From the Blue Zone to the Big Apple: Ikaria Comes to New York

By Lisa Bernhard

CUISINE FOR A HEALTHIER LIFE: Lathenia is a traditional Ikarian pizza made without cheese. Photo courtesy of Eleni and George Karimalis.

On November 3rd and 4th, Ikarian chef Eleni Karimalis and her winemaker husband George will talk about their philosophy of healthy living and lead hands-on cooking classes of their favorite plant-based dishes at Miette Culinary Studio in Little Italy. Eleni and George, who were featured on Diane Kochilas’ My Greek Table (“Flavors of Longevity—Ikaria”) PBS show last year, are doing a U.S. tour this fall, and Miette Culinary Studio is their New York City stop.

The classes ($125 per person) are from 12noon to 4pm, with different menus for each day. They will teach a selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes that support vitality and longevity including Soufiko, an Ikarian medley of sautéed vegetables, and Lathenia, a traditional Ikarian pizza made with olives and no cheese (Saturday). On Sunday they will teach Pittarakia, tiny vegetable pies made with fresh filo and stuffed with seasonal greens, roasted pumpkin with garlic dip, and a baked chickpea dish. Freshly baked sourdough bread and a natural breakfast spread will be featured on the menu both days.

In 2005, Dan Buettner wrote an article in National Geographic that identified five places in the world where people live healthier, longer lives than average: Ikaria (Greece), Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica) and the Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda (California). He delineated these regions around the world with a blue circle and called them “Blue Zones.” Some of the common denominators that support longevity are an emphasis on plant-based cooking, strong social ties, and a glass of wine with friends or with food. In 2012 he wrote an article in the New York Times Magazine that focused entirely on Ikaria (“The Island Where People Forget to Die). It is one of the magazine’s more popular pieces.

Started in 2001 by Paul Vandewoude, formerly the head chef at the legendary West Village eatery Tartine, Miette’s emphasis is on passion in cooking and the community it creates. This class presents a small taste of Ikaria, but a big lesson in how to eat well and live the healthiest life possible.

Miette Culinary Studio is at 132 Mulberry Street (suite 2D), between Grand and Hester Streets., or 212-460-9322.


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