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The caper is the immature, unripened, green flower bud of the caper bush Capparis spinosa or Capparis inermis.

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It's most often associated with Mediterranean cuisines, but enjoyed worldwide. Brined or dried, the caper is valued for the burst of flavor it gives to dishes.

It adds texture and tanginess to a great variety of recipes, including fish dishes, pasta, stews , and sauces. The caper is a prickly perennial plant native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Asia.

The Art of Eating Magazine Capers in Dry Salt are Better | The Art of Eating Magazine

Its use dates back to 2, B. To turn the unripened bud into the salty green pea-sized ball, it is dried in the sun and then pickled in vinegar, brine, wine, or salt. The curing brings out the tangy lemon-like flavor, which is similar to green olives. The caper is not the same as the caperberry. When the immature bud is not picked, it eventually develops into the caperberry fruit. The berry is larger than the biggest caper, about the size of an olive, and attached to a long, cherry-like stem.

Caperberries have very small seeds inside that are similar to kiwi seeds. Commercial capers are designated and sold by size. The buds range from tiny about the size of a baby petite green pea to the size of a small olive. Generally, the smallest caper will have the most delicate texture and better flavor. A larger caper is more acidic, so it is best to use these more sparingly. Called French nonpareils , they are the most prized and come with an equally notable price tag.

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It's also relatively easy to find surfines capers, which are a little bigger 7mm to 8mm. Capucines 8mm to 9mm , capotes 9mm to 11mm , fines 11mm to 13mm, and grusas over 14mm are less common. Capers have long been a favorite in the Mediterranean region. They are well-known for being a star ingredient in the Italian recipes chicken piccata and pasta puttanesca.

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The French add them to skate Meunier with browned butter and they're an essential ingredient for a number of Spanish tapas. In India, the fruits and buds of the plant are pickled. In the U. These small, green buds can lend a piquant sour and salty flavor to many other recipes.

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There's little prep needed and they can simply be added to salads including pasta, chicken, and potato salads , used as a condiment or garnish, or chopped finely for dressings and sauces. They're also cooked with roasted vegetables and a variety of main dishes or used as a pizza topping. The vinegary burst of salt is a great complement to fish, especially rich ones such as salmon , as well as lamb.

Quite often, you'll find capers partnered with lemon, which complements their natural lemon-olive flavor. Cheese and nuts are other popular complements. Due to their strong taste, it's best to use caper sparingly particularly the larger ones. Rather than adding a handful, take care to find a balance in the recipe so it doesn't overwhelm the flavors of the finished dish. Capers are ready to use out of the jar. Many recipes call for rinsing the capers to remove some of the vinegar, which allows the true flavor of the caper to come through.

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Caper people are serious about capers. And no one is more serious than the people of Pantelleria, a tiny volcanic island between Sicilia and Tunisia. La Nicchia salted capers are hand-picked by the islanders the same way they have been for centuries, and cured and packed in Trapani sea salt. They have a delicate, slightly floral flavor, and a dense, meaty texture. Read More. Use it for:.

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