Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes…it’s that time of year.  Beautiful, juicy, locally-grown, ripened on the vine, and bursting with flavor tomatoes.  Patiently await their arrival for the greater part of the year; and when they arrive in all their glorious colors, I can’t get enough of them.  Whether roughly chopped as part of a Greek salad (better known as horiatiki salata or village salad in Greece), used as the foundation for a simple salsa fresca, or pureed for a cooling summer gazpacho — all regulars in my repertoire — a good tomato can be savored in a seemingly limitless number of preparations.  If you’re looking for something just a tiny bit different, this salad, inspired by a recent day-trip to Turkey, is a nice alternative — strikes me as a cross between fresh salsa and gazpacho.  

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Acili Ezme is a Turkish vegetable salad — a mixture of finely diced tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, scallions, fresh herbs, and spices, and is typically served with crisp pita chips. Ezme translates to squash/mash/crush in Turkish; a few pulses in the food processor results in a smooth yet still chunky consistency.

Brush some pita or lavash lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with desired spices (such as smoked paprika) and coarse sea salt, and toast in the oven until crispy — an ideal vehicle for scooping up the salad. Simple and refreshing, and a perfect snack or meze on a warm summer’s day.

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A nice assortment of spices at the market in the Turkish coastal city of Izmir…

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Turkish Tomato and Pepper Dip (Acili Ezmesi)

Adapted from The Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan
4 large tomatoes, seeded, and finely chopped (2 1/2 cups)
3 scallions, some green tops included, finely chopped
1 large seedless cucumber or 2 small (such as Persian or Kirby), finely chopped (1 cup)
2 bell peppers (green, orange, or yellow), finely diced (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons smoked hot paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 teaspoons Turkish red pepper or ground red pepper
1 teaspoon sumac (optional)
Sea salt to taste
Toasted pita bread or lavash

Place the chopped tomatoes in a colander set over a bowl until most of the liquid has drained (reserve the tomato water for other uses — for a refreshing cocktail, perhaps).  Place all the ingredients, except the pita bread, in a food processor, and pulse two to three times, just long enough to make a fine consistency. Place the mixture in a shallow bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush the pita or lavash with olive oil.  Season with smoked paprika and sea salt.  Cut into triangles.  Bake until lightly browned and crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Serve chilled or at room temperature with toasted pita chips.

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