Roasted asparagus with bay leaves and crispy capers brings a spring staple an unexpected and elegant transformation.
An intense dose of heat keeps the spears green and snappy. Fried capers add a startling accent. More startling still: Fry up some large caperberries, still on their stems.–Rozanne Gold
*What’s a caper berry?
A little more elusive than its diminutive cousin, the caper berry is sort of like a caper with a superhero cape. Whereas a caper is a tiny unripe bud on the caper bush, the caper berry is actually the plant’s fruit. It lacks the zingy wallop of a caper, though it boasts a more nuanced, caper-y taste and a far more elegant appearance, resembling an elongated green olive with a stem. Caper berries can be found in brine, whether in bottles or buckets, where capers and olives are sold. Capers and caper berries are not always interchangeable in recipes given the discrepancy in size and taste, although here, where they serve as an accent, you can happily swap one for the other.
Roasted Asparagus with Bay Leaves and Capers
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 pounds asparagus with spears of medium thickness, ends snapped off
- 6 large fresh bay leaves (look for them in the little plastic containers along with the other packaged fresh herbs)
- 1/4 cup large capers or caper berries in brine* (or, in a pinch, substitute green olives)
- To roast the asparagus, preheat the oven to 450°F (232° C).
- Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Add the asparagus and toss to coat. Spread the spears in a single layer, tuck the bay leaves underneath so they are only partly exposed, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Roast, shaking the pan occasionally, until the asparagus is lightly browned and just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Arrange on a large platter.
- While the asparagus is roasting, drain the capers or caper berries or olives and pat them dry. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a small skillet. Add the capers, caper berries, or olives and fry until crispish, about 1 minute. Pour the contents of the skillet, including the oil, over the roasted asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Remove and discard the bay leaves or, if you leave them for a pretty presentation, caution guests not to nibble them. Originally published April 12, 2011.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I love the flavor combination of the roasted asparagus with bay leaves and crispy capers. The fried capers added saltiness, as well as a nice crunch. This dish was simple, but delicious—the perfect side dish. Nice recipe.
This is one of the absolute best ways to have asparagus. No muss, no fuss—just onto the sheet and into the oven! The large caper berries add a nice bite of savoury tartness, and although the recipe calls for 1/4 cup, I enjoyed it most with half a caper berry for every asparagus spear. I halved the amount of asparagus and only needed one baking sheet. If making the whole recipe, you’ll require two baking sheets, and double the amount of bay leaves.
The caper berries take a lot longer than 1 minute to start crisping, and after 5 minutes, they were only starting to colour a bit. I tried the recipe a second time, tossing them with some olive oil and salt before strewing them over the asparagus spears. The result was still quite nice, but the berries weren’t as crisp.
You can vary this recipe by adding a tablespoon of grated lemon zest before, and/or a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar just after roasting. Or, try shaving some good Reggiano cheese over the spears as they emerge from the hot oven.
There’s nothing easier or more delicious than roasted asparagus, and with the addition of bay leaves and crispy caper berries, it only gets better. Next time, I’ll put the caper berries in the oven to crisp alongside the asparagus as it roasts. That might make preparation even easier.
I love asparagus, and you’d be hard-pressed to come up with an asparagus recipe that I wouldn’t like. My favorite preparation is grilling, and the appeal of this recipe is that it produced a similar result, only in the oven.
I used caper berries in this dish, but I think regular capers would be better. The caper berries are large, and provided a bit too much of a salt blast for my taste. I’d recommend quartering them, or just using capers, which are smaller.
The asparagus had a wonderful char to it that was perfectly complimented by the salty berries. This was a fun, new way to prepare asparagus.
This had awesome flavors, and was easy to make. The recipe should clarify whether small or large capers work best. In my opinion, the small capers lend themselves to the goal of “crispness” as described in the recipe. This is a keeper.
Just an amazing recipe—simple, less than a handful of ingredients, easy preparation, and a ton of flavor.
Next time, I’d toss the asparagus, salt, and olive oil together in a large mixing bowl, then turn it onto the baking sheet. It’s an extra step, but I like the salt and oil to be distributed evenly without the possibility of making a huge mess by tossing it on the baking sheet as the author instructs. I’d also add a heavy shaving of Parmigiano-Reggiano (or any other hard cheese) at the very end before serving. It’ll make this near-perfect dish, perfect.
I’m a huge fan of the caper berry, and I think it’s overlooked in day-to-day cooking. The older sibling of capers, these lovely, briny treats worked really well with roasted asparagus. I had a problem finding fresh bay leaves at my regular supermarket, but eventually found them at a specialized grocery store. I’m used to the mild flavor of dried bay leaves in soups, etc., but the smell of the fresh bay leaves tucked into the asparagus in the oven was amazing.
I crisped the caper berries on high heat. Knowing that the caper berries are salty themselves, I used about 1/8 teaspoon of salt on the asparagus before roasting, and that was just enough. Overall, this roasted asparagus with bay leaves and crispy capers was a wonderful recipe that I’ll definitely be making again.
When asparagus is in season, we eat it as often as we can. This recipe is an interesting variation on our usual roasted and seasoned asparagus. I used dried bay leaves and found the flavor to be pretty subtle, almost imperceptible, so I’d recommend seeking out and using fresh ones as the recipe calls for. Still, the briny, crispy capers added dimension to the asparagus, and I’ll be making this dish often. It’s a simple, special side dish that would be great for any spring meal, whether for a quick weeknight or holiday.
Even though I had patted them dry, when I put the capers in the hot pan, there was a huge splattering of hot oil all over the stove (and me). I lowered the heat to just below medium to reduce the amount of splattering and fried them for about 2 minutes.
Overall, I really liked the flavors a lot, as well as how simple the dish was.
This was an especially easy recipe to put together. I loved the crunchy, salty caper berries on the softened and charred asparagus—it’s an unlikely combination that works.
I used large caper berries (with stems), though a 1/4 cup of them didn’t seem to go very far. I also didn’t think the bay leaves added anything. That said, the recipe was super easy and tasty, and I’d make it again with modifications.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
What a simple and delightful side dish. I loved how the caper berries added a sweet, tart flavor to the asparagus. Yet again, another recipe showing simplicity at its best. Even my toddler loved it!