Take a Walk through Ischia Ponte and enjoy a recipe for Panettone di Ischia

Castello Araganese

Castello Aragonese

This post is going to be a little different.  Different is that I will be living surreptitiously through my sister in this story.  Even though she lives thousands of miles away in a different time zone we keep in touch through all the current forms of communication.  Not only do we FaceTime on our iPhone, we email, use Skype,  WhatsApp and Snapchat.  Giovanna and her husband Davide have just recently moved to the island of Ischia, located in the Gulf of Naples.  Ischia is our mamma’s native island.

If you have been following my blog, one of my passionate topics I talk about is about my mom and Ischia.  My mom, suffers from Alzheimers and can’t remember anymore and because of that we try to remember for her. Growing up we took many trips with my parents to Ischia taking for granted everything mamma told us.  Both my sister and I remember bits of things that she has told us and we try to piece it all  together by researching.  We both read as much as we can about Ischia.  I even belong to many Facebook groups that have to do with Ischia.

Now, I will make sure to take full advantage of Giovanna living there.  I love taking virtual food tours of Ischia.  If I see something interesting, Giovanna will go investigate and/or taste it for me.  Not only is Giovanna having fun in Ischia imagining walking in our mom’s shoes and remembering her life but I am too.

Giovanna lives in Ischia Ponte where her apartment faces Il Castello Aragonese (the small medieval  castle on a large volcanic rock connected by a bridge).   The apartment is in the same neighborhood mamma grew up in. This area is where the “Crimson Pirate” was filmed in 1951 starring Burt Lancaster and Eva Bartok.

On New Years Day Giovanna told me she was going for a walk to Cartaromana.  Cartaromana is a small beach about a 20 minute walk from Il Castello Aragonese.  It’s a beautiful small beach complete with hot springs. Every time we visited Ischia we made sure to go there.  Even when I was older I brought my children there and they had the pleasure of experiencing this beach.  We always made sure to eat at Ristorante da Maria on the beach, which is still there.  My mom loved for all of us to enjoy the coniglio Ischitana, the famous rabbit recipe that Ischia is famous for.  There is nothing like Ischitana cuisine.

While Giovanna took her leisurely walk I asked her to take pictures along the way and share with me. And she did through snap chat!  I saved the pictures so you can all experience the walk to Cartaromana through Giovanna’s camera lens and perhaps you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Starting the walk to Cartaromana on Via Soronzarao, an antique paththat the farmers and fisherman used to exchange their products. Going up the hill.

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This walk will take about 20 minutes. The path connects Ischia Ponte and Cartaromana and the cultivated hills.

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Signs were everywhere directing Giovanna to Cartaromana Beach!

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The first glimpse of the Castello Aragonese as she walked up the hill.

Castello Araganese

At the top of the hill she saw the full view of the medieval castle.

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Giovanna turned around at the Torre de Guevara and is on the way down. Just beyond this hill is the path leading to the beach. The Cartaromana beach can also be accessed by boat.

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It’s getting dark as she’s nearing the Castello.

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Each time she passed the man on his scooter Giovanna cheerfully greeted him. The second time he gifted her a fresh lemon and orange and wished her happy new year! He said he was impressed by her cheerfulness!

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Going back down to the piazza in front of Il Castello Aragonese

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It’s night now and Giovanna continued to walk to the other side to La Mandra Beach. La Mandra is the beach my mom and her family used when they all lived in Ischia. Goodnight Giovanna and Davide!


 

I came across Panettone di Ischia on Instagram.  I asked Giovanna about it.  She said she has been seeing them in all the bakery shops.  I decided to make one so I can feel like I am there.  So while I walk with Giovanna through Cartoromana I have been enjoying a piece of panetonne with a cup of espresso. Tell me if it doesn’t look the same!  It was delicious.  Here’s the recipe I used!

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Panettone di Ischia by instagram voraciinsud

 

Panettone 12

My version of Panettone di Ischia. Sip an espresso while munching on this panettone and let’s pretend we are with Giovanna and Davide in Ischia!


