For how often capers show up on restaurant menus and in recipes, there are still lots of people who can’t tell you what they are. The tiny pea-shaped morsels come from the caper bush and pack an intense tang that makes them a cooking essential when you feel like your dish needs…something. It’s time to learn about what capers are and how to put them to work in the kitchen.
Capers Are Pickled Flower Buds
It might sound odd, but capers are actually the brined buds of the caper bush, which produces large pinkish flowers. Before the buds flower, they’re plucked, then pickled or salt-brined for use as an edible garnish as capers or caper berries.
Don’t Cook Italian Food Without Them
Think of capers as salt bombs, little tangy corn kernel-sized flavorizers with a hint of lemon. Their salty-briney taste makes them a go-to for creamy dishes in which their tang helps cut richness. They’re also a staple in Italian cuisine as the ingredient that lends dimension and an acidic flavor to pasta sauce and classic dishes. They’re a big player in our own chicken piccata recipe, and the unique contribution of capers in that sauce proves how well they pair with lemon juice.
Make Them A Staple
Capers typically come jarred in a vinegar brine or in a bag brined in salt (our favorite). Once open, you can store them in the fridge for months without worrying about them going bad. Keep capers on hand for garnishing pastas, any dish with a cream sauce, salads, toast with smoked salmon, or Mediterranean side dishes, like pasta salad or rice. Another fun way to cook with them, says Plated Head Chef Elana Karp: “Fry them in olive oil. They get crispy and crunchy—something you don’t normally expect from a caper. (Just be sure to stand back; they can splatter in the oil!)
For a great way to use capers in a fast and easy dish, check out this Tilapia Piccata with Tomato Parsley Orzo recipe.
If you try the recipe, upload your images to Instagram with the hashtag #platedpics and let us know what you thought of it!
(Top Image: Live Science)