A traditional Cretan salad of tomatoes, feta and herbs on top of a barley rusk
Oh Crete, how we love you! We’ve both had the great pleasure of visiting this largest and southernmost island of Greece, spending weeks exploring the cities, beaches, gorges and of course, the tavernas and restaurants. Cretan cuisine, like all Greek cooking, is based on fresh, local ingredients and the regional specialties often showcase food items you can only find there. Fortunately however, much of what is loved and devoured in Crete can be replicated off the island, and this dakos salad is a perfect example of that.
Cretan dakos is often served as a salad, a light meal, or as part of an array of mezedes. Its basis is a Cretan dry barley rusk (called paximadia in Greek); think of it as a large, super hard crouton. The rusk is typically topped with the best tomatoes you can find, olive oil, capers, olives, and cheese…all sorts of healthy deliciousness. The rusk is made of whole grain barley, is low in fat and very high in fiber. These rusks must absolutely be softened before eating them but the fact that they are so dry means that they keep well for a long time, in theory; ours never last long enough for this to even be a thought.
Well, this is also fun…
Along with playing tourists in Crete, we also have close friends (family really) who are from Crete and who visit almost annually. If you would like to get some first hand exposure to Crete, with a focus on food (because, yum) head on over to our Instagram page (click here!) and check out our highlight called MK on location (that’s Mia Kouppa on Location) to follow along on their adventures.
The dry barley rusks used to prepare Cretan dakos are incredibly hard; like be-careful-you-don’t-break-your-teeth hard. So, before eating them, they really do need to be softened up. Most recipes suggest quickly running the dry barley rusk under water to allow it to soften. Although this obviously works, our method is to soften the rusk with the juices from a grated ripe tomato; much more delicious than water.
In Crete, dakos salad is usually made with Cretan mizithra or anthotiro, a soft fresh cheese which has a slightly sweet taste and a creamy texture which melts in your mouth. We have a hard time finding this cheese in Canada, so we make our Cretan dakos with feta. Different, but still amazing!
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Are you looking for other great summer salads which use tomatoes? Check out these!
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Cretan dakos (Κρητικός ντάκος)
- 1 Cretan dry barley rusk
- 2 Ripe tomatoes medium size
- 1 - 2 tsps Olive oil
- 2 tsps Capers
- 2 tsps Chopped red onion
- 1 Fresh basil leaf, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1-2 tbsp Crumbled feta
- 2 Kalamata olives, pitted, and chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- Place the rusk in a bowl or plate.
- Take one of your tomatoes and cut in half lengthwise. Grate each half into a bowl; discard the skin.
- Stir the grated tomato juice and pulp and slowly spoon it over the rusk, being careful to spoon it over the entire rusk. Drizzle some olive oil on top of this (about 1/2 teaspoon) and let sit for a few minutes, while you continue with the steps below.
- Chop up your second tomato, place in a bowl. Add the capers, red onion, basil, salt and pepper and stir.
- Slowly spoon this mixture over the rusk and grated tomato topping.
- Drizzle with about 1/2 teaspoon olive oil.
- Top with your crumbled feta, olives, oregano, and drizzle more olive oil over the top (use as much oil as you like).
- Let sit for 5 minutes.