Sunday, November 21, 2010

Acili Ezme - Turkish Red Pepper and Walnut Dip

Açili Esme (Turkish Red Pepper Dip)

One of the most mouthwatering of the Middle Eastern meze dishes, acili ezme is a vibrantly red Turkish chopped vegetable dip creased with rivulets of olive oil and jolted with hot pepper paste. It strikes a perfect balance of raw heat and heart-healthy ingredients that will give the spice lover in you just enough color in your cheeks without punishing yourself with the physical pain of swallowing some of those other high-octane chile recipes.

While you can blend a batch with yogurt and dried cayenne for those with sensitive palates (as with this Clifford A. Wright recipe), I prefer the stark, clear flavors of finely chopped bell peppers, onion, tomato, garlic, parsley, and walnuts, stirred into a dense and oily relish that only improves with age if you can keep away from it long enough. My love for this recipe is so large that I will dispense with the glorious, seed-topped pide, or any dipping bread for that matter, and dive into the bowl with an equally large and well-poised spoon. Though effortlessly vegan, it is also an excellent, robust filling for an omelet or dolloped on squares of grilled halloumi cheese.

The tradition of hand chopping each ingredient into precise dice or mince can be time consuming if you are impatient. A food processor will hurry things along, but only if you pulse the vegetables briefly and separately, rather than combining everything and over processing into a purée. This particular recipe's appeal is as much distinctively textural as it is tantalizing. Get out that spoon and taste for yourself.

Acili Ezme - Adapted from the My Kitchen Turkish Food recipe

Serves 4-6 as a starter


1 large red bell pepper, cored and seeded, then cut into quarters
1 large green bell pepper, cored and seeded, then cut into quarters
1 medium red onion
3 cloves garlic
2 medium tomatoes, cored
1 handful fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons hot red pepper paste (I used harissa)
2 tablespoons canned tomato paste
1 handful walnuts, coarsely chopped then toasted briefly in a dry skillet over medium heat (about 5 minutes, tossing frequently with a large spoon)
Salt and pepper to taste (optional; harissa is highly seasoned)

Garnishes (optional)

Toasted walnut halves
Kalamata olives
Parsley leaves, flat-leaf or curly variety


Pulse the peppers, onion, tomatoes, garlic, and parsley separately in a food processor, only enough to chop each ingredient into fairly uniform pieces. Empty chopped ingredients into a large serving bowl, including any liquid produced during processing. Stir all chopped ingredients together, then add olive oil, lemon juice, hot red pepper paste, and tomato paste. Stir again to combine well. Taste for optional additions of salt and pepper. Dip is ready when the oil rises and separates from the other ingredients, but is best when allowed time for all flavors to meld. Garnish as desired. Serve with traditional pide, pita, or crackers.

This recipe is for Anh of A Food Lover's Journey, hosting Haalo's Weekend Herb Blogging, which just celebrated its fifth year of sharing the glories of cooking and baking with everything edible from plants.


  1. I always adore Turkish flavors. This looks fab accordingly!

  2. A great dip! Turkish food is awesome.



  3. This dip looks very interesting. I am also intrigued by the pide. Thanks for both recipes! I am one of those that would reach for the food processor. I agree with you that one has to pay attention to the texture of the result as much as to the flavor.

  4. Beautiful, and sounds really delicious. I am bookmarking this one for when I finally get my hands on some harissa!

  5. well this is a new one for me - and so full of wonderful colours how could I not love the look of it

    congratulations on winning ncr this month with your inspired soup

  6. Outstanding dip.
    Great colours and flavours. Fabulous photo too ♥

  7. Gosh that sounds fabulously good. If you had any sleeping taste buds, they'd wake up for sure.

  8. Bookmarked,even before I read the recipe:-) Acili is something which we LOVE!!! Every single time we visit the Turkish place we order this without fail and mop it off with the bread or meat. Can't wait to make this at home.

  9. I love all types of peppers but particularly red ones. This dip has so many beautiful flavors in it I would love to dive into it with a piece of flat bread.

  10. Love the pepper dip out there. Just need a slice of bread to have a go...

  11. This one makes my mouth water and it's only early Sunday morning. All the pepper and tomato flavors heightened by the harissa and garnished so beautifully with the olives and walnuts look a perfect concoction to serve with pita bread or crackers.

  12. I adore Turkish food and this looks like a great dip to try. I have tried muhammara but this looks like another great dip. :)

  13. After seeking, then rejecting a half-dozen recipes with esoteric ingredients like sumac and pomegranite molasses, I finally found this. My goal was to re-create the stuff that I get from my local Turkish, for about $20 a pound. A luxury, to be sure, but like you said, it's addictive. Maybe the sumac, etc. are in the harissa? Because I made your recipe and I did not miss them at all. This is exactly what I crave! I look forward to it mellowing over the coming days, and, of course, to saving tons os money. Thank you!