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on November 14, 2004
I was introduced to this wonderful book as a resource for an article that I'm writing about Sepharidic dishes for "Jewish Woman" Magazine. What a treasure trove! Not just of vegetarian Jewish recipes, but of the lore behind them. Marks talks about the history of cooking among Jews from Italy to Uzbekistan, and explains the "why" and "how" of typical ingredients from anise to yogurt. This is one of those rich, evocative cookbooks that you'll want to read in bed, like a good novel.
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on December 23, 2005
I think this book amazing, it is definitely my favorite vegetarian cook book. I've tried about 10 recipes from it, and all of them turned out absolutely amazing, getting great reviews from my family. The Syrian spinach soup is my favourite so far. My dad isn't too much into spinach, but after trying this soup, he has changed his mind and has asked me to make it over and over again. The dishes offered by Gil are very versatile and diverse, coming from all corners of the world where Jewish people have lived and traveled through the ages. I was very impressed to find Bukharan and Georgian recipes -- two cuisines that haven't got much exposure in the western world.

You can tell that Gil has put a lot of thought into every single recipe, he puts some variations after every recipe, as well as the history behind it. I'm really looking forward to trying out more recipes from this book.

A plus for vegans -- every recipe is marked with either D for dairy-containing dishes or P for non-dairy (although they might have eggs). That said, Gil offers non-dairy alternatives for most of the dairy recipes.

Thanks Gil for the great book! :0)
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on September 7, 2005
Having endured a rather bland week of institutional vegetarian menus, I returned home from a Jewish gathering eager to follow "eco-kashrut" but unwilling to eat one more bite of tofu. I immediately began searching for vegetarian recipes that might actually have some zest and pizzazz, and found that this book fills the bill. Olive Trees and Honey offers time-tested (some, over millenia) kosher vegetarian recipes from the Greater Mediterranean region, served with a rich fare of agricultural and social history. Learning the paths that various ingredients have taken around the globe is fascinating, and definitely fun to share with Sabbath dinner guests.
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on November 29, 2005
I have a good number of Jewish cookbooks and vegetarian cookbooks, but this one is probably my favorite in both categories. The text and headnotes before the recipes are interesting, and virtually all of the recipes that I've tried so far have been terrific. I have particularly enjoyed the soups, including a fabulous red lentil soup, an Egyptian potato soup, and a Greek barley soup. Many of the recipes include variations which provide interesting and easy ways in which to change the nature of the dish. I highly recommend this book!
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on April 25, 2005
This is such a wonderful book. First of all, I just made the "Turkish Leek Patties" for Passover and they were the hit of the sedar. The recipe worked perfectly. His recipes are flexible, so you can adjust the amount of garlic or parmesan, for example (I went with full garlic and cheese, fyi). They all sound so good, so you can sit with the book for an entire afternoon and want to make everything. I brought the book with me and two separate relatives sat with the book for at least an hour each. It's entirely readable because it's so fascinating. The book is filled with recipes and great cultural tidbits from the entire Jewish diaspora. And while I started out by mentioning a dish I cooked for the holidays, this book is so much more than that. There's an amazing section on savory pastries (I made turnovers with an Iraqi Chickpea filling, but I can't wait to make more) and delicious recipes for "Ashkenazic Stewed Carrots" and "Sephardic Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes." That's all I've made so far, but I had to share my experiences because I rarely get so excited about cookbooks. Finally, the cover is gorgeous and the recipes are easy to read, so why don't you have this book???
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on April 13, 2007
'Olive Trees and Honey' is an amazing book. Not only will you get wonderful vegetarian recipes, but just the history and traditions that are explained in this book is worth the price of the book. Don't think that it's full of "talk" though!! It contains lots of wonderful recipes. Pages 1-34 contains a brief explanation of the various countries that Jewish people come from, the traditional Jewish foods eaten in those countries, the spices used, etc. Did you know that there are Jewish people in India? Ethiopia? Yemen? The rest of the book (about 400 pages of it) contain some very interesting recipes. The beginning of each chapter includes a little section on the history of that type of food, along with recipes from various countries, and some possible variations. This book is for everyone - vegetarians, vegans, meat eaters, Jewish or non-Jewish. I promise you will learn something from this book (and not just new recipes!) It's obvious that the author took a lot of trouble to research th background of the various types of Jewish communities before he wrote this book, and I wish I could give it 10 stars!
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on May 4, 2005
This is a great cookbook! I own way too many "Jewish" cookbooks and this one is by far my favorite because it covers so many 'cuisines'-not just your usual Jewish (American) fare. Plus, it's arranged in a very logical way (by ingredient) AND it doesn't assume the reader is familiar with the ingredients. There is a valuable culinary education in here as well as historical tidbits that will delight any Jewish cook! As a former vegetarian I am always trying to find interesting and new ways to get vegetables onto the table and this book definitely has some great dishes.

I have tried many of the recipes and so far they have been very accurate and the results have been very good.

