Of all the different regional foods I’ve tried along my travels in Greece, Cretan cuisine is by far my favorite. There is such a simplicity to it that it makes you wonder how the food could taste so good. Fresh herbs, cheese, vegetables, and plenty of olive oil are all used to create simple but flavorful dishes in restaurants and homes from the most rural villages to cities like Chania. One of the best representations of the Cretan cuisine is Dakos. It’s a traditional meze (appetizer) and one dish I could eat daily and never get tired of.
Dakos is a twice-baked rusk bread and is very hard, meaning before serving you must reconstitute with water or olive oil to soften it. In Crete the rusks are most often barley based, but wheat or rye based are also common. But what tops the rusks is what makes the dish so memorable. To make Cretan dakos, the rusks are topped with juicy tomatoes (preferably fresh from the vine), plenty of cheese (Cretan mizithra, feta or other soft cheese) and garnished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and oregano. Complete the dakos with a kalamata olive on top. Now, if you look straight down you may notice the dakos resembles the eye of an owl, which is why in Crete the dish is also referred to as Koukouvagia (owl). Dakos is simple but full of all the right flavors and even surprisingly filling so it can be served as a snack or meal.
If you’re new to Cretan cuisine, dakos is the perfect place to start your journey. You don’t need to travel all the way to Crete to make dakos as it’s a simple enough recipe that can be easily made from home. But fair warning, just one bite of dakos and you’ll be searching for the next flight to Crete to get your hands on an authentic dakos and explore other varieties of Cretan dishes. Just be sure to take me with you, the dakos will be on me.
*This recipe yields 1-2 servings. Double, triple, quadruple to make more dakos for your friends and family!*
-2 barley rusks
-3 medium tomatoes, grated
-2 tablespoons oregano
-3 to 5 ounces soft cheese (mizithra, ricotta or feta cheese)*
-extra virgin olive oil
-pinch of salt
*Learn how to Make Your Own Cheese for your Dakos!*
1. Grate tomatoes and put aside in a bowl. Mix in oregano and a pinch of salt with the tomatoes.
2. Run the rusks under water to lightly moisten the rusks. Plate the rusks and drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over each rusk.
3. Spread the tomato mixture on top of each rusk, covering the entire rusk. Add the soft cheese on top.
4. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle additional oregano on top.
5. To finish, top with a kalamata olive and enjoy!