When you cook as often as I do, trying new combinations and flavors, as well as making old favorites, you can develop a few little quirks. I’m always a bit restless to test the final product… and I always have an immediate and unwavering opinion of what I’ve made. Thankfully, it’s often “yum, that’s really good… definitely make it again.” Sometimes, it’s “that’s just alright… something to enjoy but not at the top of my list.” And then… there are the times… that I want to break into a happy dance and appeal to each and every person I know to “quickly run to your kitchen and make this!!!”
This recipe is the latter.
It’s really just a simple tian; a riff on what we are most familiar with… zucchini-tomato-cheese tians. A tian is basically a term used for casseroles that were cooked in earthenware dishes of the same name. Today, we see a lot of oven-baked, layered, gratinéed veggie dishes referred to as tians. Only this one incorporates Stemilt apples and (happy dance and major announcements aside) should be a switch up I tried years ago. But, as they say, it’s never too late.
It begins with a little sauté of red onion and swiss chard nestled under a lovely layering of apple, delicata squash and zucchini. I used Stemilt’s Piñata apple, which bakes beautifully and has a wonderful, bright flavor. The apple and squash are all thinly sliced and arranged in an overlapping pattern that is not only visually appealing but ensures that every bite will be a delicious combination of these perfectly balanced flavors. Atop is a gratinée of Gruyere cheese; an earthy, nutty, subtly salty punch of flavor that sings with the sweeter notes of the apple and delicata squash. It very much resembles the flavor notes of a good vegetable lasagna… sans any pasta. You might not immediately detect the apple, yet it’s such an exquisite pop of subtle sweetness that really makes this dish hum.
This tian barely made it to the table for testing. It would be great as a dinner side but, alas, you’ll need to have some restraint or it won’t make it to dinner.
It’s exciting to finally get to that point when you’re ready to pull something from the oven or plate it just so, anxious to finally dive in and see that the flavor is there. With this one… dive! You’ll be glad you did. It’s not rocket science. It’s just a recipe… one that may require dancing shoes though. So be prepared.