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Saturday, October 16, 2010


Excellent Ingredient of the Week
What are those cute little things in the those skinny jars anyway? Capers are the unripened flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a prickly, perennial plant which is native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Asia. Their use dates back to more than 3000 B.C. After the buds are harvested, they are dried in the sun, then pickled in vinegar, brine, wine or salt. The curing brings out their tangy lemony flavor, much the same as green olives. Much of the expense comes from labor costs since the caper buds are picked by hand. The size of the buds range from tiny (about the size of a baby petite green pea) up to the size of a small olive. The smallest variety from the South of France, called nonpareil, is the most prized and comes with an equally notable price-tag. Larger capers are stronger in flavor and less aromatic.

So what the heck can you do with them?

Throw some capers in your pasta. Capers taste especially good with fish. If you sauté chopped garlic in olive oil and mix in the drained spaghetti and canned anchovies, you'll have a dish that's packed with flavor.

Add capers to your salad. Toss up a medley of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and capers. Pour Italian dressing over your salad.

Make some Caponata. Caponata is an Italian appetizer that contains cooked eggplant, celery, black and green olives, tomato sauce, and onions. Add the capers, salt and pepper, and you have a delicious spread.

Sprinkle chopped capers on garlic bread. Garlic bread is tasty on its own, but the addition of capers will give a unique twist.

Put capers on your lox on bagels. Thanks, Laurel for reminding us that caper are a great accompaniment (along with onions and tomatoes) to lox on bagels. Bagel Bob would approve!

And for the Weight Watchers among you, 1 tablespoon of capers is zero points, so sprinkle them on for a burst of flavor!