Power to the flower. Capers may not look like a beautiful flower, but they are in fact the flower buds of the wild bush, Capparis spinosa. They're actually picked before they bloom into white or pink flowers. Like olives, the caper bush is native to the Mediterranean region, and thus capers are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine.
Picked off the bush, capers are extremely bitter, which is why capers are dried and then pickled in a salty brine solution. There's no hiding a caper. One bite of this green pellet-shaped bud, and you'll get a burst of tangy salty flavor with a bit of a lemon taste. Chefs like to use capers in fish dishes, pastas, and sauces. Capers are best known in the Italian recipes, chicken piccata and pasta puttanesca. Use capers in ways that you would add pickles, olives or lemon juice, such as in tuna salad or a homemade vinaigrette.
Find capers in a jar near the jars of pickles at the local grocery store. They tend to be a bit expensive since the buds are picked by hand. Once opened, they can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one year for best quality. Capers are no doubt, full of sodium. Rinse them with water to remove excess salt/brine. Behold the power of the flower, and use it sparingly to not overpower or oversalt the dish!
Chicken Piccata (Printable PDF)
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
⅓ cup flour
3 Tablespoons margarine
3 Tablespoons olive oil
½ cup unsalted chicken stock
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons chopped shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons drained capers
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Place chicken breast in a gallon-size plastic bag and pound with a meat mallet until ¼-inch thickness. Add flour to the bag of chicken; seal and shake to coat. Heat 1 Tablespoon margarine and 1 Tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Shake off excess flour from chicken and cook 3-4 minutes on both sides until internal temperature reaches 165°F. Transfer to a plate; cover to keep warm. In the same skillet, add remaining, oil, chicken stock, lemon juice, shallots and garlic. Boil until sauce slightly thickens, about 2 minutes. Stir in capers and remaining margarine. Plate the chicken and pour sauce over the top. Sprinkle with parsley.
Yield: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 360 calories, 22 grams fat, 300 milligrams sodium, 10 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 29 grams protein