A Mouth-Watering Ezme Recipe That Will Make You Forget Salsa

A Mouth-Watering Ezme Recipe That Will Make You Forget Salsa

If you read my review of “Searching for Gertrude,” you’ll know that D.E. Haggerty’s description of Turkish food intrigued me. I love Mediterranean food, but I can’t say that I’ve ever had Turkish food nor had I ever given any thought to what Turkish cuisine might consist of. Because I found myself salivating while reading “Searching for Gertrude,” I decided to find a Turkish recipe to share with you. Because I am a reviewer and not a chef or food blogger, I decided to stick with what I know, reviewing. So, here is my review of Peter Sommer Travels' ezme recipe.

Remember, I’m not reviewing Turkish cuisine, and I’ve never actually eaten Turkish food, so I can’t speak to the authenticity of this ezme recipe. But I’m also not going to Turkey any time soon, so I’ll take what I can get even if I have to make it myself. Interestingly, (to me at least) Pittsburgh does have a few Turkish restaurants, which I plan to visit soon.

You might also be thinking, “Ok Laura. It’s a recipe post because the food was in a book. Whatever.” But that’s not the only reason I’m posting this recipe review. I started Picking Books to bring people together in a world where we are all too easily torn apart. And breaking bread is one way to bring people together. Although I’m not literally sharing a meal with you, hopefully, this digital breaking of bread sparks your interest in Turkish food and culture. 

Let’s Talk about That Spicy, Delicious Ezme

Before she had a chance to respond, the waiter reappeared with a basket of bread and some small trays of sauces. As soon as he disappeared, Rosalyn leaned forward to inspect the sauces. “Did you order this?” “No, this is a sort of appetizer on the house.” He pointed to the red sauce. “That’s ezme. Watch out. It can be spicy.” Rosalyn ignored his warning and smeared a fair amount of the ezme on her bread before taking a large bite. She had no fear of spicy food. She smiled as she chewed. “That’s good.”
— D.E. Haggerty, "Searching for Gertrude"

The on-the-house appetizer Malcolm refers to is known as meze. This passage stood out to me because of Rosalyn’s boldness. I was also intrigued by the spiciness of the ezme. Consequently, I looked up some recipes online. Some of the food blogs I visited referred to ezme as Turkish salsa because it is. The ingredients and method remind me of Tyler Florence’s salsa fresca, a staple in our house.

Why I Chose the Ezme Recipe from Peter Sommers Travel

I get all my recipes from travel agents. Don’t you?

In all seriousness, I chose this particular ezme recipe for four reasons:

  1. I thought I could get all the ingredients at my local grocery store. See below.

  2. It didn’t have mint in it. I came across a lot of ezme recipes that used mint, and I didn't want to omit any ingredients for this review. I’m not a mint hater, but I prefer my savory dishes without it.

  3. It was one of the few recipes that didn’t show up as an image when I googled “ezme recipe”. I hate when all the results are images when I don’t do an image search! If I wanted pictures in all my search results, I’d search images or use Pinterest. Am I alone on this one?

  4. Peter Sommer Travels is a travel expert and offers guided cultural tours, including food tours. They posted this recipe as a sort of FAQ for their customers: “One of the most frequently asked questions on our cruises must be this: ‘What is that delicious red stuff?' The answer is ezme, a paste or salad primarily based on tomatoes and hot peppers.” Although Peter Sommers Travel seems to know what they are talking about, most of the other recipes I found online were some variation of this recipe, so don’t be afraid to try other recipes or modify this one to your taste.

My Resulting Ezme

Although I hate to write a recipe review without using the exact ingredients listed, I did have to use serrano peppers instead of red chilies. My local grocery store didn’t have red chilies, but that’s my fault for attempting to buy out of season produce. Shame on me! The serrano peppers did not disappoint, however, and they added just the right amount of heat. 

My husband and I ate the ezme as an appetizer with champagne instead of rakki. (Having a babysitter warrants champagne right?) It made an excellent condiment for Cooks Illustrated’s almost no-knead whole wheat bread, and I enjoyed it more than fresh salsa. Like Sommers says, the flavor is complex. And like Malcolm warned, it’s spicy! We ate both the chopped and paste version of ezme, but we preferred the chopped version. My husband pointed out that the paste would make an excellent sandwich spread though. 

Although ezme is reminiscent of salsa, it’s also bruschetta-like. It’s a simple recipe that tastes like so much more than the sum of its parts. The tomato paste adds a raisin-like richness and an extra tomatoey punch to the chopped tomatoes. The red pepper adds sweetness, and the hot pepper adds heat. There is lemon juice in ezme, but it’s not citrusy. The lemon juice makes it taste fresh and adds another layer of flavor.

Peter Sommer Travel says that you can use either spring onions or red onion in the recipe. I went with a red onion. I only used a quarter of the onion, and it balanced perfectly with the other flavors. I also added a generous amount of salt. I feared that the chopped or salad version of ezme would make the bread soggy, but using a rustic bread paid off. The bread stayed crusty and chewy while sucking up the mouth-watering, savory flavor of the ezme.

And wow, describing food is hard!



As you can see, I enjoyed the ezme immensely albeit unattractively. We loved this recipe so much that I decided to make another batch the next day. We shared it with my in-laws. They loved it too. I then ate the leftovers the day after that and I still want more, but alas, I am out of bread.

If you’re tired of serving the same old appetizers and like a little spiciness, add ezme to your next cocktail party menu! Better yet, read “Searching for Gertrude” with your book club and serve ezme when you get together to discuss the book. 

Do you have any favorite international recipes? Any stories about how food taught you something or brought you closer to someone very different from you?

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