CAPERS – What are they anyway? | The Flying Foodie

Capers are a condiment widely used in several Italian recipes like chicken and veal piccata, and puttanesca sauce. They are made from the immature flower buds of the caper bush (Capparis spinosa), which grows in Mediterranean regions, and are usually pickled.

They have a unique flavor – simultaneously tangy, salty and sour. There are various types of capers, but the most desirable are the non-pareils which are smaller in size than the larger more acidic variety. While there is no direct substitute for capers in cooking, in a pinch you could try using finely diced green olives. Other uses for capers include deviled eggs, chicken, pasta and potato salad, pizza and martinis.

Linguine Puttanesca (Serves 8)

CAPERS – What are they anyway? | The Flying Foodie | Aiken Bella Magazine

Puttanesca is a tomato sauce made with capers,  anchovies and olives and originated in Napoli, Italy. It is typically served over pasta, but also goes well over meat and fish.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • ½ cup roughly chopped Kalamata or black olives
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped basil or oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sugar, optional
  • 1 pound linguine, cooked and drained
  • Parmesan cheese, grated, for garnish

Parmesan cheese, grated, for garnish In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions, anchovies, and crushed pepper until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute. Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, herbs and black pepper. Stir and reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. If the sauce is too spicy for your taste, add the sugar.

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to combine. Serve on pasta plates and garnish with grated parmesan.

Caponata (Serves 6-8)

CAPERS – What are they anyway? | The Flying Foodie | Aiken Bella Magazine

Caponata is a “cooked” eggplant salad that originated in Sicily. It can be served as an appetizer with crusty bread, as a vegetarian stew for the main course or as a side dish.

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil1 large eggplant (about 1-1/2 pounds), peeled and cubed
  • 1 large eggplant (about 1-1/2 pounds), peeled and cubed1 onion, cubed
  • 1 onion, cubed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1⁄4 cup toasted pine nuts

In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil. Sauté eggplant and onions until soft, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Add tomatoes, vinegar, and capers. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer until eggplant is tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and add basil. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with pine nuts. Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Chill completely and refrigerate.

Baked Cod with Capers, Olives and Limes (Serves 4)

CAPERS – What are they anyway? | The Flying Foodie | Aiken Bella Magazine

 

This quick and easy recipe also works well with salmon, halibut and sea bass.

  • 4 6-oz cod fillets, pin bones removed
  • *Chef Belinda Seafood Spice Blend
  • 12 thin lime slices
  • 1⁄4 cup quartered or halved Kalamata olives
  • 1⁄4 cup drained capers
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Place the cod in a 13×9 ovenproof baking dish and season with seafood spice blend, to taste. Top each fillet with 3 lime slices, olives, capers and rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake until the fish is cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.

*Chef Belinda Spices can be purchased at LaDolcé, 967 Dougherty Road.


Chef Belinda Smith-Sullivan is a food writer, personal chef, and pilot who enjoys exploring the “off the beaten path” culinary world. Her love of cooking and entertaining motivated her to give up a corporate career to pursue a degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University. Now living in Aiken, she currently markets her own spice line called Chef Belinda Spices. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Charleston chapter, a philanthropical organization of women in the foodservice industry.