Starters are very popular in Cretan
restaurants, and it’s not unusual for several people sitting at the same table
to order many starters together. One of my favourites is koukouvagia, which is
cretan rusk, a kind of bread (Americans know it as Zwieback) made from barley
rather than wheat.
Preparing koukouvagia is simplicity itself. You can first dunk your rusk in
water to soften it a bit, or start by wetting it with olive oil (or both!). You
then add some grated tomato over the top with some salt and herbs. Sometimes
feta cheese is added.
Koukouvagia makes a nice breakfast and it’s available in most restaurants for
€2-3. Translated into English, koukouvagia means ‘owl’; it is possibly named as
such because the round shape is reminiscent of an owl’s big eyes.