I was also happy to see recipes for "cardoons"-an edible plant that I grow in my garden but most people (unless they're Italian) have never even heard of! This was proof for me that this book covers a very wide range of vegetarian fare.

Very well done.
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on November 30, 2009
I can't say enough how wonderful this book is. I try to use it as much as possible and so far the recipes I have made have all been stellar. I'm vegan and I was happy to find that many of the recipes are vegan by default. And even the non-vegan recipes can be veganized easily by replacing milk with soymilk and butter with vegan margarine. So far I've made:

Sephardic red lentil soup - absolutely my favorite lentil soup EVER. It never fails me and I've made this more than anything else in the book.
Egyptian potato soup - fantastic potato soup flavored with lemon juice.
Moroccan pumpkin soup - deliciously spiced with a beautiful orange color.
Bazargan (Syrian bulgur relish) - a must have for meze. Goes well with crackers and pita.
Sephardic rice stuffed peppers - hearty, filling and very easy to prepare.
Turkish bulgur pilaf - wonderful on it's own or stuffed into peppers.
Moroccan fiery marinated olives - Wow!
Bukharan samsa - light pastry surrounding delicious butternut squash filling
Moroccan vegetable stew - perfect on top of couscous with onion cinnamon raisin topping (also in book)
and many more...

Another positive aspect of this book is the history. The author has really done his research and offers insightful information about the origins of specific foods and dishes. So very interesting! A history of food and cookbook in one. A must buy.
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on June 2, 2006
This book is an excellent reference for anyone interested in preparing vegetarian meals...Jewish or not. Absolutely every recipe I have tried from this book has turned out beautifully. My favorite thing about this book is the fact that all the recipes are very flexible. The book is set up to accomodate a typical home-chef who may substitute certain ingredients based on what is in season or what one happens to have in their kitchen at the time. Almost all the recipes are followed by a number of possible ingredient variations. For example, a carrot simmus recipe includes additional information on how to make a sweet potato simmus instead. There are also many listed opportunities for incorporating extra ingredients, spices, and flavorings into any given recipe, as well as the option to make a sweet or savory version of a dish. Basically, the book is designed for practical, at-home cooking and yields wondeful results on all counts. Another feature I enjoy about this book is the history surrounding the recipes. Marks has taken the time to outline the origin of every dish. He pays special attention to the use of particular ingredients in particular regions. He explains why certain components make a dish characteristically local. Marks manages to make the reader feel as if they are participating in a long line of Jewish tradition, even if he recipe originated in another country altogether. Whether you are looking to discover a world of history surrounding international Jewish vegetarian cuisine, or are simply interested in making dinner, this book is an invaluable resource. Adaptable and well researched, it will benefit anyone looking to put a delicious vegetarian meal on the table.
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VINE VOICEon June 15, 2007
"A land of wheat and barley, of grape vines and fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive trees and honey . . . you shall eat and be satisfied." Deut. 8:8-10

Tracing vegetarian Jewish Diaspora recipes is no easy task: Rabbi and chef Gil Marks has created a painstakingly researched cookbook that at times reads more like a history book. With recipes from Azerbaijan to Yemen, Olive Trees and Honey is a catalogue of the vast variety of Jewish vegetarian cuisines, including chapters on cheese and dairy spreads, pickles and relishes, soups, salads, savory pastries, cooked vegetable dishes, vegetable stews, beans and legumes, grains, dumplings and pasta, eggs, and sauces and seasonings.

Each section features fascinating information about the origins and spread of each type of cuisine, often with illustrative maps. Some examples include a map of which type of cheeses are popular in which Diaspora community, or the spread of stuffed cabbage from Persia. Each recipe contains a myriad of further variations to try. Every recipe is labeled Dairy or Pareve for those keeping kosher, and many recipes offer Pareve alternatives (which generally are vegan).

Some of the more interesting recipes that caught my eye were Moroccan Pumpkin Soup, Hungarian Wine Soup, a sangria-like cold soup (red wine and fresh/frozen fruit mixed with orange juice, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves), Middle Eastern Bulgur-Stuffed Cabbage, Sephardic Cauliflower Patties (perfect for Passover if made with matza meal), Indian Coconut Rice, Middle Eastern Wheat Berry Stew, and the classic Ashkenazic Sweet Noodle Pudding (Kugel).

Also included are suggested vegetarian menus for special occasions and holidays. This is a monumental work and one of the most beautiful vegetarian cookbooks out there, refreshing for the soul as well as body. I only have two small complaints: Rabbi Gil Marks wrote the excellent (and out-of-print) The World Of Jewish Desserts: More Than 400 Delectable Recipes from Jewish Communities. I would have liked to see the incorporation of more of his well-researched desserts as a final sweet note (there are recipes for several pastry-based desserts included). Also, the large number of variations in addition to the core recipes (example: ten recipes for red lentil soup, many of which are minor variations of the basic Sephardic Red Lentil Soup) made this a bit overwhelming; although I enjoyed browsing through the 300+ recipes, I honestly don't see myself ever making more than a handful on a regular basis.
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