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Cooking School, Cooking class in tuscany

Capers & Caperberries

The tiny caper is a giant of Mediterranean cuisine. Capparis spinosa or caper bush, also known as Flinders rose, is a perennial plant with rounded, fleshy leaves and large white to pinkish-white flowers. Its unripened flower buds, the capers, are often used in sauces, pickles and seasonings, and its fruits, or caper berries, are usually consumed pickled.  

Small, peppercorn-sized capers more delicate caper flavor, try elegant are normally used in sauces, including the sauce used for Neapolitan pizza, but larger capers are more commonly used in Europe. Capers are preserved either in salt, wine vinegar, brine or olive oil. The brine-pickled type has the sharpest flavor; rinse those before using.For a more delicate caper flavor, try elegant stemmed caperberries, which are milder, plumper and sweeter than their tiny cousins. They are also great in a Martini.

The small, green buds add a piquant sour and salty flavor to salads, dressings, sauces, vegetables and a variety of main dishes.

The use of capers in the kitchen dates back to 1200 BC; they have been used for centuries as a flavor enhancer for many dishes. The wild caper bush is found in the Mediterranean, East Africa, Madagascar, southwestern and central Asia, Himalayas and Australia. It requires an arid climate and can withstand temperatures over 110°F. It flourishes in the rough, salty winds that blow on the islands outside Sicily and it thrives in dry, gravelly soil. All around the Mediterranean it’s common to see the dark green bushes bursting from the joints and cracks of ancient Roman walls and medieval fortresses.

Potato and Caper salad (Insalata Pantesca)

This cold dish comes from Pantelleria, one of beautiful islands close to Sicily.

A popular summer dish, it can be served year- round with grilled chicken, sliced, grilled or boiled octopus, seared tuna or baby calamari or chicken. Great as an appetizer or main course.

SERVES 4 TO 6

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 large new potatoes, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 4 leaves fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed in cold water to remove salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pitted black olives
  • 1 tablespoon minced flatleaf parsley
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, seeded and quartered
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. In a small bowl, cover red onion slices with red wine vinegar for 10 minutes, then strain.

2. Make potatoes. In a large saucepan, cook whole potatoes in salted water with 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar until fork tender. Drain and cool to room temperature.

3. Cut potatoes in 1/5-inch thick slices (or cut into large chunks). In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients; add potatoes and mix gently. Allow flavors to combine for 10 minutes before serving.

Spaghetti with Capers (Spaghetti ai Capperi)

This is one of the best-loved pasta recipes in Italy. Use large capers if you can. You can literally prepare the sauce while you cook the spaghetti.

SERVES 4 TO 6

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, seeded, drained, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed in cold water, squeezed dry and chopped
  • 10 pitted black olives
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced parsley
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound hard durum wheat spaghetti

1. In a large skillet on medium heat, warm oil. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook briefly, until garlic sizzles but does not brown. Add wine.

2. Add tomatoes; increase heat to high and cook until tomatoes are soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add oregano, capers and olives; cook until liquid is reduced, about 8 minutes.

3. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti in salted water for about 5 minutes or until very al dente. Add pasta to sauce and finish cooking cook until al dente. Season with salt and pepper; sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

Roasted Bell pepper rollatini (Involtini di Peperoni)

Choose fleshy and firm bell peppers and, if you like, pick other colors for an even more vibrant dish.

SERVES 4 AS A FIRST COURSE

  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced flat leaf parsley
  • 2 anchovies (packed in oil), finely diced
  • 1 cup finely diced mozzarella
  • 3 leaves fresh basil, julienned
  • 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons brined capers, rinsed, then squeezed dry
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for baking dish

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place whole peppers in a small baking dish; roast for 20 minutes or until skin turns lightly brown. Cover with foil and, once cold, peel and seed peppers. Cut each pepper into two pieces, making a surface that can be stuffed and rolled.

2. In a bowl, combine all remaining ingredients thoroughly, using your hands. Spread 1/4 mixture on each piece of pepper. Roll; secure with toothpick if needed.

3. In a small baking dish, drizzle a few drops of oil. Arrange the rolls in pan and bake for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Veal with tuna and Caper sauce (Vitello Tonné)

This traditional recipe from Piedmont pairs the incredible flavors of capers and tuna with veal. Slice the veal thinly, then spread the sauce on top. You’ll need to start the recipe the day before you intend to serve it.

SERVES 4

For veal

  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 pound veal eye round roast
  • 1/2 bottle dry white wine
  • 1 cup beef broth, plus extra

For sauce

  • 20 capers
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 5 ounces oil-canned tuna, drained
  • 3 drops vinegar (red, white or balsamic)
  • 5 hard-boiled eggs, yolks only

1. In a heavy pot on medium heat, place veal, celery, carrot and onion. Add cloves, garlic, bay leaves, rosemary, salt, pepper and oil. Cook for a few minutes, to flavor meat and combine flavors. Add wine; let it evaporate. Add 1 cup broth; continue cooking, covered, on low heat for about 1 hour, or until fork tender.

2. Let the meat cool in its own liquid, covered, all night in the refrigerator.

3. Prepare sauce. In a bowl and using an immersion blender, combine anchovies, capers, tuna, vinegar, eggs, 1 tablespoon broth and 1 tablespoon oil, until creamy.

4. Slice veal thinly and spread sauce on top.

Caper fritters (Frittelle di Capperi)

SERVES Tk

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh marjoram, finely chopped
  • 5 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup fresh capers, washed, stems removed
  • 1 cup (or more) vegetable oil, for frying

1. In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks with a whisk; slowly incorporate milk, pouring in a steady stream. Blend in flour and salt; mix until you have a smooth batter. Add capers and marjoram. Place egg whites in a stand mixer (or food processor with whisk attachment) and beat until firm. Gently incorporate beaten egg whites to caper mixture.

2. In a medium skillet, heat 1 cup oil until surface ripples. Drop batter by tablespoonfuls into oil and fry until golden and crispy. Do not crowd pan. Season with salt and serve immediately.

COURTESY OF INTERMEZZO MAGAZINE

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