Slow Rise Panettone

Adapted from Gourmet magazine, December 2008

Panettone 14

 

Ingredients

1 cup golden raisins

2 tablespoons gold rum

2 tablespoons hot water

3-3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

3 large eggs, room temperature

2/3 cup lukewarm water

1 tablespoon warm honey

12-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (10-1/2 tablespoons softened and cut into tablespoons; 1 tablespoon melted, 1 tablespoon chilled)

 

 

Preparation

  1. In the small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum and 2 tablespoons hot water, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 8 hours. I also have forgotten to soak raisins overnight so I even have let them soak for just 30 minutes.

2. In the bowl of the stand mixer, mix the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, lemon zest, and vanilla bean at low speed.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, 2/3 cup lukewarm water, and honey.

4. While the mixer runs at low speed, pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Increase speed to medium-low and continue mixing.

5. Add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing completely before adding each. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

6. Drain the raisins, and discard the liquid. Stir the raisins with the melted butter. Stir into the dough with a wooden spoon.

7. Place the dough in the large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a cold oven with the door closed for about 12 to 15 hours, until the dough is nearly tripled in volume.

8. Discard the vanilla bean. Rub your hands with flour, sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with some flour, and turn out onto a floured board. Sprinkle a little more flour onto the dough.

9. Flatten the dough and fold the edges into the center.

10.  Place seam side down into the panettone mold. Cover with a damp tea towel (not terry cloth) ( I forgot this step and used plastic wrap and it worked fine too) and let rise in a draft-free spot at room temperature about 3 to 5 hours, until dough is just above the top of the mold. If it doesn’t rise just have patience and wait a little longer.  My oven has a proofer so I proofed it for 3 hours and then turned off oven and left in the oven for 6 hours longer.  It was perfect!

Panettone 1

11. Place the rack in the lower third (closer to the bottom than the middle) of the oven and preheat to 375° (If the dough is too high in the oven, the top will brown before the middle is cooked, resulting in a burned top crust.)

12. Place the dough in the mold on a baking sheet. Use a serrated knife to score and X across the entire surface of the dough. Place 1 tablespoon chilled butter in the center of the X.

Panettone 2

13. Bake in the preheated oven about 1 to 1-1/4 hours, until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out slightly moist but not wet or doughy. The panettone will be very dark (but should not be burned). At about 45 minutes into the baking,  I put a piece of foil over the panettone to avoid getting it too dark.

Panettone 4

14. Pierce the skewers all the way through the panettone and through the papers. Hang the panettone upside down over a stock pot or between two objects of equal height. I used wooden skewers and the bread was too heavy for them.  Metal skewers are better.  I also skipped this step and the panettone was still very good.

 

More Information:

Equipment

2 small bowls

stand mixer with paddle attachment

large bowl, for rising the dough

6 x 4-inch panettone mold

baking sheet

2 (12-inch) metal skewers

Time

Rising plus prep time – 23 hours or more

Cook time – 1 hour 30 mins

Total time – 24 hours 30 mins

  The following is what makes the panettone an Ischiatano one!

15. Make a pastry cream –   I used this recipe from this website – https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-pastry-cream-168126 

Panettone 5

16.  Either make your own candied lemon peels or buy them already made.  I made my own Julliene Candied Lemon Peel  using the following method- https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Candied-Orange-Peel

17.  Peel paper off of cooled panettone and slice through the middle making 2 halves.Panettone 7

18.  Spread the Pastry Cream and put halves together

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19.  Make a white chocolate ganache  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/258170/easy-white-chocolate-ganache/

20.  Spread the white chocolate ganache on filled panettone. and add Julienne candied lemon peel, chopped candied almonds, and a candied red cherry.

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Enjoy! And pretend you are in Ischia!

 

 

The Story of My Mamma the Movie Star and Spaghetti Putanesca Recipe

 

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I always thought of my mom as a movie star. Not only was Mamma beautiful but she dressed the part, too! Many would think it odd that I would regard her in this way since she came from a remote volcanic island off the coast of Naples, Italy. When she was born, this underdeveloped tiny island’s main source of income was fishing and farming. Mamma grew up poor, but most of her family’s suffering was attributed to my grandfather having left for almost 4 years to go to Argentina, an unsuccessful attempt at making Argentina a future home for them. During his time in Argentina, the country suffered a collapsed economy and a violent overturn of the government. My grandfather, broken and penniless returned to Ischia to focus on another plan to make a better life for his family.

