No one knows theIkarianlifestyle better thanMolyvosCollaborating Chef Diane Kochilas, who – along with herIkarianancestors – has spent much of her life on the island. InIKARIA: Lessons on Food, Life, and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die (Oct 14, 2014)–Kochilas has written an ethno-culinary paean to the island with delicious and healthy recipes, gorgeous photography and interviews with locals about the often quirky secrets to a long life.

Capturing the true spirit of place, Kochilas explains the importance of shared food (aka meze), the health benefits of raw and cooked salads, the bean dishes that are passed down through generations, the greens and herbal teas that are used in the kitchen and in the teapot as “medicine,” the nutritional wisdom inherent in the ingredients and recipes that have kept Ikarians healthy for so long and more. She introduces us to locals who embody theIkarianway, such as a 101-year-old weaver who has never stopped working or creating, and another robust and vigorous 83-year-old man who still works, socializes every night in his small mountain village, and is the most sought-after dancer at local celebrations.

WithIkariaKochilas allows us all to live a littleIkarian- to live essentially and less anxiously, to cook and eat simple, real food that is largely plant-based, by ignoring the clock’s reign, and by forging relationships that defy generations and are meaningful and long-lasting.Ikariais more than a cookbook. It’s a portrait of the people who have achieved what so many of us yearn for: a fuller, more meaningful and joyful life, lived simply and nourished on real, delicious, seasonal foods that you can access anywhere.

Diane Kochilasis an award-winning author and Collaborating Chef atMolyvosin New York City. She divides her time between New York, Athens and her family’s ancestral land,Ikaria. Kochilas has written 18 books on Greek cuisine. Her previous book,The Country Cooking of Greece,was hailed by the Virtual Gourmet as her masterpiece and the best cookbook of 2012.


Theodosi’s Tomato And Pita Salad
Salata tou Theodosi

Theodosi runs the Filitsa taverna up in Carres, a mountain village about 3 kilometers from us in Raches. This salad is one of his signature dishes and we can’t stop eating it whenever we order it. The grilled pita adds an irresistible smoky note to the succulent salad and makes for the perfect way to soak up all its delicious juices. Look for the best possible ripe tomatoes.

MAKES 4 TO 6 SERVINGS

Ingredients

  • 2 (8- to 10-inch) pita, grilled or toasted well
  • 3 large firm-ripe tomatoes, cut into 11/2-inch (4 cm) chunks
  • 2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 11/2 cups chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons dried Greek oregano
  • 6 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Cut the toasted pitas into strips about 1/8 inch (3 mm) wide and 2 inches (5 cm) long. In a bowl, toss together the pita strips, tomatoes, onions, herbs, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Do Yourself A Lot of Good With Tomato

Tomatoes, so much a part of the Ikarian and greater Greek traditional diet, are loaded with vitamin C and are prime sources of beta-carotene lycopene, which helps strengthen the immune system. But beta-carotene must be consumed with fat for it to be well absorbed. In the context of the Mediterranean diet, that means olive oil, of course. With just 1/2 teaspoon of monounsaturated fat (the good fat in olive oil), the body is able to absorb five times more betacarotene from vegetables such as tomatoes.


Sour Cherry Spoon Sweet

Cherries and sour cherries abound on the north side of Ikaria and we pick them in June by the kilo to make this delicious spoon sweet. The flavor of sour cherry spoon sweet is both, well, sweet and tart. The cherries taste a little like dried cranberries. They are small, with tiny pits that require patience to remove. The syrup ends up being very dark, almost black, and it takes extra care to make it. If you are inattentive at the final few minutes of simmering, you can easily burn the whole batch and end up with a caramelized sweet that tastes more like burnt sugar than fruit.

Makes 6 Pints

Ingredients

  • 21/4 pounds (1 kg) fresh sour cherries
  • 21/4 pounds (1 kg) sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, strained

Method

Wash the cherries. Remove their stems. Using a cherry pitter or the loop end of a hairpin, push out the pits.

Place 1/2 pound (225 g) (about a fifth) of the cherries on the bottom of a large, wide pot. Sprinkle with a fifth of the sugar. Repeat, layering cherries and sugar. Let the cherries stand for 8 hours or overnight, refrigerated.

The next day, bring the cherry-sugar mixture up to room temperature by letting them stand unrefrigerated for about 2 hours.

Place the pot over low heat and pour in the water. As soon as the mixture comes to a simmer, add the lemon juice. Simmer carefully over low heat, without stirring much but skimming the foam off the surface, until the syrup is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 30 to 40 minutes. As soon as it’s done, remove from the heat. Vyssino is one of the easiest of the spoon sweets to master, but the secret to making it well is in the timing and in those pivotal few minutes between knowing when the syrup is right and burning it. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Ladle the spoon sweet into 6 clean 1-pint (0.5-l) canning jars, filling each to about 3/4 inch (2 cm) from the top. Loosely screw the lids on the jars. Place in a clean pot with enough water to come about two-thirds of the way up the height of the jars. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Using kitchen tongs, carefully remove each jar and with a pot holder or towel screw on the lids very well. Immediately flip the jars upside down to create an air vacuum. Let stand until cool. Store, well sealed, in a cool, dark place. The vyssino spoon sweet will last for months, even years, if stored properly.

Reprinted fromIKARIAby Diane Kochilas. © 2014 by Diane Kochilas, photographs by Vassilis Stenos. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.