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The Olive and the Caper: Adventures in Greek Cooking Paperback – August 1, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Traditional Greek cuisine favors sour tastes: lemons, capers, vinegar, wild herbs. Cooking with these pungent ingredients takes a sure hand or, failing that, a good recipe. Hoffman's book supplies the latter in abundance; it attempts nothing less than to capture the whole of Greek food culture between covers. That includes side notes on language, myth, literature and botany; details of regional specialties; lists of native greens; and an explanation of why we say "Greek" instead of "Hellenic." Like many warm-weather cuisines, Greek food relies on an abundance of grilled meats and fish and dressed greens. Hoffman presents them in dazzling variety, alongside familiar exports like Dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaves) and Tzatziki. Hoffman, an anthropologist and cook, includes recipes that might be challenging or improbable for American home cooks: Retsina-Pickled Octopus, Thyme-Fed Snails and "Greek-inspired ice creams" made with mastic or olive oil. There are labor-intensive recipes, too, showing how to make filo pastry and homemade sourdough noodles. Desserts—Semolina Custard Pie; Yogurt Cake with Ouzo-Lemon Syrup—go far beyond Baklava. With its fascinating trove of information, this work will please armchair cooks and traveling foodies. For those willing to surrender to its searingly bright palate of flavors, it's a boon to the kitchen, too. Photos, illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Back Cover

THE OLIVE AND THE CAPER is all things Greek: fall-off-the-bone lamb shanks seasoned with garlic, thyme, cinnamon, and coriander. A refreshing new tzatziki made pink with beets, and a dazzling filo pie filled with greens, fennel and ouzo. Dolmadakias–stuffed grape leaves– succulent with retsina-soaked currants and raisins. Fish grilled with mastic-flavored bread stuffing. A luscious kapama of beef stewed in wine, brandy, and coffee; chicken baked with eggplant and green olives. Inspired by the passionate cooks, bakers, fishermen, and housewives she befriended over thirty years of extended stays in Greece, Susanna Hoffman presents more than 250 recipes based on the original and still best Mediterranean diet, with a resounding…Opa!
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing Company; (2nd) edition (August 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1563058480
  • ISBN-13: 978-1563058486
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 1.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #383,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 22, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
According to the preface and acknowledgments to this book, `The Olive and the Caper' by Susanna Hoffman, the author went through many more difficulties than usual in bringing this book to completion. Heading the list was the loss of the virtually complete manuscript in 1991, and its reconstruction in the following years. I for one am delighted that the author took the effort to reconstruct this volume, as it should stand as a template for how to put together a readable, useable, entertaining exposition of the cuisine of a country.

I am not saying Ms. Hoffman has given us the very best treatment of a national cuisine or even necessarily the very best treatment of Greek cuisine. Diana Kennedy's `From My Mexican Kitchen' is a different approach to a national cuisine that works equally as well as a format and her content is of the highest possible quality. Similarly, Diane Kochilas approaches Greek food in `The Glorious Foods of Greece' in an entirely different manner than Hoffman, giving us a third valuable approach.

While Kochilas' approach is by region, with each chapter covering a different ethnic and culinary enclave such as The Peloponnesos, The Ionian Islands, Thessaly, Macedonia, Crete, and Athens and others, Ms. Hoffman approaches her subject by ingredient or type of dish. While this seems very conventional and while it is definitely less scholarly than Ms. Kochilas book, it is done with a depth that is uncommon among lesser books on a national cuisine. For example, the very first chapter deals with the drinks of Greece, including lowly water, which just happens to have a special place in Greek tradition. It reminds us that it is Greek intellectual tradition and customs that contributed much more to the development of early Christianity than Roman customs.
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Format: Paperback
Having never been to Greece, I won't even begin to comment on how "authentic" Ms. Hoffman's recipes are. They are, however, accompanied by many sidebars, articles, anecdotes and mini history lessons that make the recipes seem like illustrations in a wonderful travel book.

The recipes run the gamut from difficult (exotic ingredients and complicated prep) to simple (glass of water, anyone?) and not all dishes are for everyone. But there is a nice sense of generality to the collection, from the traditional to the seasonal, as if everything you ever wanted to *sample* from a Greek table is in this book.

What really makes it so attractive, however, is the conversational running commentary kept up by the author throughout. One learns why water is such a sacred inclusion at the Greek table, why Constantinoble became Istanbul, and what it takes for a foreign woman to be accepted by her Greek neighbors. Whether giving us a history lesson or just a glimpse into modern daily life, Ms. Hoffman's experiences in the Greek Isles are an invaluble inclusion here. Perhaps even enough to start a new sub-genre: Culturebooks!
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Format: Hardcover
This book is truly a winner. The recepies are just delicious and I have been serving them not only to my own family but at school meetings and community parties, and everybody wants to know where I got them and what makes them so increadibly good! But also all the little stories and facts are delightful. Each one is like a new little adventure within a greater adventure. I have never been to Greece but if it's anything like it sounds like from this book, I want to go there--and never leave! I will take this book as my guide as i move from dish to dish! A charming, lovely cookbook which has brought me many happy friends and smiles.

Pasta Primavera
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this cookbook nearly a year ago. Amazon never requested feedback so I never wrote a review until now. I had been searching for over 20 years for the Greek cookbook that would duplicate the wonderful food tastes I had experienced during my trips to Greece. I asked friends born in Greece for their recipes and yet something was still missing. This book is the one. It ended my search. I have given away all the rest of the Greek cookbooks I had collected thru the years. And, in addition, the book is so well presented. The history provided, the helpful notes, the photos and the easy to follow recipes take me back to those happy times spent in Greece laughing with friends and sharing great food. For someone like me who is not known for their culinary skills, I can turn out a very tasty meal with the use of this book. It is very practical yet a work of art in many way. Highly, highly recommend.
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Format: Paperback
A lovely book, with interesting history and geography, colorful photos, and recipes which a stay at home mom with two small kids can actually contemplate cooking. I take it with me to read in the "pick-up line". A super gift-giving book for the holidays, as well.
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I enjoy cooking and eating the recipes from Diane Kochilas' first Greek cookbook and was really looking forward to this book after having read all the glowing reviews. So far I have tried 3 recipes and am not very impressed. I am still hoping that other recipes will prove to be much better. I do enjoy the layout of the book and all the interesting side bars, cultural notes, etc. The dearth of color photos is by no means any reason to downgrade the book--most color photos of food in cookbooks is just "food porn", produced with the aid of food stylists, and adding little of real value to the book other than just jacking up the production costs which are then passed on to the consumer.

Below are notes on the 3 recipes I have done so far:

Roasted Lamb Shanks p.387 Not happy with this. Recipe intro speaks of "long, slow roasting...glossy meat fallimg off the bone"...permeated with seasonings and garlic reduced to a "soft, sweet pulp"

Recipe calls for roasting at 375 degrees, hardly what I would call slow roasting. Against my better judgement, I followed the instructions and ended up with tight, hard meat that was anything but "falling off the bone". The garlic was still hard and quite harsh.
If I had made this recipe to eat as is, I would have been EXTREMELY disappointed. As it was, I made it as the first step for the lamb pie on page 106

Lamb Pie p.106 Not thrilled with this one either. The orange zest was so overpowering it was basically all we could taste. The trouble and expense of buying and roasting the lamb shanks was entirely wasted--could have saved a lot of money, time and effort simply by making the recipe with ground beef. I would like to try this again--with ground beef and about half the orange zest.
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