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Cooking with the Muse

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Cooking with the Muse by Myra Kornfeld and Stephen Massimilla

Synopsis | Excerpts | Reviews
Cooking with the Muse
Stephen Massimilla
Photo by Marla Maritzer
Myra Kornfeld
Photo by Marla Maritzer

$39.95 Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-936797-68-4
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Cooking with the Muse offers 150 nutritious international recipes with a plenitude of imaginative poetry about food and ingredients, along with enlightening literary essays, playful culinary and historical notes, and 200 beautiful full-color photographs.

“[A]n education, invitation, and testament to the peregrine splendors of human hungers of every kind—for dishes and flavors, for knowledge and history, for the transformations and sustenance that both cooking and literature bring.” —Jane Hirshfield

“I don’t know when a cookbook has been such a good read! … I want to give this book to every poet and cook I know.” —Ellen Bass


Tuscan Roasted Tomato Soup with Parmesan-Gruyère Frico

This soup is an ode to deep, rich, roasted tomato flavor, the fiery rapture of summer when tomatoes are at their peak. Neruda noted that at the height of summer the light of the city is halved like a tomato, its juices running through the streets, into the kitchen, and everywhere. Oil, that essential child of the olive, adds depth, and salt adds magnetism to the wedding of flavors. Though some versions of this soup are thickened with bread, a little bit of rice creates an even creamier texture—and also happens to make this dish gluten free. Use the Parmesan-Gruyère cheese crisp (the frico) as a “dipping spoon” to lap up the orange pleasure, or crumble the frico into the soup for a flavor-enhancing marriage. (Makes 6 to 8 cups soup and 10 to 12 fricos; serves 4.)


Parmesan-Gruyère Frico

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Lay the onions in an 8 by 11-inch baking dish. Core and quarter the tomatoes and lay them on top of the onions. Distribute the garlic around the tomatoes, drizzle the oil on top and sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Bake for 45 minutes, until the tomatoes are shriveled.
  3. Transfer the onions, tomatoes, and garlic with all of the accumulated juices to a blender and buzz until smooth.
  4. While the tomatoes are roasting, add the rice to the stock in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the rice is cooked, about 15 minutes.
  5. Transfer the rice and stock to the blender with the tomatoes and buzz everything together until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and set aside.
  6. Make the fricos: Mix together the cheeses. Sprinkle a 3-inch disk of cheeses in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, overlapping the shreds of cheese so that they can melt together; but don’t pile them too thick. If your skillet is large, you may be able to make a few of these at the same time. Cook until the cheeses are melted, bubbling, and golden; turn off the heat.
  7. When the frico is cool enough to touch, a minute or two after the bubbling has slowed, lift it and transfer to a plate. Continue making the fricos until there is no more cheese. (You should have 10 to 12 in total.)
  8. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes to marry flavors.
  9. Add the basil and a sprinkling of pepper, and simmer for 5 minutes more. Taste, and add a pinch more salt if necessary.
  10. Serve the soup hot, with one frico sticking out of the soup like a fin and one on the side.

  11. Reviews

    “Literature and food make great companions. It’s proven, again and again, in this 150-recipe collection, with poems, excerpts, and just plain creative musings. Chef, and educator Kornfeld provides the recipes; poet-professor Massimilla, much of the narrative and context for ingredients and rhymes alike. Such notables as Robert Frost, Pablo Neruda, and John Keats are suitably inserted in the appropriate places (e.g., Neruda with his paean to olive oil), and literary criticism appears from time to time. Each of the four seasons is introduced by a lyrical summary of what that period features, followed by the dishes and commentary. The history and romance of specific ingredients are highlighted (e.g., almonds are cousins to peaches; rhubarb, actually a vegetable, not a fruit, wasn’t fully included in cuisine until a century after Ben Franklin introduced it). Sure, the text can be dense, and the recipes complicated (duck confit, after all, is not the easiest to make). Yet this creative and vibrant effort marries two highly imaginative endeavors.”
       — Barbara Jacobs, Booklist
    “A great cookbook is meant to be devoured as much while reading on the couch as while pacing in the kitchen; a great poetry anthology is as inspiring by the stove as in the living room. Cooking with the Muse: A Sumptuous Gathering of Seasonal Recipes, Culinary Poetry, and Literary Fare… is at home in every room of the house, the stuff of dreams and of action, thinking and making. Take it with you if you go away for the summer, or even to a friend’s house for the weekend. You will end up giving it to your friend, but that is no matter, for it deserves to be widely disseminated. The recipes are adaptable to any sort of food preferences, no matter how restrictive or bizarre.”
       — Grace Dane Mazur, The Arts Fuse
    “Get good ingredients, a French chef might say, and try not to screw them up. The heart of this big, beautiful book beats with that philosophy, but also this: respect the food, and please, slow down, and don’t forget to read some poetry along the way.”
       — Josh Cook, Foreword Review
    “I’m a poet and not a cook. It’s a testament to the delectability of this volume that I found it nourishing, no matter. But I also passed along a few recipes from my advance copy to Kees de Mooy, expert cook, gardener, and spice enthusiast, who declared the recipes to be transcendent—in the way of all great poetry.”
       — Meredith Davies Hadaway, Summerset Review