ReCRETEing: Making Cretan Dakos at Home
Recently, I was in Greece as part of my Creative Writing MFA program with Spalding University. Since it was for school, I was supposed to be there to immerse myself into the classic Greek myths, be awe-inspired by architecture, and reflect on the country’s current economic situation; but really I just wanted to eat things.
I have a confession; I was not a fan of feta cheese. But as you can tell by my use of the past tense in that last sentence, that is no longer true. I now am in love with feta. Maybe not totally in love, what I mean to say is feta and I are going out, but I’m still seeing other cheeses.
My most favorite Greek treat of all snuck up on me like person you’ve been friends with forever and then you wake up one day and realize you are in love with them even though they’ve been there the whole time.
I know what you are thinking! What is this dish? Heather, stop making metaphors about romance when you can be telling us how to make this food!
OK! OK! What is this amazing dish? Cretan Dakos. As you can tell it’s specific to the island of Crete. You can get dakos other places, but why would you when you can get them in the place that invented them? Just in case you can’t go to Crete, I’ll tell you how to make them at home.
Upon first glance, dakos looks like a sort of bruschetta, and to leap back to my relationship metaphors, I do not swipe right with bruschetta. It’s not my favorite and I won’t apologize for that! But let’s not judge a food by what other food it looks like.
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Dakos is so simple: barley rusk, crushed tomatoes, feta cheese, olive oil, and oregano.
No really, that’s it. No cooking, no stirring, no exquisite measuring. Except for crushing tomatoes. I crushed my tomatoes with a Colorado Fourteener pint glass. You can crush them any way you like.
The hardest part is finding the barley rusks. They’re not something you can find everywhere. I went to Bill’s Important Foods in Minneapolis to gather my ingredients. They have everything I needed! I got three kinds of rusk: wheat, rye, and barley. If you can get them, the barley rusk is the way to go!
To assemble, first place a scoop of tomatoes on top of the barley rusk. Don’t get all intimidated by the hardness of the rusks, that is what makes this dish work. If you do a light Google search on the internet many recipes will tell you to put the rusks in water first to soften them up, THIS IS A LIE, the crunch is the whole point. Please don’t water your rusk; it’s not a sad houseplant. By the way, maybe you should go water your house plants, you are welcome for the reminder.
After you’ve watered that lonely fern and put the crushed tomatoes on the rock hard rusk, rain some feta cheese on that. I used the kind that comes in a big tub and is swimming in brine.
Then pour a little olive oil on it. For those of you still afraid of the crunch of the rusk the olive oil helps this out which is why it’s not necessary to put water on it. I used my genuine Cretan Olive Oil but go ahead and use what you like!
Then sprinkle on some oregano. I made a point to buy Greek oregano.
And there it is.
Why are you not impressed? It’s so simple.
Now eat it. You’re mind will be blown! It’s a fresh flavor bonanza!
I like it on so many levels. I think each dako looks like a small model of the island of Crete. It’s a fun vegetarian option for everyone. I’m always a fan of barley. Also, I like a dish that is about making a mess on the plate. I hope you love it as much as I do. And if you don’t, more for me!