This delicious zucchini tian (zucchini gratin) was one of my beloved grandma’s staple recipes. Every summer she would be making it with the zucchini from my grandpa’s garden, and it was always a most welcomed sight. It’s such a simple recipe with straightforward flavors; sweet onions and zucchini cooked in olive oil, melted cheese, salty ham, but it’s scrumptious! Not to mention the crunchy cheesy topping, the mark of all good gratins, and the soft and juicy vegetables.
Zucchini tian is French comfort food at its best! And the smell coming out of the kitchen while the zucchini tian baked was just amazing! It’s the first recipe I asked when I moved out and was feeling rather homesick (I had moved to Turkey). After one mouthful of zucchini tian I felt like I was back in my grandparents’ dining room and back on my feet.
Add chopped ham and a layer of gruyere or emmental to any vegetables or carbs and you’ll always get a gratin and something looking very French. I don’t know what we would do in France without grated emmental, because we sprinkle it on e-ve-ry-thing. From pizza to gratins, to pasta, to croque-monsieur, you can’t escape it and it’s not even a French cheese. It’s Swiss.
A PROVENÇAL TIAN
This zucchini gratin would be called a tian in Provence (South-Eastern France), more precisely a tian de courgettes. Tian designates an earthenware vessel in Provence in which a dish is cooked and served. This dish is also called a tian, which can be confusing. There isn’t just one tian recipe since anything cooked in a tian is a tian, but the most popular tians are the vegetable-based ones. Artichokes, eggplants, chards, cabbages, squashes tian are pretty common in Provence. However, for the rest of the French population, a tian would mostly conjure up images of thinly sliced vegetables (zucchini, tomatoes and eggplants) and mozzarella layered in a baking dish.
I guess my grandma who grew up in the North but then lived for 40 years near Cannes combined different aspects of French cooking to come up with this zucchini tian. The zucchini and cooking method being Mediterranean, and the emmental+ham combination being very French overall.
SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE
This zucchini tian only contains a few ingredients and it’s a great way to have veggies for dinner without having it feel too healthy-ish. The hands-on time is rather short, especially once the zucchini slices are draining. My dad would tell you to drain the zucchini overnight but I think it’s overkill. I tried both ways (draining the slices for 1h and overnight) and didn’t notice any differences. Of course, if you’d like to get starting on your next meal’s prep, having already cooked your zucchini will have you finishing up this recipe in no time the following day.
The rice helps to absorb any excess moisture from the vegetables and brings a better texture to the zucchini tian. I hate the eggy soggy texture that you can find in French dishes bound with eggs (like quiches or clafoutis) so I only put 1 egg in my tian. To me, it’s more than enough to bind everything into a cohesive tian but I feel obligated to say that my grandma used to put 3 eggs in her zucchini tian.
➝ Why do we disgorge zucchini? For a long time I thought I was only supposed to disgorge eggplants to draw out their bitter juice, but disgorging zucchini is just as important. Because of their high water content, meals made with zucchini can end up pretty soggy. That’s why it’s important to draw out the excessive moisture with salt. This way the zucchini gratin won’t be watery and it’ll taste much better! I encourage you to allow the slices to drain for 1h even if you’d like to get on with the gratin as soon as you cooked the zucchini.
Looking for other French summer recipes? Here are some of my favorites:Print
My grandma’s zucchini tian (zucchini gratin) was always one of my favorite parts of summer! Who can resist the combination of sweet zucchini and onions cooked in olive oil, melted cheese and chopped salty ham? It’s French comfort food at its best (and no I’m not just saying this because it’s a family recipe).
- 1 yellow onion
- 750g zucchini (about 2 big zucchinis), peeled
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp salt
- 50g dry rice (¼ cup)
- 2 slices of cooked ham, chopped
- 100g grated emmental (1 cup), or your favorite hard cheese
- 2 eggs
- 15g butter (1 tbsp)
- Finely chop the onion and set aside. Cut the zucchinis lengthways into quarters, then into 1,5cm slices (0.5 in).
- Heat half of the oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 7 to 10 min, stirring often. Scrape into a mixing bowl.
- Add the remaining oil and zucchini to the pan. Cook over medium heat stirring often until cooked through and beginning to brown, about 12 min. Scrape into a colander set over a large bowl.
- Sprinkle 1 tsp of salt on the zucchini, mix, and let sit for 1 hour (or overnight in the fridge).
- Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tsp of salt and the rice. Stir to keep it from sticking and cook the rice for 10 min then drain.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C (420°F) and grease a 30*23 cm (75*60 in) baking dish.
- Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl. Add the vegetables, rice, ham, half of the cheese and combine. Season with salt and black pepper but don’t overdo it (the vegetables and cheese are already salty).
- Pour the mixture into the baking dish, top with the remaining cheese and dot with butter.
- Bake for 20 to 30 min, until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Remove from the oven, leave to cool slightly then serve.
The zucchini gratin will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
You can simply reheat it in a preheated oven at 170°C (340°F) for 20 min or until hot throughout.
- Serving Size: 4 slices
- Calories: 599
- Fat: 40.3g
Keywords: summer recipe, french dish, summer squash