Chef Cat Cora Dishes on Healthy Cooking

By ABC News

Apr 23, 2012 1:07pm

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By DIANE HENDERIKS

I’m on a mission to teach America how to cook and eat well. 

As a registered dietitian and personal chef, my life revolves around food.  I’m either cooking it, eating it, teaching about it, taking photos of it, talking about it on television or writing about it.  

For years, the healthy chef had been somewhat of a pariah in the cooking arena but not any longer.  Don’t assume that if a meal is deemed “healthy” it’s going to be bland and boring. Healthy cooking requires wholesome, unprocessed, high- quality ingredients used in the right quantities.

Many people now eat out more, which means less control over what is in the food they eat.  Dining out is a pleasure, and everyone deserves the experience and break from the kitchen. For me,  the mere fact that someone else is cooking, serving and cleaning up is the clincher.

Thankfully, the restaurant world has shifted  toward healthier cooking techniques, which means using organic and high- quality ingredients, local and seasonal foods, farm-to-table preparations, better-for-you fats, less salt and foods that impart sweetness naturally.

I called up Cat Cora, a chef I know,  to get her take on healthy cooking and eating.

Cat is an acclaimed chef, restaurateur, philanthropist, mother, television personality and all-around great gal.  I have been a council chef for her charity, Chefs for Humanity, and have had the privilege of participating in events with this cool chef.

Diane:  Do you see a trend toward diners seeking better-for-you options on menus?

Cat: Absolutely!  I think people are more savvy about cooking, food and dining.  I notice they are looking for more value for their money – not in larger portions but more in terms of healthier, fresh, farm-to-table dishes with a nice presentation.

Diane: What’s your definition of  healthy eating?

Cat: Choosing seasonal, fresh, sustainable and organic ingredients as often as possible.  Limiting fried foods and dishes with high fat , sugar and salt content. I also choose to cook foods as little as needed, for example, meats to medium-rare and pasta to al dente.

Diane: What is your secret to cooking healthier without sacrificing flavor?

Cat: I like to abide by the seasons and let the natural flavor in food speak for itself.  I use quick cooking techniques of high heat with very little fat, such as quick saute or wok stir-frying.  I also use olive oils, citrus zests, herbs, spices and finishing salts to bring out the natural flavors of foods.  All of this is what healthy cooking is about for me.

Diane: What is your favorite dish on your own menu?

Cat: My Grilled Chili-Lime Flank Steak Soft Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa.  This recipe is one of my favorites because it is fresh, everything can be made on the grill, making clean-up simple, and you have a quick delicious dinner with style and flair.

Recipe: Cat Cora’s Grilled Chili-Lime Flank Steak Soft Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa

Diane: How about an update on what’s new and exciting in your world?

Cat: There is so much going on right now.  I’m co-hosting a new show on Bravo, “Around the World in 80 Plates,” premiering on Wednesday May 9  at 10 p.m. ET.  I am working with HBF to open more locations of Cat Cora’s Kitchen, which we created to offer airport travelers a sophisticated dining option. Currently, we are in the Virgin Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport and the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.  I recently launched my own line of cookware, Cat Cora’s Kitchen by Starfrit, a line of practical, stylish and eco-friendly kitchen essentials to make mealtimes easy for the at-home cook. I also have a line of Greek specialty products, Cat Cora’s Kitchen by Gaea, which includes olive oils, vinegar, cooking sauces, tapenades and olives.

Diane Henderiks is a registered dietitian, the founder of Dianehenderiks.com and a “Good Morning America” health contributor.

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