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Ezme ~ Acili or Antep Ezmesi September 3, 2012

Posted by Paula Erbay in Appetizers, Salads.
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Ezme is a Turkish salad that is often served as part of a “meze” table.  Meze is a wide assortment of salads, bureks, spreads and other savory bites commonly accompanied by Turkish Rakı (an anise flavored liquor) – sometimes a full meal will follow, sometimes not.  There are as many variations of ezme as there are opinions when the rakı flows.

Antep Ezmesi is named for a city in southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border, now Gaziantep.  It is well known for its cuisine and even boasts a food museum.  Many consider its baklava and lamacum (Middle-eastern pizza) to be the best.

Ezme can be thick, hot and spicy (like the recipe that follows); or can be made more “wet” as a condiment for köfte; either lemon or pomegranate is added for acidity; and, chopped walnuts may or may not be used. The true Turkish method would require a lot of fine chopping; I use the food processor for this one (but be sure to strain the tomatoes per the instructions below).

Ezme is at its best at the end of summer when tomatoes are bountiful and flavorful, and when Hatch Peppers are available.  Hatch peppers get their name from Hatch, New Mexico and look like thin Anaheim peppers, but are very hot – if you drive through the town of Hatch you can roll down your windows and smell the aroma of peppers being sundried on the roofs of every building in town.  You can use any hot green peppers you like and adjust the recipe to suit your heat preference (see notes below).
Be sure to taste the ezme (before refrigerating and before serving) and adjust the seasonings accordingly.

Recipe:
6-7 Tomatoes, medium in size (about 2 pounds total)
1 Brown Onion (10 – 12 ounces)
1 Hatch Pepper[1]
4-6 Garlic cloves
1/2 Cup Parsley leaves, flat
1/2 Cup Walnut halves & pieces
3 T Hot Red Pepper Paste[2]
3 T Tomato Paste
3 T Pomegranate Molasses[2]
2-3 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ tsp Cumin (or more to taste), ground
½ tsp Black Pepper, ground
Pul Biber or Aleppo Pepper[3](to taste)
Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil to finish

Peel and seed the tomatoes, set cut side down in a colander while proceeding with the recipe.

Coarsely chop the hot pepper, onion, and garlic cloves place them in a food processor along with the walnuts and parsley leaves.  Run the food processor until finely chopped.

Transfer this “walnut paste” to a mixing bowl and set aside.

Coarsely chop the peeled and seeded tomatoes and place in the food processor, quickly pulse them until they are finely chopped. Pour this mixture into a fine sieve to strain the tomatoes of their excess liquid.

While it drains, mix the “magic” that turns this into Ezme.

           

In a small bowl whisk together the Hot Pepper Paste, Tomato Paste, Pomegranate Molasses, Olive Oil, cumin and black pepper.

Mix the strained tomatoes into the walnut paste in the mixing bowl and stir in the “magic” pomegranate-pepper-tomato paste sauce.  Adjust to taste with salt, pepper, and red pepper.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours for the flavors to fully develop.

Spoon onto a serving platter and drizzle with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Note:  Acılı means with hot spice, so beware when ordering food “acılı” in Turkey.


[1]  Two to three Serrano peppers can be substituted   
[2] Turkish Red Pepper Paste and Pomegranate molasses can be found in Turkish, Middle Eastern,, or Jons Market in Southern California – I always use the Hot variety
[3] I only add this red pepper when Hatch peppers are unavailable or more heat is desired – available where you’ll find the Hot Red Pepper Paste and Pomegranate Dressing or molasses
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