Marjoram Sauce with Capers & Green Olives Recipe

Pungent, herby, and assertive, this is an incredibly versatile sauce. From Deborah Madison's new book, Vegetable Literacy, it's made with pounded capers, walnuts, green olives, and a load of herbs - the perfect slather for everything from sandwiches and pasta to egg salad and vegetables.

Marjoram Sauce with Capers & Green Olives

I spend time with a lot of cookbooks. Some I like for the author's voice, or their cooking palette. Others have beautiful photography or styling. Some of my favorites capture a sense of place and time. There are a lot of good books being produced right now, and a rich range of perspectives reflected. It's great. That said, there aren't many books that completely challenge me to think about my own cooking from an unexpected angle. Deborah Madison's forthcoming book Vegetable Literacy, is an exception. I spent a stretch of time with it before it went to the printer, and I suspect it will be one of the most influential cookbooks published this year.

Marjoram SauceMarjoram Sauce

Deborah's new book explores the relationships between vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers within the same botanical families. So, for example, if you understand that buckwheat, rhubarb, and sorrel are all part of the Knotweed family, it might impact how you consider use them. Ingredients I may regularly use in combination, purely on instinct, might have a natural affinity for each other through their botanical relationship. Understanding these relationships directly impacts how you think about using these ingredients. And it's a lot of fun to think about.

After spending some time with Vegetable Literacy, I wrote an endorsement for the back cover, doing my best to sum up what an incredible book it is. It went like this..."There are few people equipped with the curiosity, skill, and eye for observation required to construct a volume of this size and scope - and Deborah does it masterfully. Vegetable Literacy will shift the way both home and professional cooks think about the relationship between ingredients, and vegetables in particular. Using this book has felt like a missing puzzle piece snapping into place - inspiring, intimate, informative, and beautifully illustrated."

Marjoram Sauce

More than anything, I wanted to give you the heads up about the book, it will be out in the coming weeks, and I suspect/hope many of you will find it as interesting as I have. Recipes? This thick marjoram sauce recipe immediately popped off the pages at me (and has become a fast favorite)...It's great for slathering, spreading, and mixing in. Pungent, herby, and assertive, it's made with pounded capers, walnuts, green olives, and a load of herbs - my photos don't do it justice. Give it a try - really. You must. It's great with pasta, worked into egg or potato salad, spread on bruschetta or sandwiches, or tossed with roasted or sauteed vegetables. I even topped a frittata with it - A+.

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Marjoram Sauce with Capers & Green Olives

HS note: I used Castelvetrano olives. Look for any good, not canned, green olives - Whole Foods typically has a good olive selection near the salad bar. Or an Italian deli might be another option.

1 thick slice country bread, crust removed
2 tablespoons aged red vine vinegar
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/3 cup / 1/4 oz / 8 g marjoram leaves
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
1/2 cups / 1 1/2 oz / 45 g pine nuts or walnuts
1 cup / 1 1/4 oz / 35 g finely chopped parsley
10 pitted green olives
1/2 cup / 120 ml olive oil

Place the bread on a plate and sprinkle the vinegar over it. Pound the garlic with the salt in a mortar until smooth, then, one at a time, work in the marjoram, capers, nuts, parsley, and olives. Pound until the mixture has the texture of a coarse puree. Add the bread, then the olive oil and work all the ingredients together until the sauce comes together. Season with pepper, then taste for vinegar and salt, adding the smallest bit more if needed. If you like a looser sauce, thin with a bit more oil. It will keep refrigerated for a few days.

Makes about 1 cup.

Adapted from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison. To be published March 12, 2013.

Prep time: 10 minutes

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Thanks for sharing this book recommendation! It looks awesome!! I also can't wait to try your marjoram sauce!

Allison Jordan

This sauce was absolutely fabulous! Made it last night and served with toasted brioche, gruyere & an egg for dinner. The whole family raved about this sauce. Can't wait to get the book.


that book looks beautiful - adding to my wishlist xo


Vegetable Literacy is number one on my wishlist at the moment. It looks and sounds like an absolutely wonderful book. Knowing how much you love it only makes me want it more. I can't wait for it's release here in Australia.

Jennifer @ Delicieux

I used this last night on top of grilled fish, and the marjoram proved too 'perfumey'. I then made a tofu sandwich for lunch today and slathered some sauce on pita, with the tofu and it was yummy. I think it would be great with pasta or rice, but overpowered my fish...

Carol T

Looks good & I will have to give this recipe a try. Love that the recipe incorporates so many healthy ingredients.

Anastasia Healthy Mama Info

Beautiful post, as always! So well written and your photos are flawless.

Christina @ The Beautiful Balance

One of my favorite cookbooks is Deborah's "The Savory Way". I look forward to this new masterpiece! This recipe sounds like it would go well with the Brioche with Prosciutto, Gruyere & Egg we are having for dinner on Monday evening...will give it a try!


