Throughout Italy and Greece, dried bread is common – bread that has been baked, sliced, then baked again until very very dry. The most loved use of this bread, called Dakos or Paximadia in Greece and Friselle in Italy, is in salads where the juice of the tomatoes and oil and vinegar dressing soak into the bread, softening it and adding the flavours of Summer. They can also be used like a bruschetta as a base for a variety of Mediterranean toppings.
With some itsy bitsy tomatoes in hand, looking more like jelly beans than tomatoes, we made a Tomato and Walnut Salad with Pomegranate Molasses Dressing. A perfect choice, as we had made our own Pomegranate Molasses, and had whole walnuts sitting on the kitchen bench. You can of course, purchase pomegranate molasses – I find the Middle Eastern shops have the best ones.
It was Lucy’s recipe, from Nourish Me, that we went to for inspiration. It’s a pretty easy salad – take some juicy tomatoes, and make an interesting dressing with garlic, cinnamon and pomegranate molasses. Pretty good, as all of Lucy’s recipes are.
This is a salad with flavours of the Middle East, taking burghul and tomatoes and mixing them with spices, walnuts and pomegranate molasses.
It is a lovely salad, so well suited to Autumn and early Winter (if you can still get good tomatoes). Burghul is available from Middle Eastern groceries – our local shop has about 5 different varieties. This salad uses fine burghul.
Are you after other Burghul dishes? Try Tomato and Walnut Salad with Pomegranate Dressing, A Quick Burghul Salad with Olives, Pomegranate and Hazelnuts, and Cauliflower, Mung Bean and Broken Wheat Kitchari.
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 a huge amount of time, gorgonzola was not available in Australia. It was a source of huge frustration for any foodie, particularly those who love cheeses. But over the years, the restrictions have been relaxed and gorgonzola now appears even on supermarket shelves.
Need I say that we love this cheese? Here is another salad that uses it. It is one of our simple salads and combines the cheese with some tomatoes and Chickpeas and/or White Beans. I like to use cannelini or haricot beans. If you can’t get gorgonzola, there are more cost effective Australian Blue Cheeses that are also divine.
Or other White Bean dishes? Try Greek White Bean Soup, Roasted Red Pepper Salad with White Beans and Mozzarella, Grilled Eggplant Salad with White Beans, and Easy White Bean Salad.
Tomato Salads can be quite simple yet pack a flavour punch. In this world of complex recipes, it is worth having dishes that you can get onto the table in less than 5 minutes – dishes that will compliment the rest of your meal.
Recently we have been making tomato salads – we love to make them in Autumn as Autumn tomatoes are so flavoursome. Today’s recipe is a reminder that simple is often the best. Oh yes.
We have been making this dish for ever and a day. We make all sorts of variations. Sometimes we use Trecce, the plaits of Mozzarella, or really large balls, and tear them apart, drizzling with a grassy extra virgin olive oil and tossing tomato wedges, cucumber slices and basil leaves on top. It is divine, and ready in 5 minutes. Salt and pepper, and it is done.
Sometimes we use tiny bocconcini balls, cutting or tearing them in halves and marinating them, or using them as-is. Add some spring onions to the tomatoes and cucumbers. Drizzle with even more olive oil.
We can’t even remember where we first came across this practice but it is common. Ottolenghi has a great recipe where large balls of Buffalo Mozzarella are marinated in some spices, herbs, garlic and oil, before tomatoes are added. This is probably one of the simplest yet finest suppers you can make. It is a great summery meal to eat on the couch watching your favourite show.
Use only ripe summery tomatoes, juicy and sweetly intense, straight from the garden if you can. Get the best-quality buffalo mozzarella you can find. Serve with good crusty white bread. Enjoy!
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.
Are you looking for other Mozzarella recipes? Try Roasted Red Pepper Salad with Mozzarella and White Beans, Mozzarella and Cucumber Salad with Lemon and Caperberries, and Mozzarella with Crispy Tomato Crumbs.
Browse all of our Ottolenghi recipes, and all of our Mozzarella dishes. Our Tomato recipes are here and our Salads here. Check out our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty. We have written about our experiences cooking through Plenty More.Or explore our Late Summer dishes.
Croutons make great additions to salads, as they add flavour, texture and bulk. A salad that might be light – easily made, quickly eaten and easily digested – can be beefed up (so to speak) with the addition of toasted croutons of any sort of bread. Crispy flatbread will work, rye bread, grain breads and normal white bread all add variety to salads. Or use the Italian Friselle or Greek Dakos, sprinkled with some olive oil and red wine vinegar to soften.
Here is another such recipe. It takes tomatoes and pickles with a little sliced chilli, mixes them with lettuce, tossed with croutons and dressed with a mustardy mayo or vinaigrette. What could be better? A perfect, beefed up salad for a BBQ or lunch.
Where would we be without tomatoes? Here is yet another version of a Tomato Salad, one that pairs them with Mozzarella. Fresh or traditional mozzarella can be used – both are great. Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and Boccancini balls go so well with tomatoes, but so does the traditional, drier Mozzarella. Normally associated with pizza, it is also nice eaten sliced or cubed as part of an antipasto plate or in a salad. That’s the one we use today, but you can choose either.
Still on our Very Simple Salad regime we are making the retro salad of tomatoes and lettuce. Retro indeed, we grew up on this sort of salad. But there is a reason it was once so simple. It is pretty good. Use the best tomatoes possible.
Are you after other Tomato Salads? Try Tomato and Lettuce Salad with Pickles and Croutons, My Mother’s Tomato and Cucumber Salad with a Creamy Dressing, Tomato and Peach Salad, and Warm Tomato Salad. Also try Salad with Swiss Cheese and Rye.