A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to have an amazing friend from America grace me with her presence in Sydney, and we had an absolutely amazing time together. I love having visitors because I love showing off the most beautiful city in the world where I am lucky enough to live, and I typically end up going to more restaurants and bars over a few days than I would in a few months of my normal life. Since she was here for a while, I was in desperate need of a home-cooked meal at one point but wanted to make something a bit more special and interesting than a lot of my fairly simple (but delicious I promise) vegetarian recipes. I’d had my eye on this recipe for a while and ended up making it along with some homemade foccacia. I love the idea of layering vegetables in a pan and baking them (I do have another vegetable tian recipe on this blog that I have enjoyed several times) as it makes them look more interesting and presentable. I think the sauce really makes this dish – I just love making homemade tomato sauce and it pairs really well with the zucchini and summer squash, both colour-wise and flavour-wise.
There is a fair amount of prep work involved in this recipe and you should start a good two hours before you want to eat it, as it spends an hour in the oven and the sauce takes some time to make. So this isn’t really a weeknight recipe, but when we made it on a Sunday, it was the perfect end to a weekend full of non stop tourism. Make it with a friend to cut prep time in half!
Zucchini tian (adapted from Feasting at Home)
In a large heavy bottomed, oven proof skillet (cast iron works great), heat some olive oil or just spray with non stick spray. Add onions and saute for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown. Add garlic, stirring more frequently, until garlic is lightly browned. Turn heat to med- low and add diced tomatoes, lemon zest and lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Simmer on low until tomatoes cook down a little, about 5 minutes. This will seem like a fairly “dry” tomato sauce, but remember, zucchini will release their liquids in while baking. If you’re using the non stick spray, you may need to add a splash or two of water to make sure the onions don’t stick to the pan.
I don’t actually own an oven proof skillet (shocking and horrific I know), so I did the next steps in a square baking pan instead. If you do have a skillet, just remove about 2/3 of the tomato sauce and put in a separate bowl before you start your layering process. I put about 1/3 of the sauce in the pan, and then put a single layer of zucchini / summer squash on top of it, making the circles slightly overlap. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper and then add another layer of tomato sauce. Repeat with another layer of zucchini, and then the rest of the tomato sauce. I definitely had heaps of zucchini (I always buy vegetables in excess) so I did the process another time and didn’t have too much sauce left for the top. But you can’t go wrong with loads of delicious squash. Cover with foil and place in a 180 C / 350 F oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and give a good shake, and bake uncovered for additional 20 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with the fresh parsley and add a little drizzle of high quality olive oil if desired. I cut out slices and put them onto plates, but particularly if you bake it in a circular pan or a skillet, I would serve it as is for maximum visual effect before cutting it up.