I got a primer on Eastern Mediterranean cuisine during visits to the Republic of Georgia, and Turkey on YMCA missions during high school. Although I’ve never had the chance to properly visit Istanbul, a few 10-hour layovers inside the airport in Istanbul, and trips to the Black Sea have left me fascinated ever since. I take a lot of mental notes of the new smells, textures, and flavors I experience when I’m abroad, so that I can “travel” through food even when I’m stuck on the ground.
Ezme is a blend of tomatoes, peppers, herbs and spices that you could easily mistake for salsa here in the US. I first ate it in restaurants near the Black Sea, but I didn’t realize what it was until a few years later, when I ordered at a Turkish restaurant, and immediately recognized the flavor.
While it’s eaten similarly to salsa, it has a more complex flavor. It is full of herbs–usually, parsley, and mint, and pomegranate molasses, a thick syrup made from pomegranate juice that has a strong sweet, and tart flavor–somewhere between tamarind paste, and balsamic vinegar. While you won’t find it in regular grocery stores, it’s usually easy to find in the Middle Eastern section of international markets.
I got lucky one day and found a bakery that makes bread similar to Turkish Pide (pronounced “pee-deh”) that was labeled “Barbari Naan”. The name refers to a style that was made in parts of the Persian empire. It was shaped differently than the Turkish variety I wanted, but it had a similar flavor and texture. Whichever you choose, they will make you want sesame seeds on all of your bread!
I ended up eating this by itself for dinner, so I added some avocado to make it a bit more filling–but to be clear, that’s not part of the original recipe!
4 Roma Tomatoes, Seeded and Diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, Diced
1 Serrano Chili, Minced
1/2 White Onion, Diced
3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1/2 Cup Curly Parseley, Chopped
1/4 Cup Dried Mint
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Pomegranate Molasses
1 Tbs Salt
1 Tbs Black Pepper
1 Tsp Cumin
1 Loaf Barbari Naan, Pita, or Flatbread
- Combine Peppers, onion, garlic, into a food processor, and pulse until all ingredients reach your desired consistency, then transfer to a serving bowl. Chop the parsley and mint by hand, and mix into the bowl.
- In a separate bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, and spices. Whisk together, and stir into the bowl chopped vegetables and herbs.
- Cover, and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour for best flavor, but let stand on the counter, and stir prior to serving.
- Brush your flatbread with olive oil, and heat in a 350 degree oven until soft, then serve with your Ezme.