I have fallen in love with Greek tomatoes (sorry to disappoint if friends or parents you thought I was going to say something else here!) and they feature in the majority of my menus. Fresh Greek tomatoes are juicy, flavoursome and sweet and are tasty enough to eat on their own as you would an apple. They are the Greek ‘go to snack’, chopped up/sliced with olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper.
On the retreat I use them in more of a ‘Greek/Mediterranean fusion’ kind of way, in dishes such as watermelon and tomato gazpacho, stuffed with grains and herbs (recipe to follow soon!) or as the stuffing in other vegetables, moussaka (although disappointingly traditional Greek moussaka doesn’t use tomatoes!), Caponata (Sicilian tomato stew), and in my version of ‘Dakos’ (recipe below).
I first came across Dakos when I visited Filiatro beach bar in Ithaca and I’m not sure any other place I’ve visited since (and there have been several) has topped their version. Filiatros beach is about 4 km outside of Vathy. It is known as the party beach and the one bar here plays laid back blues and jazz all day. It is a fantastic place for hanging out and people watching. The beach is protected by a bay and so it is a perfect place to swim. From Filiatro beach you can also get a boat to the stunning Gadaki beach.
Dakos is a hearty salad made up of tomatoes, olive oil, feta and cretian rusks, often with the addition of sliced olives and/or capers. Rusks are a hard bread made from barley or chickpea flour and need to be soaked in water before being eaten. On the retreat, instead of using the rusks I have been using good quality toasted brown sour dough bread as this is a little lighter. It also works well with toasted gluten free bread (I have used Jamie Oliver’s gluten free bread recipe for this. This is a great dish, because it is quick, simple and delicious. The tomatoes should mostly cover the bread and to be piled up high. It goes without saying, but it is essential that you use good quality olive oil and tomatoes in this dish.
Dakos recipe: serves 6 as a substantial starter or lunch dish
6 thick slices of excellent quality brown bread (e.g. sour dough or ciabatta)
8 good quality large tomatoes
10 finely chopped kalamata olives
80g crumbled feta cheese (or other white cheese such as rindless goats cheese or manouri)
4 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper
Handful of basil leaves
1. Toast the bread on both sides in a 200c pre-heated oven until lightly brown on each side and set aside to cool. Cut up into chunks approximately 4 cm and arange between 6 separate plates.
2. De-seed half of the tomatoes and cut up into 1 cm pieces. Cut up the remaining tomatoes (with seeds) into similar sized pieces. Combine with the olives, balsamic vinegar, half the feta and 3 tbsp of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over 1 tsp of oregano and gently mix through. Leave the mixture to sit for 30 minutes.
3.Lay out the toasted bread on 6 separate plates. Top with the tomato mixture, so that the toast is completely covered, and the tomatoes are piled thick. Leave to sit for 5 minutes.
4. Just before serving drizzle over the remaining olive oil, oregano, feta and a couple of basil leaves on top of each slice.
You will probably need a knife and fork to eat this with, so that you can eat the tomatoes and bread together without it falling all over the place!
For a vegan version, this dish is still delicious without the cheese!