A lot of times we end up using a wide array of different ingredients without taking a minute to think about the story behind them: where do they come from? What does the complete vegetable or animal look like? Why is it used this way, and not any other way? What does it provide my body?, etc. All of these questions, and more, came to mind this week while I was preparing a few wrapped fish fillets regarding one ingredient that I suddenly realized I knew nothing about. I’m talking about capers. I eat them a lot with brine, and I knew how to answer my first question. Judging by the area my jar was manufactured, I knew it was Mediterranean, as well as by all the recipes in the region that use them. It was a little difficult, however, to say what part of the plant capers come from, and what plant it is that produces them. They are fairly similar to olives in color, although they can’t be any sort of fruit because I haven’t found any sort of seed in them. And it seems strange that their surface is so wrinkly. So after doing a little bit of research I realized that they were budding flowers or unopened cocoons from a tree called Carparis spinossa. In the vegetable kingdom it is loosely related to broccoli and cabbage.
These Mediterranean flowers are not only delicious additions to fish, salads, and sauces, but the plant also has a history in ancient Greek medicine, whose doctors believed they could treat rheumatism and fight the formation of excessive intestinal gas with this plant. Capers definitely had a lot of surprises in store for me, and they still could for you too. It turns out, capers are also nutritious. Even though they can’t make up and individual’s day to day sustenance, they can supplement necessary daily nutrient intake, providing you with vitamin C to help maintain the immune system, vitamin K to help maintain bone structure and to ensure proper coagulation, and iron, which helps transport oxygen in the blood. They are also rich in vitamin B which maintains the circulatory system, but whether in brine or not, you must be careful not to eat too many. They can raise sodium levels in the blood, so eat them in moderation and continue to enjoy one of the Mediterranean’s favorite flowers by using these recipes:
- 1 ½ Tbsp. capers
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 3 tomatoes, quartered and seeded
- 1 cucumber, peeled and cubed
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 Tbsp. fresh basil
- ¼ red onion
- 5 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 piece of bread, whichever you like
- Cut the bread into cubes and lightly toast them in the oven or in a frying pan.
- Using a mortar and pestle, blend capers, anchovies, olive oil and vinegar.
- In a bowl, place tomatoes, cucumber, onion, basil and bread. Add the olive oil mixture and blend well, making sure that the bread fully absorbs the juices from the blend. Cover with plastic wrap for about an hour, and serve as a side dish.
- Add other vegetables like green peppers and lettuce, if you like.
Fish fillets with anchovies
- 2 Tbsp. capers
- 4 fish fillets
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 6 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 20 cherry tomatoes
- 1 green pepper, julienned
- ¼ onion, sliced
- 2 Tbsp. white wine
- 1 tsp. parsley, finely chopped
- ½ dried, red pepper, diced, seeded and deveined
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- Salt to taste
- Place the lemon juice in a bowl. Then place the fish fillets on top of the lemon juice and let marinade in lemon juice for one hour in the fridge.
- In a mortar, blend olive oil with capers and anchovies. Add them to the wine and olive oil. Bathe both sides of the fillet with this oil mixture and other ingredients.
- Place the fish fillets on enough aluminum foil to be able to wrap them, and then place on a baking pan. Add the remaining sauce to the fillets and sprinkle parsley on the fillets. Then place the tomatoes, green pepper, and onion on top. Wrap everything up with aluminum foil so that none of the juice escapes.
- Bake at 200º C for 20 minutes. Serve with rice or salad.