Well known in some cultures as a prepared dish with layered ingredients, the tian can be thought of as a casserole with a specific arrangement of components. It can be served hot or cold, and may be composed of all sorts of ingredients. A simple vegetable tian allows various types of vegetables to be arranged in layers, with each successive layer complimenting the taste of the previous one. The popular seven-layer salad, which begins with a layer of lettuce on the bottom and then builds up to a final dressing topping with bacon bits, provides both a visual impact as well as being delicious.
Tians also can be composed of layers of edibles that are baked or cooked in some manner. For example, a dessert could be constructed with of successive layers of cake, fudge, whipped cream, and some sort of topping, such as chocolate slivers or shaved almonds.
It is possible to include meat in a tian as well. For example, hamburger could be cooked first, and then other items, like potatoes and green beans that are coated with a mushroom sauce, could be layerd on top. Chunks of diced chicken or turkey could also be used to great effect.
An onion tian is a popular French dish that requires a few simple ingredients. Many choose to use a clear dish, so that the beauty of the layers can be enjoyed along with the taste. A traditional one is made with yellow beans, diced zucchini, and green beans, each of which is cooked and layered in the dish, along with a layer of sauteed onions of any color. In most cases, the more colorful the onions, the more attractive the appearance of the finished tian. For a topping, French fried onions or a simple breadcrumb layer works very well. From the sides, the colors of the beans and green vegetables are accentuated by the translucent nature of the onions.
Tians are usually simple to make and prepare. With both plenty of flavor and visual appeal, it is the ideal way to dress up a meal while still keeping mealtime fun and casual.