What is it? Capers or caper berries (which are larger and riper) are buds of flowers that haven't yet bloomed and are found on distinctive shrubs throughout the Mediterranean. Caper buds are picked by hand, sun-dried and pickled in a brine of salt water and vinegar or packed in salt, giving them a distinctive, tangy flavor. But capers packed in salt are especially intense, for obvious reasons, and should be soaked for at least 20 minutes to take the edge off, unless you like to eat salt straight from the shaker, in which case, have at it.
What is it used for? Capers are used as a flavoring component to many dishes, especially in Italian and Mediterranean cooking. Since they have a tangy, salty kick, they're almost always rinsed and added to the cooked dish at the end, which preserves the flavor of the bud itself. Capers are a classic ingredient in Italian dishes like scaloppine, caponata , tapenades and tartar sauce.
Where can you buy it in Houston? Phoenicia has a huge selection of capers and caper berries. You can find them here in brine or in salt, which we never see at regular grocery stores, which have capers in brine in the same aisle as pickles and olives.
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Recipe: Pork Medallions with Mustard-Caper Sauce - Courtesy of Simply Recipes