This book has been on my radar for the last couple weeks. For me, Deborah Madison has always been *the* vegetarian cookbook author. I can't wait to get my copy!


And I thought buckwheat was part of the goosefoot family! Thanks for suggesting this book, I am looking forward to reading it!

Rosemary Hanson

Heidi, I love your website & books (I own & faithfully use all of them). Your well rounded recipes have been go to favorites as meals for my twin girls. I have also been revamping & adjusting my eating habit to become a healthier person. To date, I have lost 25 pounds by eating at a minimum one meal a day that is based on one of your recipes. Thank you so much for what you do and for your inspiration to eat beautiful, satisfying and healthy food.


I mostly want to comment on your accolades for the book, Heidi. So beautifully written! Of the many things I enjoy about your blog, among them your photographs and of course how you play with ingredients, is how your writing has evolved and strengthened over the years. It keeps me coming back ...


One of her recipes of pairing tarragon and asparagus was just featured in my new Vegetarion Times magazines.


Well, I am 100% sold on Deborah's new book now. Can't wait to hunker down and soak up her vegetable wisdom.

Cookie and Kate

This looks delicious! I'm going to try it out with a pasta dish. Thanks for sharing! :)


On the "to read" list. Thanks!

Rocky Mountain Woman

Thank you for introducing me to Deborah's book, I think it's going to be interesting to read (I can't believe how many cookbooks I've been reading lately). Regarding the sauce you made up's just lovely. I like the frittata idea. You probably already know them but if you don't you absolutely need to get a hold of "taggiasche" olives. For this sort of pesto/sauce they are mighty oh good.


will this sauce freeze well?


I'm so excited for Vegetable Literacy, Deborah Madison has been my every day go-to cookbook for over a decade, I just love her. Thanks for giving me a heads-up!

Heather Knape

This is like the sauce of my dreams, I can't wait to check this book out!

Melissa @CookedandDevoured

I've never heard of the herb before. I'm so excited to try this.


I cannot wait to get my hands on this book! thanks for the pre-notice :) I also cannot wait to use this spread on some veggie patties I think! and in a chickpea salad wrap. oh yes.


I placed my order for this book weeks ago, and am (impatiently) waiting for it to arrive. I'm so jealous! Marjoram is one of my most favorite herbs. Thanks for the heads up. Drooling...


I appreciate reading your endorsement of Deborah's new book, and looking forward to using this Marjoram sauce soon. Thank you for all your efforts, Heidi.

Gigi ~

Just made this in the processor. I liked it better before adding the bread with the vinegar. BUT it is really really tasty both ways. Having it on halibut tonight with a hint of lemon. Thanks for sharing. Everything I have made from your site has been wonderful.

linda again

Heidi I love the sound of this book and have been meaning to ask whether you've read "The Lost Language of Plants"? I think from the way you write and the things you write about you'd quite like it... Emma


No mortar and pestle - will the results be much the same if I use a small food processor?


I love the creativity coming out of your blog - you've put words to things I've felt about cookbooks, but didn't know how to say. I will be keeping my eye open for Vegetable Literacy - it is definitely filling a gap.


I'm chuckling over so many ppl turning to you to tell us how to use the sauce. How about we think of where we use sauces and spreads now and sub in this one for whatever we're using to see if we like it? It's not as if Heidi has some supernatural insight into where to use a sauce.


Sounds wonderful. I love understanding the origins of food combinations and how our gut (quite literally) can lead us to combine ingredients that are beneficial to our bodies. Does her book talk about the medicinal benefits of vegetables and herbs? E.g. cilantro is very cleansing for the liver, as are beets.

Alice Dishes

Deborah Madison is always more than worth reading, so I'm super excited to hear about her new book! Especially considering the amazing-sounding premise. Marjoram sauce--who would have thought?


Oh this sounds wonderful! I've grown marjoram for years in my herb garden but never found many recipes calling for it. I will be trying this. I can almost taste it on a good rye cracker with a speck of cheese or smeared on thinly sliced French bread! Yum! Can't wait to see this book!


I can almost smell this from the photos! What a wonderful thought here in the middle of winter. Thank you. I'll look for the book.


I use this on roasted beets (it was a recipe in Deborah's book Local Flavors), and it is one of my ALL TIME favorites!! It also is great as a salad dressing, just add a bit more olive oil.


Thank you for sharing this. It went straight onto my wishlist!


Sounds like a fantastic read and that sauce has gone in my wish list to prep soon!


I'm with Annie and Mike. Could we have a few suggestions on how to use this sauce? Of course, pasta... but what else? Thanks. It sounds delicious and I have tons of marjoram in the garden.

HS: Hi Carol - I had it slathered on a frittata, on bruschetta, mixed into brown rice.....great as a component in egg salad. Really, it's hard to go wrong with this one.

