Dakos, the salad, is a loved salad of Crete, made with rock hard crisp breads and tomatoes, feta and olives. Ottolenghi has a version in his book Plenty More, born of his stay in Crete where he fell in love with it.
Dakos is alsothe name given to oven-dried breads (often called rusks), which are made with barley to make them sweeter, nuttier and more crunchy than their wheat-only counterparts. Spread out on a plate and covered with the best ripest chopped tomatoes, good olive oil, some crumbled white cheese and black olives, they are seriously addictive. (Confusingly, both this dish and the unadorned rusks themselves are called Dakos!)
Cretan barley rusks aren’t easy to come by (try Greek grocers or online), but the salad Dakos is easy to make with any dried bread, e.g. the Italian Frese Integrali (aka friselle, freselle, frisedde, fresedde, frise) or the Swedish wholemeal Krisprolls, which are more commonly available in some supermarkets and many specialty stores. The tomato juices and vinegar seep into and soften the dry bread as they mix with the creamy cheese and olive oil, to create a timeless Greek experience.
However, if you don’t have access to Dakos or other rusks, try drizzling some medium thick slices of wheat bread with olive oil and baking for 10 – 15 mins in a 175C – 180C oven. They need to be hard, and the ingredients of the salad soak into the bread to soften it and make it addictively delicious.
The taste of any simple tomato-based salad is dependent on the quality of the tomatoes. There is a rich and beefy depth to end-of-season tomatoes that can exceed even those of high summer, but if yours are anything other than bursting with flavour, a pinch of sugar or a few drops of balsamic vinegar will help draw out their natural sweetness. And maybe mix your feta with some ricotta, to simulate the flavour of the sweet Cretan mizithra cheese, which is often served with dakos. (Thanks for this advice, Ottolenghi.)
This is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area.
In fact it is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
Browse all of our Tomato Salads, and all of our Salads. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Mid Summer dishes.
We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.
For this recipe I used Frese Integrali, available from Italian shops. Friselle and other Italian dried breads are the Italian equivalent of the Greek Dakos.
Dakos | Tomato and Bread Salad from Crete
6 large ripest tomatoes, cut into 1cm dice
0.5 red onion, peeled and cut into 0.5cm dice
1 Tblspn red-wine vinegar
2 Tblspn olive oil, plus 1 tbsp extra
0.5 tspn ground allspice
sea salt and black pepper
70g feta, roughly crumbled
40g black olives, pitted and halved
30g capers or sour grapes
150g Cretan dakos (or other rusks or crispbreads, see the notes above)
5g chopped parsley
fresh or dried oregano leaves (Greek oregano if you can get it) – use about 3g fresh leaves, or a good pinch dried leaves.
Put the tomatoes, onion, vinegar, two Tblspn of oil, the oregano and the allspice in a bowl, add 0.33 tspn sea salt and a good grind of black pepper, stir gently and set aside.
Spread out the dakos on a large platter and spoon the tomato mixture on top. Sprinkle over the feta, olives and capers, and top with parsley, oregano and the remaining olive oil. Leave to sit for five minutes or more before serving.