My name day was on August 15th, when all the Marias, Marios, Panagiotis, Panagiotas, and a few other names originating from Greek names for the Virgin Mary, were celebrating in Greece. Name days are very important in Greece, more important than birthdays for most people, and this one is at the top of the list. Besides being a major religious holiday (the Dormition of the Virgin Mary is called the second Easter), it is a national holiday and also marks the end of summer. Soon after August 15th, families start coming back from their holidays, offices and shops re-open after a long weekend, and kids start getting ready for the new school year.
Here in Ohio, where I celebrated my name day, it has been constantly raining so it truly felt like the end of summer! It made me quite homesick for something fresh and summery, because in Greece it’s still sunny and hot and dry. So I celebrated my name day and this end of my summer with a dákos, a sunny Cretan specialty that is reminiscent of the Italian bruschetta. A dákos consists of a soaked barley rusk topped with olive oil, chopped tomatoes, feta cheese, herbs and the oh-so-omnipresent Kalamata olive. We don’t have barley rusks here in the US (maybe something to import in our next round of goodies?!), but you can substitute it with leftover bread that you can dry further in the oven until it becomes hard.
It's a very satisfying experience to eat a dákos: it’s crunchy, juicy, salty, flavorful and very healthy, especially if you can find the barley rusks that are full of fiber. Here is the easy and versatile recipe to help you mark the end of the Greek summer; I've given the ingredients for my own solo lunch but you can easily multiply to serve several people at a lunch or dinner.
1 barley rusk or 1-2 slices of dried, toasted French bread
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (or more if you like cheese)
2 tbsp of Tragano Greek Organics EVOO
5 or more Tragano Greek Organics Pitted Kalamata Olives (whole or chopped)
1 pinch of Sparoza’s 15 Greek Herbs and Seeds blend
a sprig of Tragano Greek Organics Sea fennel to garnish
Quickly pass your barley rusk under running water. Skip that step if you are using your dried bread.
Chop the tomatoes and keep the juices.
Put your rusk or bread at the bottom of a plate or salad bowl.
Top with half the olive oil.
Top with the chopped tomatoes and spread evenly so that the juices will be absorbed by the bread or rusk.
Top with the feta cheese, the herbs, the rest of the olive oil and garnish with a sprig of sea fennel. Enjoy!
Let your dákos sit for a little, the more the juices penetrate the bread the more tasty it becomes. For an extra touch of color, garnish with a sprig of sea fennel.
As an alternative, break up your rusk or dried bread and put the pieces at the bottom of your salad bowl when you make a Real Greek Salad. Then enjoy all the concentrated flavor in every bite of that bread!
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