The greatest drawback to being a food writer, I have found, is that people expect me to know something about food, often something I don't happen to know.
At a recent dinner party, for example, a guest had a question about capers: "What are they?" In response, I spooned out a peppercorn-sized bead from the salad. "I mean what are they made of?" he insisted. "Where do they come from?" The room fell silent while I backed toward my culinary encyclopedia to look it up.
The caper is the unopened bud of the caper tree, a shrub that made its way to ancient Rome by way of the Sahara. Tart and tangy, capers are meant to be used sparingly to enliven sauces and salads. I like to toss them into ratatouille and tomato-based pasta dishes, as well as use them as follows.
CHERRY TOMATO SALAD
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon fresh basil, cut into thin strips
Freshly ground pepper