Sweet Potato Tian

March 4, 2011

The other night, after dinner and while Randy and I were watching TV, a fast food ad came on.  Suddenly my husband’s eyes were glued to a hamburger.  This was not just a hamburger, it was one that had several patties, bacon – you know, meat.  And my husband, his belly full of plant-based goodness said, “Oh my god, that looks so good!”  Which gave me pause.  I mean, I know he eats meat, that he likes meat and I’m totally fine with that.  But if that triple stacked burger looked good to him, how would, say, a sweet potato tian look?

As it turns out, really good.  Randy loved this meal and so did I.  In fact, because it makes a generous portion, he has eaten it three times – willingly! – in the past two days.  And I think I finally got beyond Randy’s sweet potato prejudice.  You know, that “sweet potato = mushy dish with marshmallows on top” thing.  I use sweet potatoes often in my cooking and he always likes them but I do notice that his eyes glaze over a bit when I mention them.  Not anymore.  He declared this a “once a week” meal which is just about the highest praise I can expect from him.  He suggested that I tell you all that this dish is “addictive”.  Wow.  But it is pretty darn good.

You may look at the ingredients and think – really?  But the magic of the vegetable combination, the heat of the oven, and a fresh breadcrumb topping can do wonders.  I added to the recipe by using some herbs and some Parmesan in the bread crumbs and I think those are necessary additions.  I always have some kind of bread in my freezer and this time I was surprised to find my only option was one with kalamata olives.  I thought it would make strange breadcrumbs but truthfully, I think it added to the overall goodness.  And a hint of purple color.

Sweet Potatoes Previously on Dana Treat: Spicy Sweet Potatoes with Lime, Southwestern Sweet Potato Gratin
One Year Ago: Brownie Chunk Cookies and Honey Nut Squares
Two Years Ago: Smoky Cashews and Pappa al Pomodoro

Sweet Potato, White Bean, and Pepper Tian
Adapted from Vegetarian Classics
Serves 4-6

I’m not a huge green pepper fan, but it is very mellow after baking.  Substitute with another red or a yellow one if you prefer.  I tend to shy away from large amounts of garlic, but the heat is great here. I filed this under quick and easy.  It does spend a fair amount of time in the oven but it is so quick to put together, I think it is a good weeknight meal.  You could certainly make it ahead of time and just serve it room temperature.

3 medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and sliced ¼-inch thick
1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium red onion, cut into 2-inch chunks and sections separated
6 ounces cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried sage
3 tbsp. olive oil

3 slices country bread
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Combine all the vegetables along with the garlic, beans, herbs, a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper in a large bowl.  Drizzle with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and toss well.  (The vegetables can be prepared to this point up to 4 hours in advance.)  Pack the mixture into a 2½ or 3 quart shallow baking dish and flatten the top surface.  Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.  Uncover, give everything a good stir and bake for another 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the fresh breadcrumbs.  Place the bread in a food processor and pulse until you have crumbs.  Turn them out into a bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Stir to coat the bread with the oil and then add the cheese.  Combine well.

Remove the tian from the oven.  Spread the crumbs all over the top.  Return the tian to the oven and bake 15 minutes more, or until the topping is a rich golden color.  Let sit 10 minutes before serving.


  1. This looks like a perfect dinner, Dana! I’m going to pick up everything and try it out for our dinner this evening. Looks totally comforting.

    Comment by kickpleat — March 4, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

  2. WE are trying to eat more veggie meals during the week. We usually only eat meat 3xs but would like to reduce it to a couple days. Sweet potatoes are a big hit around our house (I made it sound like there are a ton of “us”) and I can see serving this very soon. Great recipe.

    ps… Randy, it is okay to sneak out for a burger after a long road ride. :)

    Comment by Chez Us — March 4, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

  3. Whenever a burger commercial comes on, with the slow-mo close up shots of the stacks of glistening meats, I always think, “Wow, this actually is tempting someone right now!” Well done on this dish, anyone would be a fool to choose a burger over this. ;)

    Comment by Sarah S. — March 4, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

  4. It’s funny but even though I am obviously a meat-eater (barely though…at least lately) I just have no love for burgers. At all. I’ll eat them if there’s nothing else on a menu that looks appetizing…but I never get that visceral reaction to them that so many people do.

    Sweet potatoes, on the other hand. That’s where my lust really lies. This tian? Totally being made. In this apartment. Soon.

    Comment by Joanne — March 4, 2011 @ 6:12 pm

  5. This looks great. I use sweet potatoes all the time – in last night’s burritos, on pizza, for soup etc…
    Love to hear about anything that’s a quick weeknight meal!

    Comment by Katie — March 4, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

  6. I think this sounds amazing and I am a sweet potato lover (after finally finding out you can eat them without a marshmallow, way to sweet topping!).

    Comment by Jacqui — March 4, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

  7. I’m with randy, I could eat this numerous times and not tire of it either. Looks so good!

    Comment by Sara — March 4, 2011 @ 11:41 pm

  8. “You may look at the ingredients and think – really?”

    I bought this book (along with Lemlin’s Simple Vegetarian Pleasures) a while ago when you wrote they were among your favorites. I don’t use them nearly enough and I think it is because the list of ingredients rarely reflects the deliciousness of her recipes (the lack of pictures does not help, either). You have inspired me to try more of Lemlin’s recipes, starting with this one!

    Comment by Yannik — March 5, 2011 @ 1:13 pm

  9. This post reminded me that the first comment I ever posted on your blog was about our shared love of Jeanne Lemlin. In fact the second I saw the title I knew this must be one of her recipes – she definitely loves her tians! I’ve never made one before but Randy’s praise makes me want to try this. (And I’ve bought all the ingredients for the dal two posts ago.)

    Comment by Hilary — March 5, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

  10. I am glad your hubby agreed that this was delish!!!!

    Comment by leslie — March 7, 2011 @ 12:03 am

  11. Since I do all of my major cooking for the week on Sunday, I thought a double batch of this would be a perfect veg side for the hubby and main for me. After chopping and chopping… and chopping, I said to my husband, “This better be really freaking good.” It was better than really freaking good! :) Thanks for another fabulous recipe.

    Comment by Erika — March 8, 2011 @ 1:59 am

  12. This looks delicious and like just the kind of meal I love! I actually prefer green peppers to red, yellow and orange but eat the coloured ones for their healthy properties! ;)

    Comment by Ashley — April 5, 2011 @ 4:55 am

  13. I eagerly bookmarked this recipe months ago and finally had a chance to prepare it on Sunday. Initially, it didn’t “wow” me. It was good, but the flavors didn’t seem to compliment one another very well. But I had the leftovers for lunch today and they were absolutely delicious. The flavors came together and balanced each other with the perfect notes of sweet, salty, acidic, and nutty. My advice would be to prepare and bake the tian (sans topping) a day before you plan to serve it. Then, let it come to room temperature the next day, add the parmesan bread crumb topping, and bake until the tian is warmed through and the topping is golden. You will really maximize the flavors!

    Comment by LW — August 22, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

  14. I made a variation of this today — according to ingredients we had on hand. Thank you so much for the method and inspiration. I used two sweet potatoes, fennel, red onion, shallot, and black beans. The rest was mostly the same. It was so tasty! But, our toddler didn’t like it… Oh well… She doesn’t know what she missed.

    Comment by Laura — January 31, 2012 @ 3:38 am

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