Cooking With Diane Kochilas on Ikaria

This post is part bio, part-story of a new friendship, part education on the shaping of Greek cuisine and part recommendation. Last year I had the fortune to connect with Diane Kochilas through Facebook with what I thought would be just another fair-weather friendship on the web. You see, Diane Kochilas is a New York native who now travels frequently between Athens and Gotham (I call her the Greek Astronaut) as she juggles tending to her stake in the acclaimed Pylos restaurant in Manhattan’s Alphabet City neighborhood and her flat in Athens and summers spent at her home on the island of Ikaria.

Diane Kochilas might be familiar to some of you as she’s also written many cookbooks focused on Greek (and Mediterranean) cuisine. Besides her bookwork, she’s also a columnist for Greece’s daily “Ta Nea” and she’s written articles for the New York Times. She contributes articles to Kerasma (an aggressive movement by Greece’s tourism board to promote Greece’s unique ingredients, cuisine and spirits) and she’s a tireless promoter of Greek cuisine and ingredients. I was delighted to see her appear on the Martha Stewart Show to showcase a typical Greek Easter Feast.

I received an email from Diane last year relaying the news of her visit to here in Toronto and she asked if I would like to meet for a coffee or a bite…and I most certainly agreed. How could I, another food fanatic and proponent of Greek cuisine not meet the Guru of Greek Food? Diane and I had a wonderful breakfast that sped by like any other conversation between foodies (you people know what I mean) and I was relieved to find Diane cordial, down to earth and despite her wealth of knowledge and wisdom with Greek food, she was a delight to chat with and I felt very comfortable in conversation with her.

Myself in Toronto with Diane Kochilas

One of the topics we touched upon over breakfast was the agro-tourism, culinary and wine tours that are held throughout Greece, all year’ round. Diane holds tours in Athens, Crete and her home island of Ikaria and if I weren’t committed to my summer holidays in Greece in the summer, chances are I would be joining Diane and her guests from around the world on the island of Ikaria. The island is located 19km south of the larger and more well-known island of Samos, placing it just in the North Aegean Islands.

What’s unique about Ikaria is that it has the distinction of being a Blue Zone part of the world, that is to say the lifestyle, diet and exercise regimen of the people are such that one in three inhabitants of Ikaria live over 90 years of age! According to Blue Zones author Dan Buettner, the reasons for the Ikarians’ longevity has to be with their exercise regimen i.e. walking and conducting daily and farming chores with little help from tools or implements, the people know their purpose in life and each morning when they wake up! There’s always a down time (many Greeks still take in an afternoon siesta), live within a diet that is plant and vegetable-based (meat is eaten maybe twice a week and portions are small). The moderate consumption of wine is encouraged (2 glasses a day), the family unit is important and every effort is made for the entire family to eat together. A sense of belonging is also important so a belief in a faith is also considered one of the factors of the Blue Zone longevity as is belonging to the right tribe. Keep positive people and friends around you and shun those exhibiting negativity. The Greeks have a saying: “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are”!

Now wouldn’t you like to visit Ikaria and learn more about the Blue Zone lifestyle of the Ikarians? Who better to show you around the ages-old traditions, way of life, diet, customs and history of the island than an Ikarian herself, Diane Kochilas? Whether you’re a recreational cook or adventurous traveler – there’s something for everyone on your visit to Ikaria. The tour embraces the Holy Trinity of food, wine and culture and Diane has planned an itinerary that will be etched in your minds for the rest of your life and if you haven’t yet been to Greece, your way of approaching life and living life will also change forever!

You have fours windows available to join Diane on Ikaria: April 26 – May 2 / June 26 – July 2 July 3 – July 9 / July 10 – July 16

Classes takes place in the ancient village of Agios Dimitris in a gorgeous stone house with a spectacular view of the sea. Students stay in a top accommodations on the beach, which is 10 minutes away. The week begins with a Sunday welcome dinner at sunset. Every day is filled with excursions to local food artisans and island sites. Cooking usually takes place in the afternoon and you get to enjoy dinner in the garden. Each cooking day has a theme, such as Vegetarian Greek, Greens, Fearless Phyllo, Meze, Delicious Fish, etc.

All recipes are designed so that you can make them once you get back home. You will be introduced to Greek wines and spirits, to the cheeses of Greece, to the unique honey of Ikaria and Greece, to regional olive oils, and much more. The week is as much an immersion in the ancient but timeless food ways of Blue Zone Ikaria and country Greece as it is in the culture and lifestyle.
As part of this excursion, you will be taken to the  island’s ancient hot springs and to its local village festivals, dates permitting. An organic garden is maintained year ’round and much of what you will eat is picked that day. Diane’s philosophy is to promote the healthful, flavorful, simple, friendly foods of Greece and to give students plenty of ideas and recipes they can use in their own kitchens.
What like (really like) about Diane’s tours are her attention to detail (including lots of free time for tour attendees). Below is the itinerary for the Blue Zone Cooking Class in Ikaria:
DAY ONE
WELCOME TO IKARIA!
7.30 PM – PICK UP
SUNSET WELCOME IN NELIA / PANIGYRI
DAY TWO
11.OO AM – PICK UP AT HOTEL CAVOS BAY
3ish PM – COOKING SESSION
INTRODUCTION TO GREEK ISLAND CUISINE.MENU: 