While Nonno was gone, a successful publisher by the name of Angelo Rizzoli visited Ischia. Rizzoli, an orphan, raised in poverty, having apprenticed as a printer, came to great prosperity. He became one of Italy’s first producers of daily newspapers and ran a publishing house. Rizzoli was also quite active in the production of films. So when Rizzoli first visited Ischia, the town of Lacco Ameno, he fell in love with the beauty of this quaint little island and the struggles of its people. He was inspired to turn this impoverished, quiet, little island into a fashionable destination for the rich and famous. Not only did he want to attract the wealthy from the world of finance and politics, but he mostly wanted the cinematography industry to discover this island. So Rizzoli put his plan in place to turn Ischia into a popular and prosperous tourist attraction by building a hospital (Ospedale Rizzoli), hotels and thermal spas on the island. But it was his work in the movies with his production company “Cinriz” that inspired film-makers to follow in his footsteps and to become smitten with Ischia’s natural charms and beauty.

That’s the back story about how it came to be that in 1951 Burt Lancaster and the crew of The Crimson Pirate came to the island of Ischia in Italy to film a Caribbean swash buckling pirate movie! This movie forever changed the lives of many Ischiatani.

Most of the film shots had the Castello Aragonese as the backdrop. That’s the castle that is located in Ischia Ponte where my mom and her family lived. The Castello Aragonese dates back to 2500 years ago! My Grandmother would often talk about how il castello saved many lives when the volcano would erupt. Being that il castello is located on a large rock not too far from the coast of Ischia Ponte connected by a bridge made of rocks, the townspeople would run to seek refuge from the lava. My deeply religious Nonna would exclaim how the Madonna in il castello thrust her foot forward and the lava miraculously stopped flowing!

As you can imagine the producer needed lots of town people for some of the scenes. So my mom and some of the sisters jumped at the chance to be in a movie! When I was older my brother and I would have our eyes peeled watching this movie hoping to get a glimpse of my mom. Did you know that The Crimson Pirate was the inspiration for Disney’s block buster with Johnny Depp Pirates of the Caribbean?

The movie crew was in Ischia for quite a few months filming. A bunch of them stayed at the Pensione Pineta, a hotel just a block away from my mom’s house. One day the hotel keeper asked my mom as she was out and about, if my grandmother would be willing to supply some laundry service for the guests. My mom, understanding that this could be a lucrative opportunity eagerly accepted for my grandmother. I would often tease my mom that not only did she make a movie side by side Burt Lancaster, but she also washed and ironed his underwear!

While filming the movie one of the props was a big pirate ship anchored in front of il castello. My mom being the oldest of seven grew up very gutsy. She carried a lot of responsibilities on her shoulders as the oldest. When my grandfather left for Argentina my mom was only 12 years old while my grandmother was pregnant with their only son and had to raise 6 young children. So as circumstances would have it, my mom would be my grandmother’s right hand. So at an early age she was able to express herself quite easily with adults. She also learned early on that she would not get any coddling because in a house of seven women and one baby boy lots of responsibilities landed on her shoulders. So if a boy ever mentioned to my mom she couldn’t – you better believe my mom set out to prove him wrong! So keep that in mind while I tell you that a boy once dared my mom to swim to that pirate ship anchored by the castle and dive off the gang plank. So she did! The ship was so tall that when she dove in staright  she could feel the water getting colder and colder the deeper she went.

(I’m going to digress for a moment . She was known as quite the swimmer. One year when visiting Ischia, my children all competitive swimmers were diving off a pier and the Italian men all looked on in amazement. Then right behind the kids my mom dove in. The men all turned to each other and exclaimed how the grandchildren must take after their Nonna! I later told my mom what they said and she beamed with pride!)

