Potato salad with olives, tomatoes and capers is a popular salad on the island of Pantelleria (Strait of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea).
Capers are a small but distinctive ingredient in Sicilian cooking. I have seen these plants all over Sicily, growing right out of stone walls (see photos below). In addition to abundant plants growing on Pantelleria, the caper bush also grows wild on the Italian Island of Salina (Aeolian Islands, north of Sicily).
The tangled and spiny bush produce tight little buds (capers) that must be hand-picked just as they reach the right size. This is an arduous and tricky task as the hard edible tiny buds turn into flowers (short-lived) in the morning and are gone by the afternoon.
Once picked they are dried in the sun, then layered in salt brine in barrels to cure for about a week. After draining they are packed in course sea salt. The taste is slightly astringent and I always rinse them well before using. A typical Sicilian dish (and one of my favorites) using this pungent little bud is Pasta with ricotta and capers.
- 2 1/2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed not peeled
- 1 Tablespoon course salt
- 5 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin olive oil
- 1 12-ounce cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, cubed
- 4 large plum tomatoes, quartered
- 1 red onion, very thinly sliced
- 24 black oil-cured olives, pitted
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, very thinly sliced
- 2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained
- 3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, cut into quarters
- Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender for about 30 minutes. Drain, let cool.
- Cut into 1-inch pieces (I use organic potatoes and do not peel them). Transfer to a large bowl, add the oil and toss to coat.
- Add cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, olives, basil and capers.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and oregano. Pour over salad and mix to dress the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.
- To serve, plate the salad and garnish with eggs. Bruschetta is the perfect accompaniment. Leftovers should be refrigerated but, this dish is best served at room temperature.
My supply of capers that I brought home from this trip is nearly gone. When the dust settles after this Pandemic, perhaps I shall return to restock!