Transforming vegetarian cooking, one minute at a time

Ever wonder how to cook tofu? What is spice roasting/mixing/blending? Can you be a vegan and make great barbecue?

The new E-Cook-Book from the creative chefs of Kaua‘i’s Blossoming Lotus restaurant answer those questions while giving the uninitiated tools they can use to prepare gourmet-tasting, health-saving, time-efficient recipes for themselves and their families. With a goal to demystify the “healthy cooking paradigm,” the e-book is a great addition to any cook’s library.

Award-winning cookbook “Vegan World Fusion Cuisine” by vegan chefs Mark Reinfeld and eco-conscious entrepreneur Bo Rinaldi, with collaborations from the staff at the Blossoming Lotus in Kapa‘a was only the first in a series of works the creators hope to introduce to the public.

“Above all, through the restaurant and the books, we want to show people that cooking without meat and dairy is as delicious and far more healthful and simple than what most assume. We are not out to convert or proselytize, we just wanted to provide a ‘how to manual’ for people who might want to try this type of food preparation,” said Reinfeld.

The new cookbook, “7 Minute Chef,” available for download on the Internet, was the culmination of this desire.

“The target audience for the ‘7 Minute Chef’ is someone like my mom. Someone who would like to have the tools to make different choices when cooking at home, but maybe doesn’t know how to cut tofu, make sauces and dressings or have the confidence to try a vegan recipe,” said Reinfeld.

“The reason we wanted to publish this on the Web is the immediate reach in distribution — within a week we’ve had downloads from Norway, Great Britain, Australia and across the Mainland. It’s an environmentally conscious alternative to actually printing a book, and then dealing with shipping and distribution,” explained Reinfeld.

Among the step-by-step techniques in cooking, roasting and making homemade marinades, special boxes called “Food As Medicine” explain historical and medicinal information on food and herbs.

“For instance, oregano was considered a symbol of joy and happiness and was used in marriage rituals in Ancient Greece and Rome,” writes Reinfeld.

Having arrived on Kaua‘i after being drawn to the aloha spirit, Reinfeld came with years of experience in the natural foods movement of California.

His own journey through vegetarianism and eventually veganism roots from a deep commitment to “non-violence and compassion towards animals,” he said. “Most people first explore a plant-based diet out of health concerns. I’m not out to change people — I just hope we can always emanate a beautiful note of delicious and healthful food. The taste of our food and recipes will speak for themselves.”

Reinfeld’s proof is most certainly in his pudding — the restaurant has been honored with culinary awards since it opened, competing in categories not limited to vegetarian restaurants.

“Last year we won the Ilima Award, going head to head with meat-serving gourmet restaurants such as Roy’s and The Beach House. On any given night the dining room is probably only 5 percent vegetarians … everyone enjoys our food,” Reinfeld said. “In fact, we have a ‘veggie challenge,’ if you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay for it.”

The first cookbook has been showered with accolades, winning awards even this year — three years after it’s initial release.

“We have a vision to take this wonderful experience of our food, recipes and community spirit and share it with others. We want to represent the sustainable and positive business model for others,” said Reinfeld.

With 90 percent of the food served in the restaurant acquired from local farmers, and only 10 percent from off-island, it seems the Blossoming Lotus team is living up to its vision.

“We were the first restaurant to be certified ‘green’ by the Green Organization in O‘ahu,” said Reinfeld.

The organization gives the special designation to food establishments that have successfully incorporated energy and water efficiency, biodegradable serving and take-away products, chlorine elimination from all paper products, purchasing from local and organic farmers, recycling and composting, use of green power, building and construction. The Blossoming Lotus and Lotus Root Juice Bar have completed 35 steps in the organization’s specifications.

“The 7 Minute Chef” is an accessible and educational cooking tool for anyone interested in expanding their knowledge of food and healthy preparations. For all those chefs who say, “I want to cook a healthier meal, but don’t know how,” this e-book is like having your own cooking tutor. The “7 Minute Chef” should be in the library of all herbivores and carnivores alike. For $12.95, it’s a treasure.

• Keya Keita, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 or kkeita@kauaipubco.com.

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