As a pantry staple, capers don’t tend to get a lot of attention, and they’re rarely the star of a dish. But the tiny salted flower buds (which is what they are) add a piquancy to all kinds of foods, especially when submerged in a buttery pan sauce that’s rounded out with garlic and herbs.

And that’s what I made this weekend, to pour over roasted asparagus. It’s the kind of adaptable sauce that will go well with any vegetable (or non-vegetable) that needs saucing, whether roasted sweet or regular potatoes, beets, turnips, peppers, eggplant or broccoli, pork chops, fish fillets or chicken cutlets. Better yet, the sauce takes all of 10 minutes, scallion slicing and garlic grating included.

To make it, first roast your vegetables (or fish or meat) as you always do. I tossed my asparagus with a little olive oil and salt, and roasted them at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes because they were thick.

While they were in the oven, I made the sauce. For a pound of asparagus — which fed three of us — melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet or small saucepan over medium heat. Once the foam subsides, add a sliced scallion or about a tablespoon of a chopped onion, shallot or leek, 1 tablespoon capers (rinsed, if salted, or drained, if brined), and 1 chopped anchovy (totally optional, it’s a supporting player, not the lead) and let it sizzle until the capers brown a little and the anchovy dissolves.

Now add a clove or two grated garlic, and a splash of cider vinegar or lemon juice (or another acid), and let it cook until the garlic scent fills the kitchen, 1 minute or so. Taste it to make sure the flavors are balanced. You probably don’t need to add salt, since the capers should take care of that for you, but you might need more vinegar.

Pour this over the vegetables and garnish with lots of chopped or torn herbs. I used basil and parsley but anything fresh and green will work.

That’s it. We ate it for dinner with scrambled eggs, but it works on its own as a side dish, or on top of fresh spinach for a large and very verdant salad.

This is part of a series in which Melissa Clark teaches you how to cook with pantry staples. See more.



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