Caper Berry and Tomato Salad
 
Capperoni e Pomidori all’Insalata 

Cucunci e Pumaroru a ‘Nzalata 

Caper berries, tomato, olive oil, basil, oregano, salt and pepper make a healthy as well as tasty salad that goes well as a contorno, side dish, or as an aromatic appetizer to tease your taste buds. 

Cucunci Caperberries

My niece, Marzia Greco-Fiorilla, was vacationing in Salina, one of the Aeolian islands not far from Sicily, and in one of the restaurants facing the green-blue sea, was served a salad with caper berries and tomatoes. She liked it so much that she wrote me pronto and sent me suggestions, pictures and an easy recipe to make a sauce that, in Salina, is served over pasta.

In Salina, the cucunci are served in appetizers, mixed in green salads and used to garnish fish.

Capers grow all over Sicily and in the many small islands and archipelagos surrounding Sicily. It is a bush that easily grows wild in coastal areas, in arid land, on the side of roads or in any cracks in rocks, walls or pavement. Capers are the buds of this bush, and they must be picked before they flower to produce the fruit called caper berry, which is the size of an olive.

The caper berry is called cucuncio in Sicilian and capperone in Italian.

Capers and caper berries are available salted or preserved in vinegar or oil. Capers have been utilized for millennia in Sicilian cooking to aromatize food from fish to meats and for their medical properties. In fact, the extract of caper is beneficial as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine. Parts of the roots are selected to prepare a tea useful as a diuretic and to help in the cure of arthritis, varicose veins and gout.

Capers are sorted out by size. The smaller ones are called nonpareils, have a delicate flavor, are the size of a small pea and are the most costly; the larger ones have a stronger taste and are less expensive.

Cucunci, or caper berries, are preferably eaten raw because when they are cooked, the delicate taste and aroma fade away.
 

Serves 4 

INGREDIENTS: 

 

5 tomatoes, ripe and hard (use local fruit, if available)
5 oz caper berries (use capers if berries are not available)
4 tablespoons olive oil
5 basil leaves
Small pinch of oregano
Salt and pepper to taste 

 

 

 

PREPARATION

 

Cut the tomatoes into wedges and place in a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with salt and toss well. Set aside for 15 minutes, then check and add more salt, if needed. Rinse caper berries well and tear the basil leaves into small pieces.

Toss the caper berries, oregano, basil, olive oil and pepper into the bowl with the tomatoes.
Serve at room temperature with fresh bread to dunk in the oil and juice released by the tomatoes.
 
VARIATION:

To make a sauce a crudo, raw, to dress pasta, use the above recipe, with these slight alterations: coarsely dice the tomato and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 15 pitted black olives cut in half, 5 pitted and chopped green olives, mint leaves and ¼ lb diced Caciocavallo cheese.
Cook one pound of your preferred pasta until al dente and top with this sauce. Serve grated cheese on the side.