Now we’ve talked about roasted veggies before. In fact, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember that I shared a Delicata Squash, Apple, and Onion Tian with my Thanksgiving recipes last fall. And I know, I sound like a broken record—but my Roasted Vegetable Tian recipe is one of my all-time favorite recipes EVER! You don’t want to miss this recipe!
So why does roasting vegetables create an amazing flavor that’s like fifty times better than other methods? (Okay, I may be exaggerating a little, but it’s true. 🙂 ) Well, it’s related to what’s called the “Maillard Reaction” in culinary and scientific circles. And while this term may sound rather odd, it involves no scary additives or weird processing. It merely refers to the browning of food when its surface temperature reaches about 300 degrees Fahrenheit, or in the case of caramelization, 320 F.
For food to reach these higher temperatures it usually requires a relatively dry environment (such as an oven or skillet) since wet cooking methods like boiling are only able to reach about 212 F. What happens at these higher cooking temps is nothing short of amazing. Surrounded by scorching heat, water literally vaporizes off the food’s surface. And once this exterior surface is dry, the food can reach high enough temperatures for the Maillard effect to kick in.
Now I don’t want to go down the culinary rabbit hole too far, but technically the Maillard effect takes place when both proteins and carbohydrates/sugars are present, while caramelization only takes place only when carbohydrates/sugars are exposed to high heat. Why is this important? Well depending on the type of food you’re cooking, the protein and carbohydrate/sugar ratios are going to be different. So tomatoes will differ from yellow squash which will differ from eggplant. Heck, even different varieties of onions or tomatoes have different ratios. And of course, even seasonings like fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, and marjoram yield different flavors based on their composition.
What’s so special about all this? It’s the magical combination of all these foods and seasonings with all different types of nutrients and protein/carbohydrate ratios that creates a myriad of flavors that literally tantalize our taste buds—but all in a good way! Nothing artificial—just a delicious serving of all natural goodness that’s incredibly flavorful.
So if you’re looking for a new way to cook up your vegetables that literally packs a powerful, flavorful punch, try roasting them. And honestly, I can’t think of a more beautiful, delicious way than my roasted vegetable tian recipe. Below I’ve provided not only a detailed recipe, but also a quick, visual recipe that breaks it down into 5 easy steps.
And as you’ll learn in my next post, leftovers from your vegetable tian taste absolutely amazing and make the BEST veggie sandwiches ever. I promise you, they’re so good you won’t miss the cold cuts! So stay tuned and check out my Whole Wheat Veggie Pitas recipe later this week!
- 1 yellow squash
- 1 zucchini squash
- 1 eggplant
- 1-2 onions
- 4-5 tomatoes (plum/roma varieties work especially well)
- ⅓ cup olive or avocado oil
- 1 head of garlic (optional)
- Season to taste with oregano, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Slice vegetables thinly (no thicker than ¼-inch). Try to keep the vegetables a similar thickness so they will cook evenly. (see my kitchen tips and resources section below for some suggestions)
- Assemble one slice of each of your vegetables into stacks and place them on a plate.
- Prepare tian or baking dish with oil. If you're using garlic, take one clove of garlic, peel it and cut it in half and rub on the surface of the baking dish.
- Place a stack of vegetables into the baking dish and then fan out the bundle. Repeat until the dish is completely filled with vegetables.
- Drizzle with oil then season with herbs and salt & pepper to taste.
- If desired add whole cloves of garlic on top to taste.
- Bake for 25 minutes then baste with juices from the dish. If the casserole dish is getting too dry sprinkle with some water or vegetable stock. You want the dish moist not wet. Turn the dish in the oven and continue baking for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and their edges are starting to brown.
- Remove from the oven and let the tian cool for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Experiment with both the vegetables and seasonings you use for your tian. While choosing a variety of colorful vegetables makes the dish look beautiful, if all you have is squash and onion, you can still make a delicious tian!
- If you struggle cutting thin, similarly-sized slices you might want to consider buying a mandoline slicer. I’ve found that food processors are just too rough to cut nice, even slices for tians, and there ends up being too much waste. So I use a mandolin slicer to cut the veggies in this recipe. PLEASE, though, be extra careful to not cut yourself. Always use the mandolin slicer’s tool to hold the vegetable or fruit—believe me I’ve learned the hard way on this!
- If you’re looking for a great oil to cook up with casserole with, try Chosen Foods Avocado oil. It’s delicious, buttery, great for high temperature cooking, and oh-so-versatile.
- Just about any baking dish will work for this recipe but depending on how much I’m preparing I use anywhere from a pie plate to a 15×10 pyrex baking dish or one of my white casserole dishes from Crate and Barrel.