Capers Spice Up Grilled Lamb Chops
Buds of this wild plant rev up this Sicilian Caper Rub.
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Dear Lynne: What is a caper, anyway? They are not cheap, so can I make them at home? - Cheap Guy in Jersey City
Dear Cheap Guy: You have to wonder who tried this for the first time. Capers are buds of the wild Capperis aphylla plant and its relatives. Picked before flowering, they are preserved either by heavy salting, or by brining and finally pickling in vinegar. They grow in warm climates like the Mediterranean, Africa, southern India and parts of Asia.
Salted capers (which you soak 10 to 15 minutes before using) have more snob appeal. Fans say you get flowery/herbal flavors instead of merely vinegar.
As far as making your own, people have been pickling stand-ins forever. Nasturtiums are your best bet. They grow like weeds. Take their tight buds, wash and dry them, pack in coarse sea salt and spoon into a sterilized jar. Store in a cool, dark place for three to four weeks.
They'll smell like old socks for a while and throw off liquid. When the smell fades, the cure is done. Drain them, toss with fresh sea salt and store in a freshly sterilized jar. Then try this lamb dish. The Sicilian caper rub is good on other meats and on fish.
Grilled Lamb Chops with Sicilian Caper Rub
3 Tbsp. salted capers, soaked 10 minutes and drained
3 large cloves garlic
1 tightly packed Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
8 or 9 1-inch-thick ribs, or loin lamb chops, or a small leg of lamb boned and butterflied
about 2 more Tbsp. olive oil
An hour to a day before cooking, mince together in a food processor or by hand the capers, garlic, rosemary and orange. Blend in the first quantity of oil and pepper. Coat both sides of the chops, set on a plate, cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
To cook, drain chops but do not wipe off the marinade. Heat the 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Arrange chops in the skillet so they barely touch. Brown quickly on both sides. Turn heat down to medium-low and cook for another two minutes per side, or until chops are barely firm when pressed with your finger. They should be blushed with pink. Serve the chops on a heated platter.
On the grill: Burn real wood charcoal until gray ash forms. Grill the chops about three minutes per side, or until they're firm when pressed with your finger. Serve hot.
Yields: 4 servings
Lynne Rossetto Kasper is the host of national radio show "The Splendid Table."
The combination of cold soup and hot shrimp makes this a refreshing dish for warm nights.