Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Robin Asbell's Big Vegan Blogger Potluck: Matcha Scones with Golden Raisins

I met Minneapolis chef, cooking teacher, and food writer Robin Asbell about a year ago at Rancho La Puerta when I was writing a blog for them about their cooking classes. I spent the day learning about her approach to food and cooking, which I wrote about for RLP and also published on San Diego Foodstuff.

Robin is a self-described "occasional pescatarian." She is basically vegetarian but periodically indulges in seafood. But for her new book, Big Vegan ( Chronicle Books, $29.95), she's delved into the Big Monty of natural foods: veganism.

You can have a chance to win your own copy of the book. See directions below.

Now, while I don't eat a lot of meat anymore I'm neither vegetarian nor vegan. I enjoy my animal products. But if I were to think about it, I certainly do prepare a lot of meals that would fall under the category of vegan, so it was no stretch for me to accept Robin's invitation to participate in a "blogger potluck" she's organized to introduce her book. For the next few days, participants listed below will be rolling out posts around recipes from Big Vegan for everyone -- even non-vegans like me -- to enjoy.

My pick was her Matcha Scones with Golden Raisins. I love matcha--the delicate  green powdered tea, usually whisked into hot water to make a frothy beverage in Japanese tea ceremonies. Matcha is easy enough to find at Asian markets.

Robin explains that, "I think I originally came up with the idea for a Tea and Food Pairing class, and I liked the color. I carry matcha with me when I travel just in case I can't get a cup of tea, and I sometimes put it in my smoothie. I'm really into tea, too."

The ingredients for the scones are pretty basic, but it was the first time I'd baked scones without using the traditional butter and cream that go into them. Instead, Robin uses Earth Balance margarine and coconut milk. And, I liked her suggestion for grating the margarine into the dry ingredients.

First, mix together the dry ingredients.

Then add the grated Earth Balance (it does come in sticks for easier measuring).

Rub it in with your fingers and then add coconut milk.

Finally, you'll add the plump golden raisins and mix it together with your hands before pulling out the dough onto a floured board and shaping it into a disk. The dough is a little sticky so be sure to have extra flour on hand for dusting.

Cut into wedges and then brush with more coconut milk before baking for all of 14 minutes.

Let cool and then enjoy with a cup of coffee or, of course, green tea! The scones are light and have subtle overtones of the matcha -- perfect with the bright punch of the raisins interspersed in each piece. And they certainly fit in with her philosophy about food -- and life:

“I’m an enlightened hedonist,” Robin said back when I first met her. “I want to have fun but I don’t want to suffer.”

Matcha Scones with Golden Raisins
From Big Vegan by Robin Asbell
(Printable Recipe)

For a treat, try these pale green scones, made with cake flour--the whitest flour of them all. It shows off the delicate color and flavor of the tea. You can go back to whole-wheat tomorrow!

2 1/2 cups/315 g cake/soft-wheat flour, plus extra for the counter*
1/4 cup/50 g sugar
1 tbsp matcha green tea powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup/55 g Earth Balance margarine, frozen
1 cup/240 ml coconut milk, plus extra for brushing
3/4 cup/130 g golden raisins/sultanas

1. Preheat the oven to 400℉/200℃/gas 6. Line a baking sheet/tray with parchment/baking paper. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, matcha, baking powder, and salt. With a pastry blender or grater, cut the margarine into the dry ingredients and work it in with your fingers. Pour the milk into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add the raisins and mix with your hands.

2. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and form it into a dish about 3/4 in/2 cm thick for eight scones (or make two rounds for sixteen smaller scones; slice each round into eight wedges). Place the scones on the baking sheet/tray, 2 in/5 cm apart, and brush with milk. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the bottoms are browned and the edges are golden brown (bake smaller scones for about 10 minutes). Let them cool on the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool on racks. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

* Note: Robin tells me she had included cake flour in the recipe but the publisher changed it to pastry flour. I made one batch with whole wheat pastry flour, which was all I could find at my local store, but the results yielded a heavy doughy scone. When I checked with Robin I learned about the change and made a second batch using cake flour--which is what is shown and written about above. What a difference. These scones were light and the flavor of the matcha came through. So, use cake flour or try white pastry flour. Let me know the results.

And, here's the rest of the potluck group with their Big Vegan recipe posts:

Robin Asbell: Maple Barley Granola
Leinana Two Moons: Baguette French Toast with "Cream Cheese" & Apple
Susan Russo: Mango-Jicama Salad with Lime Dressing and Pepitas
Bryanna Clark Grogan: Armenian Red Lentil Stew with Sesame Brown Rice
Nancie McDermott: Korean Miso-Tofu Soup
Jill Nussinow: Squash Quesadillas with Cranberry-Jícama Salsa
Sandra Gutierrez: Green and Red Spaghetti
Robin Robertson: Bengall Curry of Cauliflower and Kidney Beans
Julie Hasson: Spanish Chickpea Fritters
Pat Tanumhardja: New Potato Rendang with Green Beans
Leinana Two Moons: Sundried Tomato-Kale Calzones and Pumpkin Cherry Bundt Cake
Tara Desmond: Peanut Butter Tart with "Ganache"

Big Vegan Giveaway

Finally, I have a copy of Big Vegan to give away. Even if, like me, you're not a vegan, I think you'll find the recipes in this large book thoroughly intriguing and delicious. I've got a list of ones I've marked to try. So, I recommend you enter the giveaway.

