a bit of aesthetic value.
Pierce whole vegetables like the peppers to allow steam to escape.

Roast at 375F. I don’t even preheat the oven to roast veggies.
Start checking the smallest veggies after the first 35 minutes.
Remove vegetables as they become cooked through:
Potatoes pierce easily with fork,
Peppers and eggplants collapse,
Broccoli, asparagus, and cauliflower will brown on
the edges and become tender.

Green beans were added to pan with potatoes after 35 minutes
and the whole pan was removed after another 25 minutes.
Bell peppers and eggplants were turned after the first 35 minutes, and left for another 30.

Pepperoncini peppers were left whole,
and bell peppers were seeded and peeled
and everything was covered in more olive oil.
Eggplants were peeled for use within 2 days.
(Try in Grilled Eggplant Salad with Coconut Milk)
Potatoes, beans and roasted cauliflower were eaten as they were.

While the first batch of veggies were roasting, the yellow squash and some of the tomatoes were quickly grated and tossed with cold leftover rice, chives, eggs and cheese as an adaptation of one of our favorite dishes from the Canadian cookbook classic,1000 Classic Recipes — a tian of tomatoes and summer squash.

(Adapted from 1000 Classic Recipes, by Hermes House publishing)
Serves 4 persons as an entree, 6-8 as a side dish
This is the perfect end-of-summer dish that puts to best use those less-than-perfect summer veg — the will-not-sun-ripen tomatoes and the monster squashes that were lurking under the blanket of leaves! The rice makes this surprisingly light in texture, but the parmesan delivers a wallop of satisfying savoriness under the herb mixture.

3 medium yellow squash or courgettes, coarsely grated (avoid seedy core)
3 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
fistful of chives, minced
3-6 cloves garlic, minced
3 TBL olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup cooked rice
3 large eggs, beaten
3 TBL full-fat plain yogurt or sour cream
3/4 tsp dried oregano, 2 tsp fresh
pinch of dried or fresh thyme
5 TBL grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Pre-heat 375F/190C.

Place squash, tomatoes, chives and garlic in tian, or baking dish, and season to taste. Toss with oil and spread in baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, or until water is drawn from vegetables and they soften.

Meanwhile combine rice, eggs, yogurt, herbs, cheese and season to taste. Remove vegetables from oven, and take out about 1/4 cup vegetables from baking dish. Stir hot vegetables into egg mixture to temper eggs, then pour all egg mixture into dish and mix well with vegetables. Redistribute mixture around dish, then return to oven for another 15-20 minutes or until eggs set and knife inserted in the center comes back clean.

Cool briefly then slice to serve. Shown here with more roasted vegetables
from this marathon session: cauliflower, red skin potatoes, and asparagus.
Garnished with roasted basil.