The most known Cretan salad is what we call kritikos 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.
Nutritional Value of the Cretan Salad
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 or you can make them, check my recipe here. 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. If you don’t want to make them you can buy them, 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.
Authentic Cretan Salad: Dakos
- Grate the tomatoes and drain all the liquids.
- 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.
- 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).
- Spoon the tomato on top, covering the whole rusk and then add the crumbled cheese.
- Drizzle with another teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with oregano. Top with a Kalamata olive