Serious Eats: Recipes

Capers: What's Not to Love?

The olive and I have a loving and long standing relationship, but recently I've been having a little affair—a summer fling, if you will—with the caper. What started as a passing sprinkle atop a lox-laden bagel has become a downright infatuation: at the restaurant where I waitress I don't steal bread from the basket, or biscotti from the jar by the dessert wines; I sneak caper berries from the antipasti station.

Just what is a caper, anyway? Capers are the premature buds of a perennial bush native to the Mediterranean. Once picked, they are cured in a combination of salt and vinegar. Their briny flavor is similar to that of olives and anchovies, and the three ingredients are often used together in dishes such as puttanesca. If allowed to mature on the bush, caper buds grow into caper berries, which are much larger—about the size of cocktail olives—and can be served as a meze or antipasto on their own.

Given my obsession with these tiny morsels, I couldn't pass up the recipe for Grilled Chicken Thighs with Roasted Grape Tomatoes in the June issue of Cooking Light. The chicken thighs are marinated in a simple combination of olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Once grilled, they are served with a mound of roasted tomatoes stirred with parsley, more lemon, and a generous spoonful of capers. The results are fantastic: the smoky, meaty flavor of the chicken thighs (don't be tempted to substitute breasts!) is tempered by the sweet tomatoes and the tart, salty capers.

While I will prepare this dish again exactly as is, the tomato mixture would be equally good paired with a hearty fish, such as tuna.

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