Guest post by Aletheia Zoe Chiang of La Fille Naturelle.
I first discovered capers at a family friend’s. There we were, gathered around the dinner table, enjoying our meal together, when it suddenly occurred to me that I happened to be eating the best salad I’d ever had in my life.
Now, don’t get me wrong--I’ve had salad before. But something about the dressing in this curried salad was strikingly different: there was a sharp piquant flavour to it, and a particular Mediterranean olive- or mustard-like aroma. Curious, I peered closer. That’s when I noticed these little green beads, each one about the size of a corn kernel, and they started to ask me questions. They started to ask me questions like: What am I? Where am I from? Where can you purchase me so that you may eat me forever and ever, Amen?
Never one to ignore important questions about food, I set out on my valiant mission—inspired and encouraged—to solve the mystery of the curious caper, once and for all.
Indeed, capers, or Capparis sp. are of plant origin—the capers that we purchase in tins and jars in grocery stores today are actually the pickled immature flower buds of a larger flowering plant, that is believed to originate from the dry regions in West or Central Asia. By contrast, caperberries—each one about the size of an olive—are actually semi-mature fruit, and are often preserved with their stems. In Europe especially, capers are graded based on the size and diameter, with the smaller ones being the most highly prized, and therefore, the most expensive.
In taste, being described as similar to the olive (with mustard and black pepper), capers make an eclectically delicious addition to pasta sauces, pizza, meats, fish, or salads. Medicinally, capers have been used in Ayurveda practice to improve liver function as hepatic stimulants and protectors. And since capers contain high amounts of Rutin, an extremely potent anti-oxidant bioflavonoid known for its anti-inflammatory properties, why not enjoy capers any time and all the time?
On a curried caper salad for me, please.
Curried Caper Tahini Dressing (inspired by Kathy Scott)
- 1/3 cup, loosely packed ground sesame seeds (or tahini)
- 1/4/ - 1/2 tbsp raw demerara sugar (or maple syrup, unpasteurized honey)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp water
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 tsp curry powder (or ½ tsp cumin + ½ tsp coriander + dash of turmeric)
- 2 tbsp organic pickled capers (small variety), crushed or whole to your preference
- 1/2 Tbs dried parsley
- Blend together ingredients or whisk by hand. Pour on top of your favourite salad mix, and take your cap off to capers!
Question Of The Day: What is your favourite, unconventional ingredient to add to salads, pizzas, pastas... whatever?
Aletheia Zoe Chiang is a caper fiend who regularly devotes a tenth of her college student grocery budget to purchasing expensive condiments. Like Meghan, Aletheia enjoys spreading love, and does so at the award-winning health food store Fiddleheads Health and Nutrition where she works, and on her (mostly) edible food blog, La Fille Naturelle.