Have you ever tried the delicious Turkish mezze, Ezme? This tomato based delicious appetizer has a wonderful mixture of sweet, spicy and acidic flavors and it is one of my favorite mezzes served in the kebab houses at home, a very memorable gastronomic experience.
Ezme is a very typical Turkish mezze, served in kebab houses throughout Turkey. With a touch of hot red pepper paste and extra virgin olive oil, these simple but fresh ingredients like tomatoes, onion, herbs and good olive oil produce this surprisingly complex yet refreshing and a very more-ish mezze. You can make Ezme ahead of time, so it is very entertaining friendly too.
There are quite a few variations for Ezme; my favorite is the way it is done in the Southeast Turkey, where my roots are from. Biber Salcasi, Turkish red pepper paste is a major staple in the regions of Gaziantep and Antakya and a little of this wonderful paste adds such a rich, complex flavor to the Ezme. You can find red pepper paste in Middle Eastern stores, online Turkish market Tulumba.com also carry it. You can also make red pepper paste in your home, easy and delicious. An important trick to Ezme is to rub the red pepper paste and tomato paste to the onions with your hands so that the paste infuses; these also soften the onions and make them more palatable.
You can serve Ezme over crackers or pita bread as an appetizer; it can also accompany kebabs, grilled meats and roasted vegetables beautifully too. Why not try Ayran, delicious Turkish traditional yoghurt drink to accompany this wonderful feast?
Serves 4 Preparation time: 15 – 20 minutes
4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, halved and seeds removed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 small spicy pointy green peppers –(use less or more depending on how spicy you like)
15ml/1 tbsp red pepper paste (or a little less if you prefer less spicy) – If you can’t get red pepper paste, you can add a touch of spice with 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
15ml/1 tbsp tomato paste
Juice of half a lemon
Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
30ml/ 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine the red pepper paste and tomato paste with the onions in a bowl. Knead and mix them well with your hands so that the paste infuses to the onions; this also softens the onions and make them more palatable. If you can’t get red pepper paste, you can add a touch of spice with 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes and infuse them to the onions with the tomato paste.
Stir in the tomatoes, peppers, parsley and mint, combine well. Drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over. Season with salt and ground pepper and give them all a good mix. Cover and keep in the fridge until serving. It would be best if you can let the Ezme sit for an hour or so before serving; this will help the flavors mingle & settle.
You can prepare Ezme ahead of time; it tastes even better the next day!
Though not traditional, I like to sprinkle a few walnuts around Ezme when serving; I love the added texture and taste walnuts brings to Ezme.
I hope you enjoy making your own Ezme, and that it brings happy memories of your visit to Turkey or inspires for a visit! : )