I have to admit, when I first heard of dakos, how they’re distinctly Cretan and you MUST have them while in Greece, I was a little underwhelmed and kinda unimpressed. At first sight dakos look like they’d just be a Greek version of bruschetta, and I guess in theory they are if you think of the whole tomato on toast thing, but in reality, they are very different.
I think we had dakos at just about every meal we had in Crete, and when speaking to some locals it became very apparent that this is definitely something Cretans themselves do frequently eat. They also take a fair bit of pride in their particular method of making them too, which I can alway respect. And, if they’re being made at someone’s home they’re probably also topping it with their homemade olive oil grown from the trees on their property. Yes, Crete is a magical land.
Dakos appear to be bread with tomato, cheese and olives. And in practice that’s true but slightly more complex. The base of the whole thing is a barley rusk. It’s a thick slice of barley bread that’s been dried to preserve it, possibly for eternity. They are rock solid, like a hockey puck. So, what you do is either dip it in some water, or do what was recommended to me, and put them under some running water for a few seconds. It’ll soak into the bread, slightly rehydrate it and make it edible again. The rusks are then drowned in olive oil, a Cretan variety is clearly preferable here, and then topped with some grated tomato, super sharp myzithra (also spelled mizithra) cheese and some salty olives. It’s nutty, salty and refreshing, the perfect thing to eat on a dry, hot day in Crete, but I’ll settle for some on a grey, humid day in Philly.
It’s nutty, salty and refreshing, the perfect thing to eat on a dry, hot day in Crete, but I’ll settle for some on a grey, humid day in Philly.
This whole things relies on getting ahold of those barley rusks. A bag seems to last indefinitely since they’re dried and meant to last. So once you get ahold of them, acquiring the additional ingredients is fairly easy peasy.
And, regarding that myzithra. Unless this is easily accessible, and if you went through the trouble to get the rusks, you can probably find this, but you can always just use feta. You want to make sure it’s salty and sharp. I’ve had a hard time using up the full ball of mizithra on the two occasions I have had them, but I will always eat some feta. And, as a side note, if you know of any recipes that use myzithra, let me know about it in the comments!
It's not just Greek bruschetta
- Barley Rusks
- Olive Oil
- Mizithra or Feta
- Salted Olives
- Dried Oregano
First up you’ll need to prep those rusks. Just make sure to get them wet on both sides, and don’t be shy. I really do just hold them under running water for a few seconds to help soften them up. Then drizzle with a good glug of the best olive oil you’ve got. You want to make sure it’s extra virgin and slightly peppery if possible.
Next comes the tomatoes. I highly recommend you grate them. You could certainly top with some chopped up tomato here, but the grating gets the tomato extra juicy and helps with the whole rehydrating of the rusks thing we’re going for. Then you top with some mizithra cheese. It’s super dry, crumbly and as far as I know is only sold in softball size portions. You could also use feta if you like. And finally the toppings, it’s gotta be dried oregano and then salted, wrinkly olives. The whole combination is incredibly simple, but the combination of the salty cheese and olives with the nutty bread and fresh tomato and spicy olive oil is the best.
I would suggest one last drizzle, or two, of olive oil and then eat up!