My girl came home from France. She brought beer for her dad, chocolate for her brother and a cookbook for me.
She brought a taste for the animal crackers called speculoos, skill with the croque monsieur and a bag of chewy candy. It came in flavors: strawberry, caramel and "grandfather's beard," which didn't sound good until she translated: cotton candy.
She brought a notebook of recipes: speculoos crumble and speculoos cake and something called tian. She described a pan packed with zucchini and sausage and tomatoes. I sliced zucchini and sausage and tomatoes and dealt them facedown. My girl intervened. She stacked up the slices like poker chips, then tipped the stacks into rows.
We sprinkled on garlic and herbs and slid it into the oven. My Baltimore tian didn't taste like her Lille tian, but it had some similarities. It reminded her of the adventure she'd had. Learning to learn from my girl, reminded me of the adventures to come.
Prep: 25 minutes
Bake: 40 minutes
Note: The vegetables, sausage and cheese are all sliced into circles about 1/4-inch thick. The tian will look especially neat if the circles are about the same diameter, say 2 inches. But no need to get picky.
1 clove garlic
1 ¼ pounds (about 5) plum tomatoes, sliced into circles
6 ounces smoked chorizo sausage, sliced into circles
½ pound (about 2 small) zucchini, sliced into circles
6 ounces mozzarella cheese (ordinary, fresh or smoked), sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
Split the garlic in half. Rub one cut side on the bottom and sides of an 8-by-8-inch baking pan. Pour in a little olive oil. Chop remaining garlic.
Stack 1 slice tomato, 1 slice chorizo, 1 slice zucchini, 1 slice cheese. Set the stack in the pan, rims down. Repeat, filling the pan. If you don't have the same number of slices of each ingredient, don't fret.
Pour a little olive oil over the top. Scatter on chopped garlic. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbes de Provence.
Slide into a 375-degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. Edge a spoon into a corner of the pan. Scoop up juices and pour them over the vegetables. Bake until vegetables are tender, about 20 more minutes. Baste again. Cool at least 15 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature with crusty bread.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.