Dakos also referred to as ‘Cretan Rusk,’ has been a food staple for Cretans for centuries, outlining the island’s culinary landscape with its understated elegance. Dakos is a barley rusk salad that brings together a variety of flavors and textures, all while utilizing the freshest local ingredients.
The foundation of Dakos is a thick, crisp slice of dried barley bread. This is soaked lightly in water to slightly soften its rugged texture and then generously doused with Greek olive oil, another staple ingredient in Mediterranean kitchens. This rusk’s hard texture and nutty flavor create an engaging experience in every bite, acting as the perfect base for the layers of toppings that follow.
The next layer of this dish is made up of the ripest tomatoes, finely chopped, and spread over the rusk. Cretan tomatoes bring a juicy, sweet, and slightly tangy taste to the palate, balancing the rusk’s robustness.
After the tomatoes comes the layer of feta or mizithra cheese. Feta cheese, made of sheep or goat milk, provides a creamy, tangy counterpoint to the sweet tomatoes. Mizithra, a traditional whey cheese, could also be used. It has a mild, sweet flavor when fresh, but as it ages, it takes in a more assertive, salty taste which pairs beautifully with the other Dakos’s components.
A sprinkle of Greek oregano, a herb loved for its pungent, peppery flavor, and chopped Kalamata olives. Capers may also be added for an extra burst of briny flavor.
This simple dish provides an insight into the heart of Cretan tradition and tells a story of a people deeply connected with their land and the fruits it bears. The barley bread represents the island’s cereals, the tomatoes, and olives embody the lush vegetation, and the cheese stands for the thriving dairy farming.
Santorinis Fava Me Koukia
Fava Me Koukia is a smooth, velvety puree made from yellow split peas, otherwise known as “Lathyrus Clymenum”. The primary ingredients required for this dish are modest – yellow split peas, onions, and olive oil. The split peas are simmered slowly until tender, alongside finely chopped onions sauteed in olive oil. The mixture is then mashed until it forms a smooth, creamy puree.
When attentively slow-cooked, the yellow split peas develop deep, nutty undertones, while the onions infused in olive oil introduce a sweet, slightly caramelized complexity to the dish.
It is often dressed with additional toppings before serving. Among the most popular are finely chopped onions, capers, or a splash of lemon juice that cuts through the rich creaminess of the pureed peas. A chunk of warm, fresh bread is served alongside, for scooping up the Fava.
Fava Me Koukia is enjoyed as both a main course and an appetizer, often paired with a glass of local Assyrtiko wine. It tells a story of Santorini’s agricultural history. Yellow split peas have been cultivated on the island for over 3,500 years. The European Union has granted these split peas a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).
Sardines from Lesbos, also known as papalina, stand out due to their extraordinary quality and exceptional taste. Their journey begins in the waters of the North Aegean Sea, particularly in the Gulf of Kalloni, where they find an ideal marine habitat.
Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals, they present an excellent example of healthy yet flavorsome Greek food.
After a thorough but gentle cleaning process, the sardines are grilled, garnished with a splash of local olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, and brightened up with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
This approach towards the preparation allows the vibrant flavors of the sardines to be thoroughly enjoyed, granting the crisp flesh a subtle hint of smokiness from the grill, a tang from the lemon, and a glossy coat from the olive oil.
Sardines from Lesbos are celebrated in significant culinary festivals on the Island. The most notable of them is the ‘Feast of Sardine,’ held every August in the Gulf of Kalloni. Imported and local visitors gather for a delightful gastronomic experience, reveling in the celebration.
The European Union has awarded the Sardines of Lesbos a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, officially recognizing their unique quality and fundamental link to the island.
Sofrito is a dish that centers around a prime cut of beef, slow-cooked to tender perfection. Its real charm lies in the intricate play of flavors that grace the meat. The ingredients are selected with an eye for harmony, laying the foundation for an exquisite gastronomic experience that is both comforting and vibrantly flavorful.
The preparation process begins with the beef cutlets that are thinly sliced and then subjected to a gentle cooking process. The meat is cooked slowly in a white wine and garlic sauce, together with a blend of herbs that includes parsley. This slow-cooking technique ensures that the flavors meld together, resulting in meat that is tender, moist, and suffused with a rich and aromatic sauce.
The robust flavors of garlic and the delicate aroma of parsley pair beautifully with the rich meat, while acidity from the white wine adds the slightest tang, thereby elevating the dish to an unforgettable gastronomic journey.
Sofrito is traditionally served with mashed potatoes or rice to accompany, both proving excellent choices as they absorb the splendid, juice-infused white wine sauce remarkably well.
Melekouni is a sesame and honey-based sweet treat, distinguished by its firm texture and invigorating flavor profile. It embodies ingredients of the Mediterranean diet – honey, sesame seeds, and selected regional spices, all blended together.
Its main ingredient, sesame seeds, possesses a delicate, nutty taste and provides a good source of fiber and plant-based protein. When these seeds combine with the natural sweetness and golden color of honey, a delightful fusion ensues, creating a treat that is both healthy and delicious.
Honey is locally sourced, contributing to the treat’s rich, robust taste. While honey adds a sweet undertone, a delicate infusion of spices intensifies the Melekouni’s flavor, resulting in a unique taste sensation.
Sesame seeds are lightly toasted, and then combined with warmed honey and a selection of spices, including cinnamon and orange zest. The aromatic mixture is then spread into a thin layer, allowed to cool and cut into small rectangular or diamond shapes.
Melekouni has been given as a wedding favor, celebrating love and the promise of a sweet life together.
Mykonos Kopanisti Mykonou
The name Kopanisti Mykonou is derived from the Greek word ‘kopanizo’, meaning ‘to beat or ‘to knock,’ indicating the preparation process. This authentic cheese holds the status of a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product.
Kopanisti is a soft, creamy cheese, distinguished by its prominent peppery and salty flavor profile. This cheese is made from fermented cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, or a mix of both. It takes around three months to reach the desired degree of fermentation and achieve its potent taste and aroma.
The milk is initially pasteurized, following which local, natural cultures are introduced to kickstart fermentation. The mixture is then repeatedly stirred over consecutive days, promoting the distinctive creamy texture and the intense earthy, salty flavor that Kopanisti Mykonou is known for.
The versatility of Kopanisti Mykonou makes it a regular feature in various dishes on the island of Mykonos. It is a favored addition to salads, a scrumptious spread on bread or rusks, and it serves as an excellent ingredient for pies. It also makes for a robust companion to wines, particularly red varieties.