Zucchini and Rice Tian
I am sad to say that I don’t know very much about French cuisine, I’m a little embarrassed to admit it too. I went to France when I was 8 and 16, so pomme frites were about the extent of my food delight. Exploring the food was not central to my traveling experience as it would be today. I studied French in high school and throughout college, they were my favorite classes. There was such a diverse body of French literature, from absurd theater, dark poetry to the literature from the colonies, I soaked it all up and devoured it. I lost most of my French after I graduated, focusing on Italian in graduate school and in life, I would love to pick it up again, and a good way to do that may be by exploring French cuisine!
Julia Child is the go to French source for American cooks, I didn’t grow up with her in my house, my mother never had her cookbooks, but after reading My Life in France, I decided that I should check it out. I placed the Mastering the Art of French Cooking on hold a the library and a year later, I finally received it, the 2nd volume. It is wonderful, and so interesting the way that she writes her recipes, she holds your hand through every step of the cooking process. This makes her recipes seem terribly complicated at first glance, but they are very simple in the end.
Tian de Courgettes au Riz
adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume Two by Julia Child & Simone Beck
- 2 to 2½ lbs., zucchini
- ½ cup plain, raw, untreated white rice
- 1 cup minced onions
- 3 to 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large cloves, garlic, mashed or finely minced
- 2 tbsp flour
- about 2½ cups hot liquid: zucchini juices plus milk, heated in a pan
- About 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (save 2 tbsp for later)
- ½ cup chopped ham (optional)
- ½ cup breadcrumbs (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- A heavily buttered 6- to 8-cup flameproof baking and serving dish about 1½ inches deep
- 2 tbsp olive oil
To grate and salt zucchini:
Shave the stem and the tip of each zucchini, scrub the vegetables thoroughly but not harshly with a brush under cold running water to remove any clinging sand or dirt. Rub the zucchini against the coarse side of a grater, and placed grated flesh in a colander set over a bowl. For each 1 pound (2 cups) of grated squash, toss with 1 teaspoon of salt, mixing thoroughly. Let the squash drain 3 or 4 minutes, or until you are ready to proceed. Just before cooking, squeeze a handful dry and taste. If by chance the squash is too salty, rinse in a large bowl of cold water, taste again; rinse and drain again if necessary. (I highly recommend doing this, I skipped this step and the dish was terribly salty.) Then squeeze gently by handfuls, letting juices run back into bowl. Dry on paper towels. Zucchini will not be fluffy; it is still dampish, but the excess liquid is out. Reserve the liquid.
While the zucchini is draining, drop the rice into boiling water, bring rapidly back to the boil, and boil exactly 5 minutes; drain and set aside. In a large (11- inch) frying pan, cook the onions slowly in the oil for 8 to 10 minutes until tender and translucent. Raise heat slightly and stir several minutes until very lightly browned. Then stir in the grated and dried zucchini and the garlic. Toss and turn for 5 to 6 minutes until zucchini is almost tender. Sprinkle in the flour, stir over moderate heat for 2 minutes, and remove from heat. Gradually stir in the hot liquid, being sure the flour is well blended and smooth. Return over moderately high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring. Remove from heat again, stir in the blanched rice, chopped ham and all but 2 tbsp of the cheese. Taste very carefully for seasoning. Turn into buttered baking dish, strew remaining cheese and breadcrumbs on top, and dribble the olive oil over the cheese. (May be prepared several hours or a day in advance of final cooking.)
About half an hour before serving, bring to a simmer on top of stove, then set in upper third of a pre-heated 425° oven until tian is bubbling and top has browned nicely. The rice should absorb all the liquid.