Crete and day old bread

June 1, 2009

I know you don’t understand the title, but give me a little time. I’ll somehow make it work.

Anyways, I don’t have too much that’s interesting to write about Crete–not that it isn’t beautiful, because it IS.

It’s just that we spent most of our time seeing historical ruins, which was incredibly interesting to my history-geek husband, but I don’t think you all would appreciate a detailed lecture about the Palace of Knossos. Although it was very cool and hubby got to pretend to slay a Minotaur.

You probably don’t want a lecture about the Temple of Poseidon, either. Even though it was quite impressive and made us feel very small.

You probably don’t care too much about a church settled on the tip of “Athena’s Rock,” a large cliff that, when you climb it, gives you an amazing view of the city.

You might be amused and appalled, as I was, to discover that there are Tossers out there who will tag beautiful churches in historically rich places…even though you cannot argue with their musical taste.

I could rattle on about them, and you might even be kind enough to listen, but truth be told, we didn’t do much except view these wonders, which took ten hour days to travel to and explore. The rest of the time, we couldn’t much be bothered to leave our hotel because we got a surprise upgrade to a room that had this on our back patio. I know, I hate me, too.

We did stumble upon some open air markets and I again had to marvel how you could just saunter down the road and find places that sell zucchini blossoms and fresh snails and amazing fish. That’s the good life, if you ask me.

I’d love to tell you about the restaurants on Crete, but I’m going to be lame about this too, because we were exhausted after our day trips and our hotel had an adorable taverna right in it’s own backyard.

I know.

But one thing I DO want to talk about is dakos. Dakos is a Cretan salad that we found everywhere we went on the island. Basically, dakos is made up of day old bread, fresh tomatoes and feta cheese, drizzled with olive oil and oregano. It’s delicious and quite a clever way to use leftover bread, if I say so myself.

Dakos reminded me of the Italian dish panzanella, which is a salad made up of cubes of day old baguette, tomatoes, onions, basil and sometimes cucumber, bathed in viniagrette. I make it in the summer when the herb garden explodes on me and I have basil coming out my ears. Try it on a hot summer night with a chilly glass of pinot grigio–your body and your taste buds will thank you.

And thinking about dakos and panzanella got me thinking about old bread. I always have old bread hanging around, and I bet you do, too.

Growing up, my mother took day old french bread, buttered it, popped it under the broiler, slathered it with jam and fed it to us kids, calling it “party toast.” She’s a clever cricket, my mother. Serve a kid anything with the word party in front of it and it’ll be down the gullet in no time.

My grandmother used day old bread to make bread pudding. Bread pudding is a delicious way to make “something outta nothin’,” but I can’t recommend it because if I used all of my leftover bread that way, I’d be bigger than a barn. Bread, cream, sugar and eggs…my butt grows just thinking about it.

I’m not very creative with my ugly ends of baguette–I usually make croutons. Bo-ring.

It gets me wondering–how do you, gentle readers, deal with day old bread? And since day old bread is, I think, probably a world-wide problem, in kitchens around the globe, do you suppose that every culture/cuisine has some dish that uses leftover bread? Well, maybe not all cultures–some cultures are grappling with leftover rice instead, but still.

I can rattle off a few. Italy has panzanella and ribollitta, the vegetable soup that uses day old bread as a base. England/Ireland has bread pudding. Greeks, dakos. I think in the Middle East they make a salad a lot like panzanella but with leftover pita/flatbread? Mexico has chilaquales, a dish with leftover tortillas, stir fried with meat, chiles, eggs, whatever is in the pantry. Someone invented strata, the savory breakfast dish that you refrigerate overnight before baking…true genius, although I can’t say I like it much.

Any other things you can think of? Do you have a clever trick like party toast or are you a boring crouton maker, too?

See? I told you I’d make that odd title work for me. It might not be elegant, but you know enough not to expect that from me.

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