Cooking from Nile Style is as enjoyable as reading the history and headnote stories.
I made Mayeena somewhat incongruously, on July 4th in Miami, where matzos are available all year round. This Sephardic dish is a casserole of spinach and chicken layered between sturdy whole wheat, broth-soaked matzos. It is a comforting dish with familiar flavors made just exotic enough with the addition of allspice, coriander, and cinnamon, and the grassy freshness of parsley and cilantro.
Riolo adapts the traditional recipe by serving it with an Egyptian-style hot sauce of simmered tomatoes, cumin, and chili powder, which makes it irresistible.
The book’s recipes are perfect when you are looking for something familiar but a little different. Maybe a buttery Egyptian Rice pilaf with vermicelli, a hummus sparked with garlic and cayenne, or an Egyptian pound cake made with yogurt. And this is home cooking with easy to get ingredients (even out of season matzos!).
If you want to venture a bit further, you may end up adopting Egyptian comfort food as your own. Ful Mesdames is a fava bean stew and a traditional Egyptian breakfast dish. I became a fan, in of all places, Bethesda where a food truck vendor cooked them according to his mother’s recipe—a bit of chili and not too much lemon. Riolo’s recipe calls for lemon and cumin.
And in another life I will bake all the traditional breads of Egypt that Riolo records here from sesame-coated Simit rings and the labor intensive cracker bread rolled into sheets on an oiled work surface to Challah and whole what pita breads.
Don’t let this book get dusty on the shelf. It deserves to be covered with stains and spatters!