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First-Class Cooking Schools

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Glorious Greek Cooking (Photo courtesy of Diane Kochilas)

Mediterranean culinary schools offer lessons in good living.

By Rachel Howard

From the October issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.

Glorious Greek Cooking Ikaría, Greece

Inhabitants of the remote Greek island of Ikaría are a third more likely than Americans to reach the age of 90. But eating like a Greek doesn’t mean abstinence: Good living and convivial feasting are integral to the Mediterranean way of life. Greek-American food writer Diane Kochilas hosts culinary workshops at her ancestral home on Ikaria. As well as teaching how to cook healthy and satisfying dishes like octopus with fennel, orange, and olives and kid goat roasted in a wood-burning oven, Kochilas’s weeklong Glorious Greek Cooking courses immerse students in local traditions. Guests milk goats, forage for some of the island’s 70 edible greens and herbs, and dip into mineral springs in Lefkada, renowned for their therapeutic qualities since the age of Hippocrates.

Nabiye Konak Ula, Turkey

Engin Akin has written extensively about the culinary crossover between Greece and Turkey. A much loved TV chef, she’s also known for hosting lavish dinner parties. Enjoy Akin’s irrepressible hospitality at Nabiye Konak, her five-room farmhouse in Ula, a traditional village less than ten miles from the Aegean coast. Learn the rich history of Ottoman dishes while preparing cigar-shaped dolmas, meatballs with pistachios and tahini sauce, and manti (meat dumplings smothered in yogurt). Day trips include a visit to the bakery to make otlu borek (greens-stuffed pastry) and a meze feast onboard a sailboat.

Castello di Vicarello Tuscany, Italy

Aurora Baccheschi Berti’s new cookbook, My Tuscan Kitchen, showcases what Italy does best: simple, seasonal dishes using the freshest ingredients. There’s no better setting to try out these authentic recipes than Berti’s own kitchen in Castello di Vicarello, a 12th-century castle nestled in the Tuscan hills near Siena. Ingredients for cream of lettuce soup, risotto with radicchio, and peach sorbet are handpicked from the organic kitchen garden. The hunting estate provides cinghiale (wild boar) and pheasant, and the family vineyard produces award-winning organic reds (in late October, guests are invited to harvest grapes).

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