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Cretan Dakos Salad with Feta Mousse (Ντάκος)

Updated: Jan 3

Ready in 15 min


What is it

If someone ever asked me where is the best tasted and healthiest regional cuisine in Greece, I’d vote for Crete. And if you’d asked me which dish you should not miss when in Crete, I’d go for “Dakos” (also known as "Koukouvayia" in some regions). Dakos is a type of rusk made in Crete but has also given its name to this famous salad. This dish is amazing for its simplicity and versatility: Fresh tomatoes, on a rusk, topped with a special Cretan cheese (or Feta), olives, capers and olive oil. It can be served as salad, appetizer or as a complete light meal, ideal for diets, as breakfast, dinner or brunch. It is also good for a super quick meal for kids that love cheese (just make sure you add that spoonful of honey to sweeten the tangy feta flavour ;-). Unfortunately, for feta haters, this is a dish absolutely enjoyed topped with feta or any sort of white cheese of one’s preference. A candidate for substitute would be ricotta cheese, which very closely resembles the Cretan cheese.


Origin

Santorini capers
Some of the best capers in the world grow in Santorini

Greeks were very keen on saving and storing bread for a long time, a leftover habit from the wartimes. Rusks are the best example of preserving bread, which is then re-hydrated briefly under runny water, just before being eaten. These days is very often found in most of the modern Greek cupboards as (a) they keep for a long time dehydrated and (b) are made of wholemeal barley or rye which is very low in fat, rich in vitamins and high in fibre. The roots of this dish are geographically located in the Southern Aegean region, particularly in the island of Crete (although nowadays can be found all over Greece). I particularly relish the Cycladic island versions, topped with various different cheese varieties, local to each island, and with amazing caper berries that grow up so tasty in the arid climate of Cyclades. And that’s what’s magic about this simple, healthy, delicious dish: change the cheese topping and you’ve got a totally new tasting experience.


Recipe

Very simple in execution, with only a few ingredients to gather, and no cooking involved. Just a little bit of labour to grate the tomato ;-) The Cretan version comes with a special Cretan soft white cheese, something like ricotta, but you can also find it served with crumbled feta. In my version, as no Cretan cheese is available close to where I live in London, I’ve used feta converted into a delicious mousse. The mousse recipe is coming from one of the nation’s favourite chefs, Akis Petretzikis, and just added some honey to alleviate its tanginess (Cretan cheese is generally mellower). But frankly speaking, the real reason I was so eager to publish this post is not quite the recipe as such, but rather the photos. A stack of colourful ingredients piled up in layers, presenting one of the healthiest and most picturesque dishes I know… Enjoy!


Ingredients

For the Salad:

  • 2 large rusks or 4 mini rusks

  • 2 extra-large ripe tomatoes (or 4 small)

  • 2 tsp capers

  • 3-4 Kalamata olives, whole or chopped.

  • 2 tbsp oregano, parsley or basil – I prefer fresh and finely chopped oregano. Replace with dried herbs if not available.

  • Olive oil

  • Salt and pepper to taste


For the feta mousse:

Follow Akis’ recipe here, just add one tbsp honey in the mix. Alternatively, just crumble the feta with your hands. Feta haters: use ricotta or cottage cheese instead (but be sure it's never going to be the same).


Instructions

  • Grate the tomatoes as in the photos below. Discard the remaining skins.


  • Prepare the rusk. depending on its hardness, there are 2 ways to soften the rusk: (a) spoon the juices of the grated tomato and let it sit for a while or (b) if the rusk is tooth-breaking hard, add a splash of water to it or briefly moisten it under the runny tap water.

  • Place the rusk on your plate and pour over the tomato juice. Spoon the grated tomato pulp and spread it equally to cover the whole surface of the rusk.

  • Season with some salt, dried oregano and a drizzle of olive oil and let them sit for a few minutes until you prepare your feta mousse (that will infuse the tomato juices and taste into the rusk).

  • Prepare your feta mousse according to the instructions here.

  • Spoon your feta mousse carefully over the tomato spread. If you skip the mousse, crumble your feta or ricotta over the tomato spread.

  • Top it with olives and capers and drizzle with olive oil to your taste.

  • Serve immediately


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