Where have you been? And a Vegetable Tian.
When you have been on vacation from cooking, it is helpful to ease yourself back into creating meals from scratch. For the past three months, we have been living on relatively, healthy and easy meals. Shopping at Trader Joe’s we discovered the endless combination of vegetarian meals. Affordable and healthy, the prepared meals were a go-to for making Serafina’s dinner. Due to being economical and lazy, we usually ate her scraps. To say the least, we have been exhausted. As I predicted, my job has been wonderfully busy and challenging this trimester. I made some safeguards to preserve sanity: I don’t take my work home and I have kept my social life to a minimum.
The fantastic thing about keeping my work at work, a rare thing for a teacher to do, is that I can fill my time at home with things I would never dare to do. During Spring Break, I read a few mindless novels. I napped. We played outside in our backyard, enjoying the novelty of outdoor space. We took walks. Since the weather has warmed, I gardened for hours, moving around several dozens of plants, weeding, and mulching. I had a glass of wine with neighbors with the budding plants. On rainy days, Serafina and I cuddled on the couch and read Madeline books. We played with crayons at her easel. I sewed a quilt top for Serafina, and I am working on quilting the batting. I made a set of curtains for her room. I even sewed together a quilt that my students made, not minding the work because it was sandwich by freedom.
Over the past few months, AAM spent the time building. He finished our bookshelves.
He created a stool so Serafina can brush her teeth at the sink. He fixed a million oddities in our old house. He drew plans for future projects. Presently, he is in the process of creating raised beds so we can return to growing our own veggies, a perfect gift for Mother’s Day.
It is amazing what you can do if you give yourself the time. However, in all of that, I didn’t want to cook. The thought of creating a meal exhausted me. I avoided my recipe books. I barely looked at recipes online. I began to sympathize with those who hate cooking.
On Sunday, I grabbed a few cookbooks, some real favorites, and I started to make a grocery list. I picked out a few easy, but tasty meals. Serafina and I headed to Trader Joe’s. This time we lingered in the veggie aisle, naming the colors and vegetables. At home, she demanded to “Help?!” while I assembled this dish.
The Barefoot Contessa, or Ina Garten, is a superb everyday chef. I use her recipes when I have guests or for a simple supper, since they always work out well. The recipe below is a variation of her Vegetable Tian. I wanted to make it basically vegan (you can add Romano, but it is fine with just breadcrumbs), and with ingredients we readily have in the Spring and Summer
- Olive oil
- 1 large sweet yellow onion, sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 large zucchini (2 small), sliced 1/4 inch
- 3 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch
- 2 medium potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp herbes de provence
- 1 tb finely ground bread crumbs and/or Romano cheese
- more olive oil, basil infused preferable
1. Preheat the oven to 375
2. Saute the onions in olive oil until soft and transclucent. Place them in a large baking pan. Then add garlic, saute and remove before it burns.
3. Layer the potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini. Don’t have more then one layer, but don’t be afraid to push them up against each other so that the veggies are slightly vertical. Drizzle olive oil on top. Sprinkle kosher salt, pepper, herbes de provence, and the cooked garlic on top. Cover with foil. Cook for 30 minutes.
4. Remove the foil. Sprinkle breadcrumbs and/or cheese. Bake for another 30 minutes. Remove when golden and serve warm.