Conversations during the summer in El Paso usually revolve around two topics—heat and rain. We talk about how hot it is and how this might be the hottest summer ever. Then, monsoon season hits (yes, we have monsoons in the desert. I have the green patches of grass and weeds to prove it) and we all become meteorologists trying to predict whether it’s going to rain or not, and when it does, we ask each other if their neighborhood got rain.
Hot weather calls for spiked iced tea and summer salads, but I’m not going to give you those recipes. I’ve got a recipe that’s gonna make you turn on your oven and crank it ALL THE WAY UP TO 425º. I know. It’s evil. It’s crazy. But being a librarian isn’t all rainbows and kittens, especially when it’s summer reading club season and you have to deal with the public. You wouldn’t think that people would curse at you and throw their library cards at you, but they do. So, you need comfort food and also a way to use up the fanastic vegetables that come in your harvest box. This recipe solves my librarian/CSA problems for a little bit even if I have to sweat a lot.
This is a great base recipe where you use any variety of vegetables and proteins you need to get rid of. The Gardein Meatless Meatballs are the best vegetarian meatballs I’ve ever had. They don’t have that odd soy flavor, and I love that there are fennel seeds in them, so I cut back the amount of fennel that the recipe calls for. If you don’t have meatballs or don’t want to use soy, use your favorite meat sub or any legume or just use vegetables.
The star of this casserole is the biscuit topping. Duh. I had meant to add a half teaspoon of garlic powder and oregano, but forgot, so I just sprinkled a little bit of both on top. And I could have sworn I had aluminum-free baking powder, but you know what? I didn’t and the world didn’t end yet. I was freaked out that it would react with the tomatoes, but I don’t think it did. It still tasted pretty darn good.
I can’t wait to use the same recipe to make vegan biscuits. The recipe makes for great leftovers that reheat well in the microwave. It’ll get you through the week.
Mediterranean Biscuit Casserole
(adapted from Tempeh & Eggplant Pot Pies recipe)
1 large eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes (you should have about 4 cups)
2 zucchinis, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 package (8 ounces) tempeh, cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubes
1 small-size yellow onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds (I used 1/2 teaspoon since the meatballs already have fennel)
1 to 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 can or jar ( 15 ounces) tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or hot sauce
4 Gardein Meatballs (frozen, not thawed)
Salt and pepper, to taste
For Biscuit Dough:
1 and 2/3 cups (210 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (look for aluminum-free)
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup nondairy milk (soy, rice, almond, hazelnut, hemp, or oat)
1/3 cup canola oil or nondairy, nonhydrogenated butter (such as Earth Balance), melted
Optional: garlic powder and oregano
Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat 4 or 6 individual ramekins with oil, and set aside. You also can use a 9-inch (23 cm) square pan or other baking dish.
To make filling, steam eggplant and tempeh for 10 to 15 minutes, until eggplant is soft and translucent. To make filling, place eggplant and zucchini on a rimmed baking pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper; combine until evenly coated. Bake for 15 minutes, toss, and bake for another 15 minutes. While the veggies are baking, add oil to a medium-size pot and cook onion until soft. Add fennel seeds, capers, and vinegar, and sauté for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, and Gardein meatballs. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, prepare biscuit dough. Place flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl, and stir together. Either mix in garlic powder and oregano now, or sprinkle it over the the top before baking. Pour in nondairy milk and butter or oil, and mix just until dry ingredients are evenly moistened. The dough should be lumpy and sticky, not smooth like cake batter.
Remove pot from heat, and season filling with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove meatballs and cut into quarters or bite-sized pieces. Place them back in the sauce, along with the eggplant and zucchini, stirring to combine.
Divide filling evenly among prepared ramekins. Drop dough by small spoonfuls on top of each ramekin. Carefully spread dough with back of spoon so it evenly covers filling. Bake pot pies until crust is golden, about 15 minutes. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes if using a casserole dish. Serve hot.