  • Roasted Eggplant Salad with Capers and Tomatoes
  • Puree of yellow split peas with two garnishes
  • Cretan barley rusk meze with grated tomatoes
  • Fried zucchini/Eggplant fingers; Baked Summer Vegetables with Feta and Herbs
  • Galaktoboureko

RETURN TO HOTEL – AFTERNOON FREE
9.00 PM – PICKUP – DINNER AT A LOCAL TAVERNA

DAY THREE
10.00 AM – PICK UP AT HOTEL CAVOS BAY
VISIT TO LOCAL BEEKEEPER / TO THE BEEHIVES AND WORKSHOP FOR A HONEY TASTING
IF ANYONE IS ALLERGIC TO BEES PLEASE INFORM US
13.30-14.00 – RETURN TO HOTEL – AFTERNOON FREE
5.30 – PICK UP AT HOTEL
COOKING SESSIONMENU: 

  • Basic homemade phyllo pastry
  • Zucchini & herb pie
  • Multilayered Greek cheese pie with a big green salad
  • Variety of small phyllo triangles and cylinders
  • Phyllo dessert with nuts, Ikarian honey, and ice cream

DINNER IN OUR GARDEN
LATE EVENING RETURN TO HOTEL

DAY FOUR
9.30 AM – PICK UP FROM HOTEL
10.00 AM – COOKING SESSION
RECIPES FROM A BLUE ZONE GARDEN
5.30 – PICK UP AT HOTEL
COOKING SESSIONMENU: 

  • Stuffed grape leaves
  • Vegetarian-Stuffed eggplants
  • Ikarian vegetable medley “Soufico”
  • Herbed baked zucchini fritters
  • Ikarian potato salad with tomatoes and herbs
  • Yogurt and sour cherry mousse

2.00-2.30 PM – DEPART FOR HOTEL
AFTERNOON FREE
5.15 PM – PICK UP FROM CAVOS BAY
EXCURSION TO THEOKTISTI MONASTERY AND WINE TASTING
AT KARIMANLIS ESTATE IN PIGI
9.00-9.30 PM – DINNER AT POPI’S TAVERNA IN FYTEMA
AT KARIMANLIS ESTATE IN PIGI11.30-MIDNIGHT – RETURN TO HOTEL.

DAY FIVE
8.30 AM – DEPART FOR MINERAL SPRINGS IN LEFKADA/AGIOS
KYRIKOS; LUNCH IN AGIOS
3.00 PM – RETURN
6.30 PM – PICK UP FROM CAVOS BAY
COOKING SESSION:
FISH FROM THE WINE-DARK SEAMENU: 

  • Island fish soup
  • Shrimp with creamy ouzo sauce
  • Octopus with fennel, orange and olives
  • Squid—u/a
  • Fresh fruit
DAY SIX
8.00 AM – PICK UP FROM HOTEL
EXCURSION TO SHEPHERD’S PLACE; GRAZING THE GOATS,
MILKING, AND CHEESEMAKING SESSION.
BACK TO VILLA THANASSI FOR CHEESEMAKING SESSION AND LIGHT LUNCH.
NOONISH RETURN TO CAVOS – AFTERNOON FREE
5.30 PM – PICK UP AT CAVOS FOR CHRISTOS
6.OO PM – FINAL COOKING SESSION
A MEZE FEASTMENU: 

  • A not-so-classic skordalia with octopus broth
  • Roasted spicy feta
  • Green peppers sautéed in olive oil with tomatoes
  • Grilled octopus
  • Light ground-meat keftedes
  • Kid roasted in the wood-burning oven with potatoes
  • Loukoumades (fritters) with honey and cinnamon
The weeklong session costs 1,850 €/ $2350 and includes all meals, lodging, excursions and transportation on the island. 

You have fours windows available to join Diane on Ikaria: April 26 – May 2 / June 26 – July 2 July 3 – July 9 / July 10 – July 16

Space is limited for each class, so book early and start dreaming of Greece, Summer 2011! You may book with Diane Kochilas by clicking here. All I ask is that you mention to her that you read about her tour from my site. Just tell her “Kalofagas” sent you!

 

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at  http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2011 Peter Minakis

© 2011,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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18 Comments for “Cooking With Diane Kochilas on Ikaria”

says:

It is wonderful that Diane is sharing some of her traditional food knowledge in these workshops. I actually made her Greek feta and scallion pie a few days ago and would love to learn more recipes from her. Thanks for the post!

says:

O that sounds like such a perfect trip to make!! Unfortunately the trips for this year are already planned… but I would love to know is this is something recurring every year?

says:

Υπέροχη μαγείρισσα, υπέροχο νησί, υπέροχη εμπειρία. Πολύ θα ήθελα να ήμουν εκεί…

says:

What an amazing cooking vacation…I love all the little details. Sigh. :) “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” Love this.

says:

I am happy to see that Daine offers classes in the Spring as well. Years ago when I attended a similar cooking vaction on another island she offered classes only during the summer but I was going to be there in May. In fact that year she offered classes with island hopping included. Thanks for introducing her to us Peter.

says:

I am a big fan of Kochylas, but didn’t know about the Ikaria workshop! People like her are doing great things for Greek food. Perhaps you should start a workshop yourself Peter, I think you’d have many enthusiastic participants!

says:

Yes, Peter, I would love to be traveling there and doing these wonderful things and learning about Greek food and the Ikarian way of life. It sounds like a dream. Are you conducting any tours this summer?

says:

Very helpful information, its my lucky day i found the right site. I really like the goat milking picture .Hope to find such helpful information in future as well.