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Published March 09, 2011, 12:00 AM

Halgrimson: The pickled flower caper

According to the dictionary, a caper can be a frolicsome adventure, a frisky leap or an illegal undertaking. A caper is also a flower bud from the caper bush, sun-dried and pickled in brine, and added to all manner of foods. The caper bushes are native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

According to the dictionary, a caper can be a frolicsome adventure, a frisky leap or an illegal undertaking.

A caper is also a flower bud from the caper bush, sun-dried and pickled in brine, and added to all manner of foods. The caper bushes are native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia.

The best ones come from France and Spain and range in size from half the size of a pea to as big as the tip of your little finger.

Capers are usually sold packed in brine and are generally available in local markets and keep a long time in the fridge. Their flavor is strong and tangy and they should be rinsed before using – to get rid of the salt.

A passable substitute may be made from pickling nasturtium seed pods.

The white sauce below may be used to coat grilled or sautéed chicken, veal, fish or shellfish and vegetables. If it is to be used for a sautéed ingredient, remove whatever it is from the pan and deglaze the pan with a little white wine or fresh lemon juice and add it to the sauce.

If you want the flavor of onions or shallots, chop and sauté them in butter. When they are softened, scrape into the finished sauce.

With a few tablespoons of Parmesan added, the mixture makes a lovely sauce for pasta.

Capers are good in salads (especially egg salad), in risotto and in mashed-potato patties as well as other dishes limited only by one’s imagination.

White Sauce with Capers

1 cup milk or light cream, scalded (heat on low until bubbles form at the edge)

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup capers, drained, rinsed and dried

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat (or use a double boiler). Add flour, stirring constantly for several minutes until flour is cooked. Slowly stir in hot milk and cook, stirring until mixture thickens. Stir in capers and serve.

Source: “The Food Lover’s Companion” by Sharon Tyler Herbst


Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

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