Simply leave a comment below about the best vegan meal you've ever enjoyed. Comments must be posted by noon PDT, Monday, Oct. 24. The person I think wrote the most persuasive comment will win the book. I'll reveal the winner in my email newsletter on Tuesday, the 25th. You can sign up for it here or via the invitation on the right. So, enlighten us with your experience!

Need some extra encouragement? Watch Robin here tease her book and what you'll get out of it:

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  1. Growing up in California, I've been a longtime fan of vegetables... but it wasn't until I had several severe food allergies diagnosed (egg, dairy) that I started to seek out and appreciate vegan dishes and cooking techniques. Being a foodie with food allergies could feel like a curse if I focus on the restriction of it. But I've learned to see it not as sacrifice but an invitation for creativity.

    The best vegan meal I've enjoyed was a multi-course sensory feast prepared by chef Jeremy Fox at Ubuntu, his former Napa Valley vegetarian restaurant that houses a yoga studio inside. (In 2008, Frank Bruni awarded the Fox-helmed Ubuntu the number two spot in a Times round-up of the top ten restaurants in the country.) Not all of the restaurant's vegetarian menu was vegan, but the kitchen generously accommodated. The chef's creativity and deft hand with ingredients and technique made for an unforgettable meal. From tomato water, clear and concentrated, to a rich roast of autumn squash, it was vegetable-based cuisine elevated to an art form. It was one of the best meals we've ever enjoyed and a terrific reminder that with the diversity of ingredients and technique that can come from a vegetarian/vegan kitchen we'll never suffer from a lack of finding something good to eat!

  2. Wow, those look delicious! I would love a copy of this book.

    I'm not sure if I could pick a favorite vegan meal, but I have to say, I enjoy a lot of vegan and vegetarian soups; especially this time of year.

  3. This recipe looks delicious. Thanks for sharing it. The photos are wonderful!

  4. There are these vegan cutlets that I got the recipe from a book. They are made with smashed up chickpeas, spices and vital wheat gluten. Oh my goodness I love them! Usually I cover them in some mushroom & herb gravy with a side of smashed yukon gold potatoes. That is one of my favorites!

  5. My best vegan meal - sweet pea falafel! with roasted veggies and balsamic lentils. yummy. would love to win this book!

  6. I love Robin's book The New Whole Grains Cookbook. I've made many of the recipes out of it. I am also not vegan, but enjoy eating vegan foods. Just yesterday I purchased a vegan cookie and it was one of the best cookies I have ever had. I didn't realize it was vegan when I got it. I just saw it was Pumpkin Spice flavor and I could not resist. I would love this cookbook to learn to make more vegan foods and am excited to get a preview with her virtual booktour and recipes on blogs.

  7. Hmmm....I almost hate to categorize food as vegan, vegetarian or otherwise. I share that philosophy with Chef Deborah Madison, who was opposed to naming her cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, yet overruled by her publishers.

    I was just in Boulder, where I was treated to a meal by a wonderful vegan chef who also teaches classes at the School of Natural Cookery. The flavor of her chocolate torte was unimaginable and her squash rings with caramelized onions...well, let's just say I was sneaking into the fridge the next day, eating them cold sans utensils. (By the way, the chef is known for baking with a certain medicinal herb, but I didn't partake in those antics.) ;)

    Meat is too often the centerpiece of our meals. You recently mentioned in a post that you're eating increasingly less of it. I'm on board as I learn to love more and more delicious veggies.

  8. j.hausfrau@verizon.netOctober 19, 2011 at 9:33 PM

    I've been married for thirty years to a one-time chubby boy. Although we are not vegans, he's challenged me over the years to provide meals that are hearty and meat-free so that he'll never "go back." We eat a lot of tofu with veggies; but our favorites are hearty soups such as lentil barley with whole wheat bread, or minestrone with sourdough. So happy it's fall so that we can start making the big soups!!

  9. Okay... I keep trying to think of the most epic vegan meal I've had and it's hard to pinpoint.
    Does eating the most amazing "cheesecake" count? made of soaked raw nuts... I dream about that totally vegan dessert, made by a dear friend long ago... and I don't have her recipe. Not such a great story, but it lives forever in my mind. I'm gonna have to get this book!

