You know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that? --Ratatouille (Pixar, 2007)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The First Taste of Turkey--Recipe for Turkish Ezme

     I recently got back from got back from a trip to Turkey and have been desperately trying to figure out how to blog and share how much I enjoyed the food I had there. Over the time I was there I sampled way too many new and interesting foods from way too many restaurants and markets to simply explain them all or review each restaurant individually.
     So, instead of responsibly finding a good way to blog all my thoughts, I gave up. I gave into my impulses and went into the kitchen to try to recreate just one of the dishes that I missed most from Turkey. Turkish "Ezme" is sort of the ketchup, salsa, or soy sauce of Turkey. A chunky tomato dish that vaguely resembles salsa--but doesn't really taste like it--Ezme makes for a spicy and delicious start to most meals. And, just as most meals at an Italian restaurant would start with Bread and olive oil, a typical Turkish meal always starts with Bread and a dish of Ezme. 
     Naturally, after a few meals at home, I began to miss Ezme. My meals felt boring. So, I decided to try to recreate my favorite dish. I found a few recipes online but they looked kind of weird. Each one had its own twist that led me to believe it wouldn't hold up to the Ezme I knew. So, I decided I would make my own recipe and just revise it as needed. It ended up really pretty spicy. Probably just a little too spicy for the normal person. However, as it sits in my fridge for a week, it has gotten more deliciously dull as the days pass. At this point I think the Ezme is right where I want it to be. It's really spicy--but not inedibly so. A good Ezme is deliciously spicy--but shouldn't require you to gulp down your whole drink after each bite. My recipe is as follows:

One Scotch Bonnet Pepper
1 Long Green Hot
1/2 White Onion
1/2 Red Bell Pepper
6 Small Tomatoes
1/2 Cup chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
2 Tbsp Tomato Thickening Powder or Tomato Paste to thicken
1 Tsp Sumac
2 Tablespoons strange Turkish Spice
Salt/Pepper to taste

Some of these ingredients might sound weird or unattainable but I'll try to make a few substitutions where possible. 

So the recipe starts by sweating the onions in a large saucepan with a small amount of olive oil for a few minutes. Don't fry them--if they begin to wilt and fry, turn down the pan and realize you're using far too much oil. After the onions warm in the pan for about 3 minutes add in the Parsley. Parsley will never really overcook and should be a part of the cooking process in order to add their flavor to the whole dish as ingredients are incorporated. 
     After about a minute add in both the chopped Scotch Bonnet Pepper and the Long Green Hot. To be honest (and you've probably realized it) Long Green Hot probably isn't the real name of the pepper. However, when looking for something I thought would taste good in Ezme, I went to Giant to find hot peppers. I knew already how Scotch Bonnets work and was excited to buy those. However, I had never seen what was labeled as "Long Green Hots" in the market. If you don't go to my local Giant, substitute any spicy green pepper--maybe something like a serrano or even a jalepeno or two. Dice both peppers up and throw them in with the onion and parsley. Then chop up the bell pepper and toss that in as well. Finally, coarsely chop the tomatoes and throw them in as well. 
     After you let the ingredients meld in the pan for about 5 minutes, add the thickener (the powder or the tomato paste). My mom came home that day with a strange powder she got from our favorite spice/nut store in Havertown (THE HEAD NUT! that she claimed acts like a thickening agent as tomato paste does. I used about 2 tablespoons and it thickened my mixture really nicely. Then I added the sumac. Sumac is a sometimes poisonous plant that has berries that are crushed to make a lemony and delicious spice. The spice is uncommon and you may have to go to a spice store (like mine above) to find it. The final weird spice is something I truly know you can't find. I bought it in the Turkish Spice Market and it most closely resembles red pepper flakes. You can either use some red pepper flakes or simply omit this step. It might help make the spiciness of the dish more manageable to omit it.
     Next, turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 2 minutes. Pour the contents of the pan in a blender or food processor. BE CAREFUL HERE: if you over blend, the mixture will turn into tomato soup. All you want to do is pulse it carefully until it combines and the largest chunks have been cut down. 
     Hopefully when you're done it should look something like mine did!
If yours comes out too spicy for your liking, try leaving it in the fridge for a few days. This stuff will keep (refrigerated) for quite awhile and it has been proven that spices dull when they're let sit.

Thanks so much for reading! I'm going to attempt to revise this recipe soon. Look for a different version soon!

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