Kasey Wilson: Summer entertaining with a French accent

Kasey Wilson offers up a pair of recipes from À Table: Recipes for Cooking and Eating the French Way by Rebekah Peppler

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Food lovers look forward to the summer bounty of vegetables, and those of us who are food writers also look forward to the summer crop of cookbooks.

One of the most useful cookbooks I’ve come across this season is À Table: Recipes for Cooking and Eating the French Way by Rebekah Peppler. A Wisconsin native, Peppler capped her journalism degree with a course of study at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, and then built a career as a food stylist, photographer and writer in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and for the past three years, Paris.

I was especially taken by her recipe for ratatouille and even simpler recipe for Summer Tian, a similar combination of thinly sliced vegetables baked to perfection.

“One summer travelling with an ex-girlfriend, several years back, a couple of nights of ratatouille throwdown at peak season turned into a month of ratatouille, crossing two European countries. Those humble stews ranged from traditional, to make it breakfast with an egg, to throw it all in the blender and call it a dip,” says Peppler.


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Both dishes can be served warm or cold, on their own as a side, or simply spooned onto torn hunks of crusty bread.

Ribbon-like rows of sliced zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes make Rebekah Peppler’s Summer Tian visual as well as culinary feast.
Ribbon-like rows of sliced zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes make Rebekah Peppler’s Summer Tian visual as well as culinary feast. Photo by Joann Pai /PNG

Summer Tian

The French word “tian” refers both to a shallow earthenware baking dish and to the alternating rows of thinly sliced vegetables traditionally baked in it.  

8 tbsp (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced

6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 large zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch rounds

2 small eggplants, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch rounds

3 large, ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook onions, stirring often, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for 5 more minutes. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch (23 by 33 cm) baking dish, spreading evenly.

Drizzle cooked vegetables with 2 tablespoons oil. Arrange zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes in alternating rows, standing slices on end, overlapping them and packing the rows tightly together. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil.

Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the vegetables begin to soften, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove foil, raise oven temperature to 400°F and bake until vegetables are very soft, 20 to 30 minutes more.


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Remove pan from oven and drizzle vegetables with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4 to 6


“My ex-girlfriend always made a more golden, oilier, spicier ratatouille than I, which I secretly loved but pretended to just like, so credit where credit is due: Here is her recipe. I ate it for a month straight; it’s really good.” — Rebekah Peppler

2 small eggplants, cut into ½-inch (12 mm) dice

2 tsp (10 mL) fine sea salt, plus more as needed

12 tbsp (180 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch (12 mm) dice

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large yellow onion, cut into ½-inch (12 mm) dice

1 bunch fresh basil tied in a bouquet with kitchen twine, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 medium red bell peppers, seeded and cut into ½-inch dice

4 medium plum tomatoes, cut into ½-inch (12 mm) dice, or one 14-ounce (400 g) can plum tomatoes

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Toss the diced eggplant with the salt. Transfer to a colander and set aside to drain for about 20 minutes. Use paper towels to pat the eggplant dry.

Set a large skillet over medium heat and add 4 tablespoons of the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is golden on all sides and tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer the eggplant to a large bowl.

In the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the zucchini and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the zucchini is browned and soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the eggplant.


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Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the basil bouquet and the garlic and season with salt. Add the bell peppers and cook, stirring often, until the peppers are very tender and the onion is golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the zucchini and eggplant.

Add 2 tablespoons of the oil, the tomatoes, and red pepper flakes to the pan. Season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid evaporates, about 15 minutes. Return the rest of the vegetables to the pan and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Finish by drizzling with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6

Kitchen Hack: Mise en Place

The key to a successful ratatouille is mise en place, the French culinary term referring to organizing all the necessary ingredients in bowls before turning on the burners.

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Source: vancouversun.com