  10. I don't think I've ever had a Vegan meal, but I would love to give it a try. How's that for pursuasive?

  11. Heather, do you eat salad? Do you eat other foods that don't happen to have meat/dairy? Then you've eaten vegan ;)

  12. It hadn't occurred to me before, but one of my standby "comfort food" recipes is vegan: Stir-fried tofu with vegetables. My now-grown daughters devoured this when they were little and make it for themselves now. The required veggies are broccoli and carrots, but I've added seasonal favorites like asparagus, spring onion, fresh peas, etc. Cashews or peanuts are nice add-ins as well. Extra-firm tofu is best. Stir-fry veggies first then remove; cook cubed tofu and season with dark soy, black bean paste, and chili paste with garlic. Add veggies back to wok and stir gently until combined. Cornstarch slurry if needed/desired to thicken. Serve over brown rice. Healthy, yummy, satisfying...and who knew? Vegan!

  13. Well, that sounds delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

  14. The best vegan meal I've ever enjoyed was in Austin, Texas - prepared by my 22 year old daughter, Katie. It was my first visit to her new apartment and she wanted to make me a special dinner. She chose Azuki Beans and Kobucha Squash & Arame with Carrots and Onions (both from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet) served with brown and wild rice. My daughter attacked the kabucha squash using leverage and a very dull knife. Being a nurse and imagining not-so-great knife outcomes, I took over the chopping and decided Katie's early Christmas present was going to a high quality chef knife. The food Katie prepared tasted awesome! I had never had food like this before. Katie's love of healthy vegan foods came through and she showed me how to prepare them easily. We topped off the dinner with locally made Nada Moo Creamy Coconut Organic Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert. I was in food heaven.

  15. My son is a vegan and I thought I'd have to give up all the tasty stuff to share a meal with him. Not so.

    He took me to The Loving Hut and I had their "shrimp" plate. It was fabulous! Very crispy and tasty.

    Next best is the restaurant at People's in Ocean Beach. Their enchiladas were everything I could want for comfort food on a cold rainy day.

    I also found out that some of the old family recipes I've cooked for years are actually vegan. My mother-in-law's Christmas braid is a prime example. My son was thrilled to have this traditional Christmas morning bread back on the table


  16. My most memorable and best vegan meal was prepared by my Ethiopian mother-in-law, Etemete. We drove several hours South of Addis Abeba and arrived in the small village of Debre Zeit. Our parade of ten were on our "trip of a lifetime" with all five of our children, two nieces and the son of a close friend. We were in the rift valley, home of the great Nile River and enjoyed the drive by gawking at the "live" National Geographic film of migrating birds and camels passing by our windows.
    We arrived at Etemete's modest home just in time for lunch. After the requisite hand washing, the grown-ups sat around the table, while the kids sat on the floor circling the small coffee table. In the center of both tables sat a large platter lined with Injera (a spongy sourdough crepe)made with Teff flour. Artfully placed on top of the injera were small piles of aromatic, saucy, and colorful creations. We were familiar with and loved the spicy red lentil Missir Wot, dark green Gomen (collard greens), comforting Tikil Gomen (cabbage, carrot and potato stew) and golden red Shiro made from garbanzo beans. But, as a baker, what caught my eye was the giant Dabo (bread) that Etemete sliced before our eyes. While everyone else ripped pieces of injera, scooped up bites of food and plopped them in their mouths, I waited for the dabo. As she handed me a large wedge of one of the most beautiful breads I had ever seen, she apologized that she couldn't cook her best dishes as it was fasting (refraining from all dairy and meat/chicken) season before Christmas. The bread had risen to huge proportions...it was earthy and real. As I ate it I asked what it was spiced with. No one could translate. Later I learned the "spice" was tiny black Nigella seeds that, to this day, bring a smile to my face.

  17. My most memorable vegan meal was probably the first one I ever made myself -- it was a simple breakfast meal, but it made me realize how easy it was to eat vegan. I made tempeh sausage crumbles from the The Post-Punk Kitchen cookbook and ate it with wilted spinach inside a toasted whole wheat pita with Earth Balance margarine. It was sublime deliciousness. It also convinced me to go "old school" with my Lenten fast that year and go vegan for 40 days. It was *much* easier than I thought -- and just as delicious as I hoped.

  18. Oh, this was difficult. I loved the variety of experiences you all brought to the table. But, I can only choose one winner.

    I was most struck by Joanne Sherif's recounting of her meal with her mother-in-law in Etemete. I wanted to eat the Dabo and scoop up Missir Wot with it. So, congratulations, Joanne. Please send me an email with your mailing address so I can have a copy of Big Vegan sent to you!

    And, thanks to everyone who participated! Be sure to visit the other potluck bloggers and leave comments there.

  19. Wow, it's so wonderful to read all the comments- and see how many of you have had a great vegan meal. As Caron said-it's food you eat every day- anybody who has had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch was eating a a vegan meal!
    Thanks for honoring Big Vegan on this fabulous blog!

  20. The best vegan meal I've had lately was the chipotle corn chowder I made the other night. This was such a delicious and healthy soup, no heavy cream needed!

  21. Thank you for the wonderful recipe, and to everyone else for their meaty ideas...I've never found a truly irresistible vegan meat but there are some great suggestions here!