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Nonpareil means “without equal.” In the food world, nonpareils are tiny balls of sugar used to decorate cookies and cakes. Kitchen Conservatory sells lots of nonpareils in different colors, plus larger sugar decorations: dragees (gold and silver balls), jimmies (oblong sticks of sugar), sprinkles (various shapes that are larger than nonpareils), glitter (flat sprinkles), and fine and coarse sugars.

Because “nonpareil” has two definitions: without equal and tiny balls, many people think that nonpareil is better — as in capers. Nonpareil capers is a marketing term because those capers are tiny. Actually, nonpareil capers are not as good as larger capers. Countless recipes advise to use “capers, preferably nonpareil.” Once again I find myself on the opposite side of conventional wisdom, as I advise to never use nonpareil capers — because they do not taste as delicious as the larger capers. Larger capers are called capotes.

Capers are the flower bud of a Mediterranean plant that are salted or pickled and then used in a variety of salads, pastas, and fish dishes. My favorite use for capers is deep-fried. I use these crispy, salty, flavor nuggets as a garnish for salads or fish dishes. They are as irresistible as popcorn.

Deep-Fried Capers

1 cup drained capers, preferably large

2 cups oil

Heat the oil to 350 degrees. Dry the capers as much as possible. In batches, add the capers to the oil and cook until light brown, about 30 seconds. Drain on paper towels. Do not salt, as they are already salty. Use immediately as a garnish.