I believe that the aura of those movie stars that came to visit the island that one summer in 1951 rubbed off onto my mom. The usually quiet town woke up with all the activity from the movie crew and it changed my mom’s outlook on life. I bet the reason that blue eyes were the number one prerequisite on my mom’s list for husband material was because of Burt Lancaster’s blue eyes! My mom confided in me that when she met my father it was love at first sight when she noticed he had blue eyes! ( I would like to add another piece of trivia to this story : The other actor that starred alongside Burt Lancaster was Nick Cravat. Nick and Burt were in 9 films together. He played a mute in this film because of his thick Brooklyn accent. My dad’s extended family are all from Brooklyn with thick Brooklyn accents! They were the reason for my dad and his brothers coming to America. Small world right?)

That summer not only changed my mom but it also gave a new positive outlook for all of the townspeople too! The filming of The Crimson Pirate not only paved the way for Ischia becoming a chic tourist attraction, but for also becoming a set for a long list of future blockbuster hits!

I am proud to say that my mom shared the stage alongside Burt Lancaster. Ok well, maybe not as a lead, but definitely in the movie! I would like to think that not only was the famous Angelo Rizzoli the catalyst for the rise of Ischia’s tourist trade but forgive me if a stretch it to include my mom too!


 

Spaghetti ala Putanesca

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This dish was actually invented by an innkeeper in Ischia. The story is that late one night guests were hungry and there was no food left. The innkeeper quickly put together a pasta dish with whatever he had on hand which included some tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies. He said he put together a “putanatta”. It’s a slang word for throwing together some left overs. But the actual meaning of the word is whore. The following night the customer came in requesting the same thing because it was so delicious. The dish was so delicious that other customers wanted it too! But the chef was reluctant to put it on the menu because he was afraid it was offensive. So he lightened it up a little by calling it Pasta Putanesca.

Ingredients: Serves 2

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12 vine ripened cherry tomatoes sliced in half

4 anchovy filets

2 garlic cloves- sliced thin

¼ cup of capers

¼ cup of sliced Kalamata olives (about 20 olives)

Pinch of red pepper flakes

¼ cup of sherry

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of chopped parsley

Pinch of oregano

½ pound of cooked spaghetti

Note: The measurements of the ingredients don’t have to be exact. Remember it’s whatever you have on hand that makes it special!

Procedure:

  1. Pour extra virgin Olive oil in skillet and add sliced garlic, sliced olives and capers. Sauté on medium heat until garlic becomes golden brown.2016-08-31 17.19.02

2.  Turn off heat and add anchovies and sherry. Turn heat back on to medium and stir breaking up the anchovies until anchovies melt.2016-08-31 17.22.21

3. Add the sliced cherry tomatoes. Tomatoes must be fully ripened into a bright red. Cook on medium heat until heated through.2016-08-31 17.25.18

      4. Cook pasta to your liking and add to skillet.2016-08-31 18.26.10
5. Also add a ladle of pasta water.
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6. Add chopped parsley and a pinch of oregano2016-08-31 18.27.50
                                                  Stir well and serve!

 

Parisienne Sauce

parisienne sauce caper picture

Parisienne Sauce was a very popular sauce in the restaurant. It’s a buttery lemony sauce enhanced with the salty tanginess of capers. Capers are the highlight of this sauce.  To understand capers one has to know capers.  I thought I would share a little story about my childhood and some facts about the tiny delicate caper that’s packed with a huge flavor punch. 

    These little pungent Mediteranean capers come from the bud of blossoming bushes.  I actually had the pleasure of seeing caper bushes.  It was many years ago when  my brother and I visited our grandparents at their home town on the island of Ischia, Italy.  They took us for a leisurely walk through town and we visited the Castello Aragonese, a medieval castle built on volcanic rock. As we walked up to the castle, clinging to the cracked walls and cliffs were these unusual and attractive ornamental shrubs.  They were thriving in the sunny hot dry climate of Ischia. The castle is nestled on volcanic rock in the middle of the sea. So these caper shrubs are evidently salt tolerant as well. My Nonno (grandfather) pointed out the capers on the shrubs. The bushy plant had a thick cluster of thorny branches and fleshy, egg shaped leaves. They were as high as five feet in some places, but most were sprawled out over rocks and soil.