Carol Wheeler

Ha--I just bought marjoram yesterday to use in Deborah Madison's recipe for a roasted red pepper soup, with the intention of finding other recipes to experiment with in order to use up the rest of the herb. Perfect timing! This sounds delicious.


The sauce looks wonderful. And, thanks so much for the heads-up on Deborah's book.

Kelly Turnbull

Lucky you to get such pre-published time to soak in such a fascinating book! I love Deborah Madison, for her obvious brilliance, but also because I buy olive oil from her brother (Mike Madison) and his wife at the Davis Farmers' Market! Such a lovely small world. Will be getting this as soon as possible. Thanks!


Very exciting post. I love marjoram. There is something so fragrant and almost perfumed about it. I am very much looking forward to this new cookbook. Sounds inspiring!

Aleksandra Peyrer-Navijalic

sounds like a mix between a pesto and a tapenade, yum!


You always highlight lovely books. Your photographs make this post so beautiful and appealing. I look forward to purchasing Vegetable Literacy.

I went to CAL in the early 80's and my roommates and I would take Bart into the city and eat at Greens. I loved it then and I still love Deborah Madison. So excited to hear she has another book on the horizon!


I am so looking forward to this book! Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone has become a bible of sorts in my kitchen, even though we're not vegetarian. It's well written, and there's certainly something for everyone in it. I can't wait to see what the new book brings.

Anne @ Webicurean

I was fortunate to have a demo cooking class from Deborah over 10 years ago. I was already a big admirer of hers. Her sense of taste and ability with vegetarian food would be difficult to surpass. Her books are all amazing. I could not be without Vegetarian Cooking. Thanks for the heads up, I just pre-ordered it!


I have this on preorder, thanks for the delicious preview! Wonderful title and concept, am very much looking forward to its arrival. In the meantime, this seems a terrific way of using one of my very favorite of herbs.

diary of a tomato

Sounds like a fascinating book. And I love the sound of this sauce. Marjoram is one herb I'd like to try to use more and this looks worth it!

Abbe@This is How I Cook

Sounds totally DELIGHTFUL!


I like a book that gives ideas along with instruction - looks like a keeper. So, here in NOLA in grocery stores they sell olive salad, which is olives chopped up a bit with a little of other things, some herbs and lots of olive oil. Many keep a jar in the 'frig. I'm thinking it'd be okay to sub it for the olives and olive oil. You think so?


Can you leave out the bread? we are gluten free.

HS: Hi Brenda - It will have a different texture, and you'll need to balance out the other ingredients a bit differently, but yes :)./i>


This book looks absolutely magnificent. And this post has certainly done it justice.

Brian @ A Thought For Food

Lucky! I've been daydreaming about the day this book comes out for the last month. I'm glad I work in a bookstore- I'll get my copy as soon as it comes in!

Rebecca M.

I'm always looking for new, interesting sauces to try. This sounds heavenly, and I'll have to check out that book as well!

Caroline @ Pink Basil

Looks so good and seems so versatile!

Little Kitchie

Wonderful recipe!


I am so excited about this cookbook. I can't wait to get my hands on it! Thanks for the sneak peek!


Miriam: I'm learning so much cooking and ingredient vocabulary with your posts! The combination of this herbs seems perfect to dress a salad :)

La Servilleta de Tela

Hm, wonderful...haven't used marjoram for a while. I think I will make this sauce with almonds instead of walnuts or pecans.


Marjoram is so sparsely used. Love the addition in this recipe :)

Kiran @

What a beautiful book! I'm definitely going to put it on the wishlist. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. Very interesting sauce with the bread worked into the herbs. I've never had a sauce/spread recipe like that, but I'm definitely going to try!

Diane @ Vintage Zest

I love the title of the book and if you say that it challenges you to examine your own cooking and think more deeply about things, then I can't wait to get my hands on it!

Averie @ Averie Cooks

What is the best use for this sauce? Spread in sandwiches? With meat?


I've not heard about this book, it sounds interesting, so thanks for that. The sauce looks good!

leaf (the indolent cook)

Love this sauce! Bright and brilliant. Thank you for sharing.

Lisa {AuthenticSuburbanGourmet}

So verdant! I imagine it will work with pasta, too. Thanks for the heads up about the book, Heidy.

Ambri Pukhraj

wow..this is so my kind of sauce, fresh ingredients, great aromas soulful taste. With my overflowing pot of marjoram I keep turning it into sauces and pestos. This will be a new addition. Vegetable Literacy looks like a book that I would cherish. Looking forward to it.

sangeeta khanna

How do you use this sauce? What should you eat it with?


I'm such a fan of Deborah Madison, and her new book looks so interesting! Also, I am always on the lookout for another vibrant sauce for "slathering, spreading, and mixing in." Thanks for sharing the Marjoram Sauce!

la domestique

looks great! Heidi do you use the small capers or the bigger ones?

Linda Maria

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