Feasting at Home : Rustic Zucchini Tian

September 24, 2013

Rustic Zucchini Tian

This Rustic Zucchini Tian is one of my favorite dishes from childhood. My Egyptian dad would make this as a side dish when having guests over - but he would never call it anything this fancy- to him, it was just “baked squash”.  In our house, my dad was often in the kitchen along-side my mom. He loved to cook. He had a way with vegetables, turning simple produce into something spectacular, often without the use of meat or dairy. I believe he learned this from growing up in a small primitive Egyptian village, where food was scarce. They had to make do with what they had, creating flavor out of the simplest of ingredients. He cooked with nothing but a good palate, practice and a little intuition. As an adult, even when he became moderately successful, he was always frugal, especially in the kitchen. The story of how he ended up in a California rancher from a tiny poverty stricken village in Egypt is one of my favorites. And it is the reason to this day, that I believe anything is possible for us.

In my dad's recipe, zucchini (or summer squash) is layered with caramelized onions, lots of garlic and a rustic homemade tomato sauce seasoned with cumin and coriander seeds and lemon zest. It's baked in the oven until succulent. When it comes out, drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkled it with fresh parsley. It melts in your mouth. Over the years I've fiddled with it -adding goat cheese or parmesan or other vegetables, and while good, I always seem to prefer his basic vegan recipe. I hope you like it too. 

Any type of summer squash will work. Cut to 1/4 inch thin rounds.

Caramelize two sliced onions until succulent.

Add garlic and fresh tomatoes... to make a rustic style tomato sauce. Season with whole cumin seeds and coriander.

Set aside 2/3 thirds of the sauce, leaving 1/3 in the skillet. Layer the squash over top, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. It doesn't have to look perfect. Think Rustic.

Add another third of the sauce.

Add another layer of squash. Season with salt and pepper.

And finish with the remaining tomato sauce.

Cover with foil and place in a hot oven for 45 minutes. Give a good shake, uncover and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.

Let sit 10-15 minutes before serving.

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Rustic Zucchini Tian


2 large onions, sliced
2 T olive oil
10 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
4 large tomatoes, diced
1 small Lemon - zest and 1 T juice
2 tsp cumin seeds ( whole)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
cracked pepper
2 lbs zucchini or summer squash- sliced into 1/4 inch disks
1/4 C chopped Italian parsley
In a large heavy bottomed, oven proof skillet ( cast iron works great), heat olive oil until hot on medium heat. Add onions and saute for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown. Add garlic, stirring more frequently, until garlic is lightly browned. Turn heat to med- low and add diced tomatoes, lemon zest and lemon juice, salt, pepper and spices. Simmer on low until tomatoes cook down a little, about 5 minutes. This will seem like a fairly “dry” tomato sauce, but remember, zucchini will release their liquids in while baking.

Remove all but 1/3 of the rustic tomato sauce, placing 2/3 in a separate bowl. Spread the remaining tomato sauce ( about 1/2 C) evenly on the bottom of the pan. Place one single layer of zucchini in slighty overlapping concentric circles. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and pepper. Spread another third of the rustic tomato sauce over the zucchini, as evenly as possible. It won't seem like a lot, but don’t worry. Add the second final layer of slightly overlapping zucchini. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and the rest of the tomato sauce. Cover with foil. Place in 350 F oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and give a good shake, and bake uncovered for additional 20 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley and a give a drizzle of olive oil. 
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4


  1. This sounds like such a delight! So much goodness in here!

  2. I wish this was on my plate right now. Great memory for you.

  3. This looks absolutely amazing! I love all the veggies in this and how wholesome it sounds. I'll have to try it soon ;-)

  4. How would this hold up to being reheated and eaten throughout the week? I'm only one person and wouldn't be able to eat all of this, but it looks delicious!

  5. So simple and one pot meal, who doesn't love that.

  6. This looks delicious! I cannot wait to try it :) Great photos as well!

  7. Very simple and very impressive. I love all of the fresh ingredients and the flavor profile of using cumin and coriander with the sweetness of the onions. Great work. Thank you.

  8. Gorgeous dish! I love that it's chockfull of veggies!

  9. Looks great! Just wondering...is that a 10 or 12-inch cast iron skillet?

  10. I've always heard that tomatoes can react with cast iron pans due to their acid content. I would love to make this recipe though. Any advice on preventing the reaction?

  11. Not a one pot meal...no protein. You need to top it with yogurt or serve over brown rice or serve with grilled Haloumi! Yum!!

  12. Just made one, absolutely delicious!! I added in eggplant and mushrooms to mine, can't wait to try some more of your recipes!

  13. Are the veggies soft and mushie or do they retain some firmness - I really don't like mushie!

    1. Yes…they are a little mushy. May not be the right one for you. :)

  14. Loving the look of this! Can't wait until courgettes are back in season to give it a try. Pinned for later, thank you for the inspiration!

  15. This looks beautiful! It's summer here in NZ, so the perfect time to make it!
    Thanks for sharing such a special memory dish!