     Nonno explained that from April to June, the caper shrub’s tiny buds flower into large, sweet-scented, pink blooms clustered with long, violet stamens. The plants harvested for capers, however, rarely blossom. Workers endure hot sun, sharp thorns and rugged terrain throughout the summer to pick the precious buds as they ripen.  

       I loved this walk up to the castle listening to Nonno explain all of this in his rich napolitano cadence! The long steep climb winding around the castle with the ocean views were breathe taking.  Nonno walked ahead explaining all the sites while my Nonna (grandmother) ambled behind slowly carrying her large purse under her arm.  My brother and I found our Italian grandparents amusing.  At one point we felt a sprinkling of rain as was common in the afternoons in Ischia, a sun shower.  Nonno slowed down and turned to ask my Nonna if she was ok.  In his tongue in cheek manner, he just shook his head as he watched Nonna dig into her large white purse and pull out a clear plastic rain bonnet for her head and a sweater for her shoulders.   My brother and I were hysterically laughing not just at my Nonna but at Nonno’s reaction.  What a special caper memory.  I think of them whenever I use capers in my cooking.

    Let me explain more about capers. Pickling process enhances the flavor of capers. Capers with their tart and briny flavors enrich sauces. Capers are a staple in the Italian kitchen. The tiny, piquant buds are enjoyed from region to region, from the north to the south.  In Sicily capers are served in caponata, a summer side dish in which their salty bite cuts through the smooth buttery taste of slow cooked eggplant.  In Ischia they are part of spaghetti alla puttanesca. The sauce consists of capers, tomatoes, olives and anchovies. These delicious little gems are often sprinkled over pizza, pasta, and fish dishes as a flavorful garnish.

     Most capers come from wild plants, thoughout Spain and Italy—the two largest producers—they are cultivated. Sicily and the Aeolian island of Salina produce the majority of Italy’s capers. The best, though, come from Pantelleria. On this tiny island, halfway to Tunisia, volcanic soil and the heat of an intense Mediterranean sun create ideal growing conditions. The berries are also picked, and both are pickled for use as a seasoning and garnish. The bud, or caper, is pickled in salt and vinegar brine, then sold in vinegar or packed in salt. The berry—the larger, plump, mature fruit of the plant—resembles a green grape with faint, white stripes and, like olives, is served in pastas, salads or even as a garnish in martinis. When choosing capers, look for dark green buds packed tightly in sea salt, because those submerged in vinegar lack the subtle, natural taste of the salted ones. The smaller buds have a more delicate flavor while the larger ones have less taste and could be frauds—sometimes the similar-looking buds of the nasturtium plant are passed off as capers. The French term nonpareil is commonly used to denote the smallest buds; surfines are the next largest. True Italian capers, though, are sorted by millimeter with mechanized screens. They range from 7 millimeters to 16 millimeters. Unfortunately in stores their size is not often marked.  Be sure to look for buds not larger than a raisin. If using salted capers, soak them for five to ten minutes and drain to remove excess salt. The large caper berries are eaten “as is” just as you would an olive.  You can even serve them in your favorite martini!

 


Parisienne Sauce

soft shell crabs Parisienne( Parisienne Sauce served using Soft Shell Crabs)

Ingredients:

     1 cup of chicken stock

    5 tablespoons of butter

    ¼ cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice ( Juice form 1 ½ lemons)

    1 teaspoon of drained capers (nonpareil packed in brine)

    3 dashes of Tabasco sauce

    3 ounces of sherry

   ½ teaspoon of salt

   Fresh ground pepper to taste

   2 sprigs of chopped Italian parsley

Procedure:

Add all ingredients in a large skillet.  Simmer on medium heat until reduced and slightly thickened.  It usually takes about 10 minutes. includes soft shel crab parissienne 045

This sauce is used on Chicken Scallopini, Veal Scallopini, Scallops, Shrimp, Filet of Sole or Soft Shell Crabs.

For this recipe I used the Parisienne Sauce with Soft Shell Crabs.  In my next post I will love to tell you all about Soft Shell Crabs…how to shop for them and how to cook them.

*Although the restaurant called this sauce Parisienne Sauce please don’t confuse it with the French version of Parisienne Sauce that uses cream and eggs.

