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.
From time to time I stick with several plant milk recipes, depending on the season and the ingredients that are available and of course on my appetite. So lately, after about two months of using almost exclusively pumpkin seed milk (during winter we consume a lot of pumpkins and I didn’t want to waste the pumpkin seeds), I’ve become almost obsessed with homemade oat milk. This obsession started one morning that I was about to enjoy my usual morning vegan latte when I realized that there was no milk in the fridge, I had not soaked almonds to make almond milk and the time (6.30 in the morning) was totally inappropriate to visit the nearest organic food store and buy something. What I needed that time was a quick and easy recipe for a plant-based milk that could also work for my coffee.
Luckily, homemade oat milk, along with homemade coconut milk, are cheap and easy to make – it only takes few minutes and minimal effort- and they both have an amazing flavor. Rolled oats is something I always keep in my cupboards, so in less than ten minutes I blended a cup of rolled oats with water, I strained the oat milk and I prepared an espresso, in order to make my precious vegan latte.
One of the things that I really like with oat milk is that it has a neutral flavor, slightly sweet taste, much better than the commercial oat milk varieties and a relatively dense consistency with makes it very satisfying. Moreover, when I simmer it a little bit to make my latte, it becomes thicker, giving to my coffee a nice creaminess without the additional fat and the calories found in the coffee-creamers or the coconut milk.
The remaining pulp in the strainer can be added in our breakfast bowl or it can be incorporated into the dough for a homemade bread, as it is rich in vitamins and minerals, just as oat milk is.
- 1 cup rolled oats (opt for gluten-free if you prefer)
- 3 cups water at room temperature
- 1 tsp natural vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp brown sugar or the sweetener of your choice
1. Put the oats in the blender together with the water and blend at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, depending on your blender.
2. Lay a sieve with cheesecloth and strain. Squeeze the cloth to drain most of the liquid.
3. If you want you can add sweetener of your choice and flavor with natural vanilla extract. Store in sterile glass bottle in the refrigerator. You can keep it for up to three days.
Carobs are well-known as some of the nutrient-rich gifts nature gave to us and fortunately carob trees are found everywhere in Greece. The great thing about carobs is their unique flavor which slightly reminds me of a naturally made caramel while carob products, namely the carob powder (or carob flour) and the carob syrup can be used in various vegan recipes.
One of the healthiest sweet recipes with which I am stuck this year are these raw vegan carob and walnut energy bars. Basically in the mornings I like to wrap one bar in parchment paper and put it in my bag before going to work. Around 11 am, ie the cravings time, this vegan bar is the most tasty, healthy and hearty solution that I could have. Moreover the walnuts and the flaxseeds they contain fulfill my daily requirement in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, while raisins and raw carob powder make them wonderfully sweet and fruity.
- 1 cup (150 g) raisins
- 1 cup (100 g) rolled oats (or rolled buckwheat)
- 1/2 cup (55g) ground flaxseed
- 1/4 cup (40 g) carob powder
- 1/2 cup raw walnuts (60 g), divided (¼ + ¼)
- 1-2 tbsp water (if necessary)
1. Soak the raisins in water for fifteen minutes and drain well.
2. Put the raisins in the food processor and process for 2-3 minutes until mashed. Add the oats, flaxseeds, ¼ cup walnuts and the carob powder and keep processing. If your mixture is not consistent enough, add a spoonful of water and process for one more minute.
3. Lay a medium-sized (21x11x6), rectangular cake tin with parchment paper. Transfer the mixture in the tin, press with your hands to the bottom and flatten the surface. Finely chop the remaining walnuts, sprinkle them on top and press them a little bit to stick. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
4. Remove the mixture from the tin and cut vertically. My cake tin is 21 cm long so I made three centimeters long cuts, ending up with seven bars. Keep them in an airtight container in the fridge.