Talking with Catherine Katz — founding creator of the website Cuisinicity — is like sipping Champagne.
She bubbles. She sparkles. She’s French. Need we say more?
We must. Being French — she was born Catherine Sananès in North Africa and raised in southern France, where she learned French Mediterranean cooking from her mother and aunt — Katz has always believed that food should be delicious.
Enter David Katz — whom she met more than a quarter of a century ago at Yale University, where he was a fastidious resident in preventive medicine and she was doing postdoctoral research in the area of learning and memory that would be published in the journal Nature. (This after she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and a Ph.D. in neuroscience at Princeton University, no less.)
“For him, food had to be nutritious,” Catherine says. “But I was never going to give up culinary textures and flavors.”
When David and Catherine married, so did nutritious and delicious.
That’s why she says that though Cuisinicity is a 2-year-old site, it has been some 25 years in the making. Its tagline says it all: “Love the food that loves you back.” (The name is a combination of “cuisine” plus “simplicity” and “authenticity.”)
To create the recipes that would meet his high nutritional standards and her high culinary ones, Catherine — who worked in research until the fourth of their five children came along — applied a scientific model.
“I would change one ingredient at a time,” she says. Recipes were not only tested on family and friends but evaluated by nutritionists. Many have found their way into “The Way to Eat” by David Katz and Maura Harrigan González (Sourcebooks Inc.) and “Dr. David Katz’s Flavor-Full Diet” (Rodale Inc.), which he wrote with Catherine.
At first, she was reluctant.
“I didn’t write recipes. I made recipes. Who has time to write recipes with five kids?”
But as the children grew up, Catherine realized writing down the recipes was a way to share the meals and the memories that family and friends had enjoyed. And voilà, Cuisinicity was born.
Asked for examples, Catherine doesn’t want to discuss only desserts but adds, perhaps intuiting us, “My God, who doesn’t love chocolate?”
Her Flourless Chocolate Cake — the mere image of which had guests salivating when her husband mentioned it at the recent American Heart Association luncheon in Stamford — is, she says, “as decadent as it looks. What makes it creamy? Puréed lentils, and you do not know they’re there. I call the lentils ‘humble.’ But they’re a powerful ingredient….”
The cake — which also contains dark chocolate, eggs and sugar — “fills you up with more fiber and protein.”
Another favorite — her Crème au Chocolat, made with dark chocolate, tofu, dates, coconut milk and dark beluga lentils.
But you’ll also find everything from Grilled Orange Herb Chicken to Mediterranean Couscous Salad on an easy-to-navigate website that also contains her homemade cooking videos. And we do mean homemade. Taking a page from “The French Chef” herself, Julia Child — who never let a dropped poulet rattle her — Catherine perseveres in the Hamden kitchen of chez Katz as fire alarms go off and dogs bark. (Her three canine helpers are the Yorkshire Terrier Zouzou, the Shetland Sheepdog Bramble and the Goldendoodle Barli.)
“I happen to love to cook, but I’m not a trained cook,” Catherine says. And that has given her insight into those who are also trying to balance making healthy, flavorful meals with working and having a family.
“If people are knowledgeable about ingredients, then they don’t need a lot of time.” Hence the simplicity in Cuisinicity.
“If I can do it, you can do it.”
CREATE YOUR OWN CELEBRATION
Catherine Katz loves the sights and sounds of Christmas but as she and her family are Jewish, they do not celebrate it. Instead they set aside Dec. 24 to recreate a particular culture in their dining room. One year it might be transformed into an Italian café; the next, a Portuguese fishing village. “With so many cultures recreated, the kids are always asking, ‘What culture are we celebrating this year?’”
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CATHERINE KATZ’S FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE
→ 1 15 ounce can organic black lentils, rinsed and drained
→ 4 organic cage-free eggs
→ ⅓ cup granulated sugar
→ 1½ cups bittersweet chocolate chips (60 to 70 percent cocoa)
→ Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with dry wax paper to fit and “grease” it with a little canola oil.
→ Place chocolate chips in a small microwavable bowl and heat on high for 1 minute to melt, stirring until smooth.
→ Place drained lentils, eggs and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process until creamy and smooth.
→ Add melted chocolate and pulse again to blend until smooth and creamy.
→ Pour the batter in the prepared pan and bake for 15 to 17 minutes. “I leave mine a little soft/molten in the middle. It’s OK, as it will continue to ‘bake’ even outside the oven for a few minutes, so do not over-bake.”
→ Let the cake cool.
→ Unmold by unfastening the springform pan first and take it out of the way, then place your serving platter over the top of the cake and turn over.
→ Gently peel off the wax paper and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Serves 8.
For more, visit cuisinicity.com.