These days, most folks would look at an elegant dish of baked, sliced vegetables and think, "ratatouille." That, of course, is because of the Pixar movie Ratatouille – which is indeed one of my favorites. However, this is a vegetable tian, which has been a traditional French vegetable dish for a long time before the movie. The "original" ratatouille provencal is a dish of braised or stewed vegetables, mixed together in a cooking pan. The wonderful and elegant ratatouille made from sliced vegetables, as seen in the movie, was almost certainly based on vegetable tian.
As with ratatouille, you can pretty much pick and choose the vegetables you want to use in vegetable tian. This dish has a base of chopped onions, and on the base we placed rows of sliced summer squash, potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes. Once the vegetables were laid out, the dish was topped with a sprinkling of "Simon and Garfunkel" spices, then covered and baked at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. After this, the dish was uncovered and a coating of grated cheese (cheddar and mozzarella) added to the top. From there it was baked uncovered for only another 15 minutes. This is the result. The vegetables are well cooked, even the potatoes. They're also roasted on top, and not soggy and falling apart. The cheese absorbed much of the taste of the spices. I could probably finish this entire dish myself, but I did make this for two and I have to be fair to my dinner guest.
Pans needed: A #7 to #8 sized cast iron skillet with an oven-safe lid. A good knife or a mandolin for slicing vegetables.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Chop and mince onion. Slice potatoes, squash, zucchini, and tomatoes into thin slices. Separate them into individual bowls or dishes, so it will be easy to lay them in the pan according to a pattern.
Spread the onions across the cooking surface of a cast iron skillet, so most or all of the surface is covered by a thin layer of the onions.
Place the sliced vegetables in a standing up position, one next to the other, in a circular pattern around the pan. It's best to do a regular pattern, one of each vegetable. Lay the vegetables in a circular pattern until the entire pan is covered. Drizzle olive oil across the tops of the vegetables. Sprinkle spices across the top of the dish. (Don't place the cheese yet.) Cover the pan with a lid, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.
After 25 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Uncover the pan, and spread the shredded cheese over the vegetables. Place the pan back into the oven, uncovered, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for another 15 minutes.
At this point the cheese will be melted and the top part of the vegetables will be roasted. Remove the pan from the oven. Let rest for five minutes to cool off (a little), and serve.