 

 

What are Capers? A staple in Italian Cooking

capers and leaves

Caper Berry Plant

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This past weekend at a seminar I found myself trying to explain what exactly is a caper.  These little pungent Mediteranean capers come from the bud of blossoming bushes.  I actually had the pleasure of seeing caper bushes.  It was many years ago when  my brother and I visited our grandparents at their home town on the island of Ischia. They took us for a leisurely walk through town and we visited the Castello Aragonese, a medieval castle built on volcanic rock. As we walked up to the castle, clinging to the cracked walls and cliffs were these unusual and attractive ornamental shrubs.  They were thriving in the sunny hot dry climate of Ischia. As you can see from the picture the castle is nestled on volcanic rock in the middle of the sea. So these caper shrubs are evidently salt tolerant as well. My Nonno (grandfather) pointed out the capers on the shrubs. The bushy plant had a thick cluster of thorny branches and fleshy, egg shaped leaves. They were as high as five feet in some places, but most were sprawled out over rocks and soil.

castel in ischia

Castelo Aragonese – A medieval castle on volcanic rock off the island of Ischia in Naples, Italy

Nonno explained that from April to June, the caper shrub’s tiny buds flower into large, sweet-scented, pink blooms clustered with long, violet stamens. The plants harvested for capers, however, rarely blossom. Instead, workers endure hot sun, sharp thorns and rugged terrain throughout the summer to pick the precious buds as they ripen.  It was a beautiful walk as we gazed out to sea. My Nonno walked ahead explaining all the sites while my Nonna (grandmother) ambled behind slowly carrying her large purse under her arm.  Nick and I found our Italian grandparents amusing.  At one point it started sprinkling as was common in the afternoons in Ischia, a sun shower.  Nonno slowed down and turned to ask my Nonna if she was ok.  In his tongue in cheek manner he just shook his head as he found Nonna pulling out  a clear plastic rain bonnet for her head and a sweater for her shoulders out of that large white purse of hers.  My brother and I were hysterically laughing not just at my Nonna but at Nonno’s reaction.  What a special caper memory.  I think of them whenever I use capers in my cooking.

Capers are enhanced enhanced by a pickling process fundamental to their cultivation, their tart and briny flavors enrich sauces, spreads and garnishes.  Capers are a staple in the Italian kitchen. The tiny, piquant buds are enjoyed from region to region, from the north to the south.  In Sicily capers are served in caponata, a summer side dish in which their saline bite cuts through the rich taste of tender, slow-cooked eggplant.  In Naples they adorn spaghetti alla puttanesca, one of the sauces I made at the seminar where the capers are combined with tomatoes, olives and anchovies in a pasta fredda to create a light yet assertive sauce. The tangy orbs are often sprinkled over pizza, pasta, and fish dishes as a flavorful garnish, and they appear in a variety of sauces.

Most capers come from wild plants, though in Spain and Italy—the two largest producers—they are cultivated. Sicily and the Aeolian island of Salina produce the majority of Italy’s capers. The best, though, come from Pantelleria. On this tiny island, halfway to Tunisia, volcanic soil and the heat of an intense Mediterranean sun create ideal growing conditions. The berries are also picked, and both are pickled for use as a seasoning and garnish. The bud, or caper, is pickled in salt and vinegar brine, then sold in vinegar or packed in salt. The berry—the larger, plump, mature fruit of the plant—resembles a green grape with faint, white stripes and, like olives, is served in pastas, salads or even as a garnish in martinis. When choosing capers, look for dark green buds packed tightly in sea salt, because those submerged in vinegar lack the subtle, natural taste of the salted ones. The smaller buds have a more delicate flavor while the larger ones have less taste and could be frauds—sometimes the similar-looking buds of the nasturtium plant are passed off as capers. The French term nonpareil is commonly used to denote the smallest buds; surfines are the next largest. True Italian capers, though, are sorted by millimeter with mechanized screens. They range from 7 millimeters to 16 millimeters. Unfortunately in stores their size is not often marked.  Be sure to look for buds not larger than a raisin. If using salted capers, soak them for five to ten minutes and drain to remove excess salt. Those in vinegar only require rinsing.