The Cretan Dakos: This is What The Mediterranean Diet is All About

July 9, 2014
By

Kritikos dakos

I don’t know where to start with the dakos. It is delicious, it is healthy, it is the ultimate representation of the Mediterranean diet, straight from Crete.

First of all it’s been described as a Greek bruschetta, but it isn’t, it is a bit different. Here’s what it is: Dakos specifically refers to a recipe that uses the famous Cretan barley rusks. These rusks are made with whole grain barley flour, water and salt. They are super hard and super healthy. Also dakos includes olive oil, tomato, and crumbled cheese, traditionally this cheese is Cretan mitzithra but you often see it (outside of Crete) made with feta.

And that’s it. Sometimes there may be a few capers scattered around, but really it is just tomato, rusk and olive oil.

Nutrition wise, I cannot think of a better dish for anything really…salad, appetizer, meze, main course.

First of all let’s talk about the paximadi (rusk), these are traditionally made with barley flour (whole grain), salt and yeast. Barley contains a type of fiber known as soluble fiber that helps lower the bad cholesterol (LDL). But it also contains beta-glucan a component of carbohydrates found only in specific grains such as barley, that appear to also lower cholesterol but also lower blood sugar and provide better control of insulin. Barley has also been found to lower blood pressure and reduce hunger and increase satiety.

The tomato and olive oil as you may already know, are excellent sources of antioxidants (and the oregano if you add it). The olive oil also gives all that good fat (and favor) and the cheese is your source of protein and calcium.

Yes, this is a complete meal, but also a healthy meal for several reasons: It is a rich source of fiber, it fills you up, it provides antioxidants and vitamins, it contains good carbs, good fats and protein.

I will say that if you do not have Cretan rusks to use thick whole grain bread that is toasted. But to be honest, I strongly suggest that you get yourself some Cretan barley rusks. They are so healthy and can be used for the dakos, you can crumble them in salads or just eat them with a bit of olive oil and oregano. And they a have a long shelf life. I did a quick search and even Amazon carries several Greek brands.

The recipe is straightforward and only takes a few minutes. Make sure you grate the tomato, I’ve seen recipes with chopped tomato, but grated tomato is how it is usually served. This makes the dish even more enjoyable: you have the top layer with the soft and smooth tomato-cheese mixture and below a crunchy but juicy barley rusk crust. I also load these with a lot of tomato. I actually used almost one medium tomato for each dakos.

Cretan Dakos (Kritikos Dakos)

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 round Cretan barley rusks about 4 inches in diameter (8-10 cm) or 4 slices toasted and thick whole grain bread
  • 4 medium tomatoes grated
  • 3-4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • Dry oregano
  • Black olives for decoration

DIRECTIONS

1. Grate the tomatoes and drain all the liquids.

2. Pass the rusk under running water (very quickly) and place on a plate. (Skip this step if you using bread). Cretan rusks are very hard but you do not want to soften them too much, you do not want a soggy dakos. It should still be crunchy but easily breakable.

3. Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and let it absorb. (Please note that here in Greece we often add much more olive oil, but this amount works fine).

4. Spoon the tomato on top, covering the whole rusk and then add the crumbled cheese.

5. Drizzle with another teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with oregano. Top with a Kalamata olive.

Serve.

Photo by Elena Paravantes
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13 Responses to The Cretan Dakos: This is What The Mediterranean Diet is All About

  1. July 9, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    Dakos! So delicious! I love how your post addresses the nutritional benefits and recipe differences between the Cretan and Greek version. Great site with wonderful information and recipes!

    • Elena Paravantes RD
      July 10, 2014 at 4:36 pm

      Thanks! I think it is important that foods tastes good buy can also be good for you.

  2. July 10, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Sounds very delicious:) Hope to find barley rusks in Poland.

    • Elena Paravantes RD
      July 10, 2014 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks Zuzanna! There are online stores that can deliver cretan rusks anywhere in Europe too.

  3. July 10, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    This sounds delicious. I am currently on the Mayo Clinic diet, but am experimenting with new recipes from the Mediterranean diet. Thanks for sharing.

    I will have to see if my local store has the Cretan Barley husks – I am not sure about ordering food online.

    I would also like to share my website with your readers. http://www.justloseitmom.com. I am recording my own weight loss journey and they may be interested. Thanks again for another great recipe.

  4. July 11, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Is this also known as κουκουβάγια?

  5. July 13, 2014 at 9:28 am

    I’m enjoying your site so much!
    I hope I may ask an off topic question: My neighbour, here on Crete, brought me some striped, a bit hairy, vegetables. They look a bit like cucumbers/courgettes.
    I googled but no result. Do you happen to know this mysterious vegetable and how to prepare it? Thank you!

    • Elena Paravantes RD
      July 14, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      Thanks Hanneke! Not sure what that can be. Maybe some sort of wild variety of zucchini. You can try making a lathero with it.

      • eni
        July 15, 2014 at 10:29 am

        The striped, hairy vegetable is the local, delicious cucumber. It is usualy very crunchy and smells heavenly. Wash it well, peel it and eat it just with a bit of salt.

        • Elena Paravantes RD
          July 16, 2014 at 6:04 am

          Thanks Eni! Would love to have some of those.

        • July 19, 2014 at 5:50 pm

          Thanks a lot Eni,You are right it is delicious and tastier than the regular cucumber! How lucky we are to have such wonderful vegetables on Crete!

  6. August 23, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    People in the Maghreb (North Africa) also eat a lot of barley bread, and I can easily find it in Montréal, where there is a large Maghrebi population (whether Muslim or Sephardic Jewish). There is also barley couscous, which is a very nutritious food.

    • Elena Paravantes RD
      August 24, 2014 at 9:06 am

      Thanks for sharing!

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