Dakos (or ntakos), also known as koukouvagia (which means owl!) is a traditional Cretan meze consisting of a thick slice of soaked barley rusk (paximadi), topped with olive oil, chopped, fresh tomato and mizithra or xinomizithra, a kind of traditional Cretan cheese. The recipe I’m sharing today is very similar to our traditional Cretan dakos apart from that I substituted the traditional cheese with a homemade vegan mizithra cheese. Traditional vegan cheese varieties such as the Cretan xinomizithra are always very interesting and I am really happy I made vegan the kind of cheese with which I grew up!
Cretan dakos, is one of the things that brings to my mind sweet memories from my grandmother. The reason for that is that she used to make three or four times each year a huge (really huge) batch of barley bread with her own sourdough and she used to bake it in her wood oven twice, in order to make barley rusks (paximadia). These would serve as our bread for the next two or three months, till the next time she would bake (as in many other Cretan households). Barley rusks are between the most common foods found in every Cretan home and the basis to the traditional dish that is called “dakos” ( some tourists by mistake call it “tacos” but it has nothing to do with that!). As a child, when I was hungry, sometimes my grandma would make me a dakos, by soaking a barley rusk for a few seconds in water (the traditional Cretan rusks are so hard that they cannot be eaten unless they dampen!) and then she would drizzle it with olive oil, a little salt and a little chopped tomato and oregano.
This vegan version of the Cretan dakos is an delicious idea when our time is scarce and we need a quick, delicious and tasty lunch or when we are looking for a stunning appetizer.
For the fermented raw, almond, soft cheese (vegan mizithra or xinomizithra)
- 2 cups almonds, raw
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp apple-cider vinegar or other white vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp soy yogurt (optional) or a probiotic capsule
- Soak the almonds for eight hours in filtered water. Usually I let them soak overnight. The next day drain and peel them. To remove the peels more easily, soak for 5 minutes in boiling water and peel while they are stil hot.
- Put the almonds in the blender along with the rest of the ingredients and blend until creamy. To make things easier, stop the blender every few seconds and with a wooden or silicone spatula, clean the walls of the bowl and mix slightly.
- To obtain the salty, sharp taste similar to the xinomyzithra, mix in the soy yoghurt and let the almond cheese sit in a warm place for 8-10 hours to ferment.
Almond xinomizithra can be kept in the refrigerator for 5-6 days or more and from day to day its taste will become sharper.
Ingredients for 2 dakos:
- 2 barley rusks
- 2 medium ripe tomatoes grated or chopped
- 2 tsp of olive oil (or more)
- 4 tbsp vegan mizithra cheese
If your rusks are too hard -like the traditional- just soak them in a bowl of filtered water for 2 seconds (not more) before consuming. Pour one teaspoon of olive oil over each rusk and with a spoon top with a pretty large layer of tomato. Salt the tomato and add 2 tbsp of xinomyzithra in every dakos. Garnish with ground oregano and perhaps a few olives and serve immediately.
Note: Feel free to use the almond pulp left from making almond milk in order to make your own vegan mizithra. In that case, I would suggest mixing in one tablespoon of olive oil after fermentation, for a really rich flavor.