Vegetable Tian: Anatomy of a Dinner Party: Buffet for 12

The Side Dishes: Vegetable Tian & Corn Pudding

Anatomy of a dinner partyMy blog vacation now comes to an end. “He just started! He took a vacation!?” My office sent me overseas for a bit. Who was I to say ‘no’? Upon my return my husband and I celebrated our first legal wedding anniversary with an out of town trip. Then, after rushing back home, we were committed to throwing a long-planned dinner party for 12 just a couple days later. Now I love cooking and throwing dinner parties. Truthfully to my way of thinking, on party night serving 12 for dinner and serving 4 for dinner aren’t all that much different in terms of workload. It is the planning and preparation for a large group that seems to take a bit more time and effort. Perhaps that is also my upbringing. I come from a small family where our weekly “family meal” was just 5 people. My husband’s family meal is 14! Still for me it is about the planning and not the cooking where I find the extra work. As for choosing the menu? In our house a party of 12 means its going to be a buffet so that narrows down the food choices a bit. Thankfully I have a bunch of ‘go to’ recipes for such an occasion! Grab your plate and sit where you like!

I have been meaning for some time to blog about the great productivity tips and software applications I’ve been experimenting with. Personal productivity has been a big topic for me lately given my recent schedule (see above). That will have to wait a post or two because for party planning I still go the old fashioned route: I just make a list. Because I am a geek I HAVE played around with lots of list making software packages. (There is even one web utilities that will read your recipes and tell YOU what to buy and what you need to do for a party.) More on that stuff later. For this task, however, I prefer the simple tech method of just typing up a Microsoft Word Document. Everything has to fit on one page.

dinner party checklistCreating your own list in a work processor, thinking through the party and the various cooking chores helps me flush out my thoughts the menu and what I might need to shop for. (Also, I can email it to myself at work to work on later or to my husband at his work if I need him to do the shopping!) Above is my actual list from the party. You can see how I made some changes after putting my thoughts down on paper. (Or rather, on screen.) The guests were all good friends and colleagues of my husband’s and he was very interested that everything be ‘just right’. Having this list was a good way to communicate with him what I had planned for his friends that evening.

For me this kind of a meal will always rely heavily on the oven so I’m glad it was fall. To my way of thinking, Fall definitely lends itself to oven cooking, don’t you think? Also, with this many people in our small house I prefer not to be tending to lots of food on the stove or running back and forth from the grill to the kitchen. I had made all these dishes previously so that went a long way to lowering the stress level. I’ll experiment for 4-6 people but not 12-16. Also nice here is that the cooking work on this menu is carried out before the party starts. Come party time, the most you are doing is putting things in and out of ovens.

My friend Cindy recently blogged about her experiences making the Sagaponic Corn Pudding I am so fond of. I’ll link to her version of this favorite Ina Garten recipe because, like Cindy, I also cut back on the butter and sugar Ina calls for in her book. (Why do I end up doing that on so many of Ina’s recipes?) You can’t tell by looking at it can you? Nobody who tasted it seemed to mind! I also make the full version of this recipe in one dish instead of two. I just think it cooks better that way.

Since I was on an “Ina Garten Roll” I also made her “Vegetable Tian” that was in her Paris book that my friend Steve gave me. (Steve is a great friend who actually turned me onto Ina years ago. He does a mean impression of her too!) Its a great dish to have with meats when you want something simple to serve with a meat entre and nothing else on the plate. My version subs the potato with yellow squash or yellow zucchini to keep the color thing going. I already had corn on the plate so didn’t need anymore startches. The pictures just don’t do this one justice and no matter how much I make for any given party, its always all gone by the end of the evening. Save some prep time on this one by making the onions up to a day in advance and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble.Vegetable Tian Ina Garten

Vegetable Tian

The recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s Vegetable Tian

Vegetable Tian

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

This is what you will need:

  • Good olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, cut in half and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 pound yellow squas, yellow zucchini.
  • 3/4 pound zucchini
  • 1 1/4 pounds medium tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs
  • 2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

This is how you make it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Brush a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with olive oil. In a medium saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the onions over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.
  3. Slice the two kinds of zucchini and the tomatoes in 1/4-inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly, making only 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and thyme sprigs and drizzle with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Uncover the dish, remove the thyme sprigs, sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake for another 30 minutes until browned. Serve warm.

What about the main course you ask? I’ll continue with that in the next post.

What are your ‘go to’ dishes for a buffet dinner party?

About Trevor Kensey

To be truthful, I don't know what “Sis. Boom. [blog!]" means either. The name implies something explosive just happened I suppose I would like it if each post would make made a small 'boom' in your day or at least a fizzle. Even though a recipe is included with every post I have a hard time calling this a "food blog" or even myself a "food blogger".

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  1. Hi! I was just wondering about the ingredient list. There are no potatoes mentioned in the list, but the directions say cook until potatoes are tender. How much potato?


    • Hi there. Sorry for the typo! I will fix it. The original recipe included 1 lb. of potatoes that were sliced and used in the layered display. I left them out in my version in favor of the yellow squash since potatoes were already on the menu in another side dish. Either way you choose to do it the cooking time is about the same. If you use potatoes you will want them to be tender to the piercing of a fork so that when you brown them they are cooked through.