cooking with the muse
cooking with the muse

Cooking with the Muse

by Myra Kornfeld and Stephen Massimilla


“[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

Format:  hardcover

ISBN: 978-1-936797-68-4 Categories: , ,

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.

  • Highlights fresh, local ingredients and encourages the use of seasonal produce, wild seafood, traditional fats, and healthy meat from pasture-raised animals.
  • Revels in flavors that are complex and global, ranging from Middle Eastern and Turkish to American Southwestern, from Vietnamese and Japanese to Italian and Indian.
  • Offers a delectable feast for the locavore or omnivore, novice cook or experienced chef — a food lover’s literary anthology and a poetry lover’s cookbook.

“[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

Additional Information

Weight7 lbs
Dimensions9 x 6 x 2 in


Recipe from Cooking with the Muse

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.)


  • 2 cups thin sauté-sliced onions
  • 2 1/2 pounds tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons long-grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan-Gruyère Frico

  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grater
  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.

Poet’s Note

Tomatoes were cultivated many centuries before Christ. Even though tomatoes originated in South America, it was not the Incas but the Mayas over 1000 miles to the north who first took interest in them. The word “tomato” derives from the Nahuatl word tomatl. The Pueblo people associated the ingestion of tomato seeds with the power of divination.

Though Cortés and company brought tomatoes back to Europe, they took a while to catch on there too. There is no mention of them until 1544, when the Italian botanist Mattioli named a yellow tomato pomo d’oro (“golden apple”); the Italian word for any tomato is still pomodoro. It was also known by a series of more derogatory nicknames, such as “wolf peach,” until it was dubbed the “apple of love” in the late 16th century. It is said that the French mistook the term pomo d’oro for pomo d’amore.

The first real culinary mention of the tomato in Italy was in 1548, when the house steward of Cosimo de’ Medici, the grand duke of Tuscany, wrote with relief that the basket of tomatoes sent from the duke’s Florentine estate had arrived safely. The Tuscans had a head start in developing good tomato recipes, and that’s why we’re featuring a Tuscan-style Roasted Tomato Soup.

Tomatoes were first eaten by Europeans in what we now call salsa, a dish originally developed by the Aztecs. Perhaps because they were called “love apples,” American Puritans considered tomatoes an abomination. Hundreds of years later, most Americans still considered them poisonous. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that tomatoes brought back to America by Italian immigrants really caught on; we owe their ubiquity to the popularity of Italian food and to the breeds developed by Alexander W. Livingston.

Diachronic Tomato

Forget the pink-speckled
pickled moon.
On the table beaming
into mouth-moistening
summer, who favors
the heirloom
genuflects, traces
its litmus: time for
the sun’s red fruit.

I split this globe—
the popped seeds,
spurt of stars in
the evening air,
echoing the glittering
day, the sea
of heated leaves,
the stems fuzzed and hot
as the simmering noon,
slosh of olives
and basil in the pot,
enemy of snow,
the tomato,
high esteem of the vine,
the ripened eye,
the sun-red bite,
juice glimmering
on our lips,
the happy murder,
what we cannot
even speak,
molten hemispheres
of bleeding flesh
in their skins.

—Stephen Massimilla

Myra Kornfeld

Myra Kornfeld is a chef, educator, and nutrition instructor, and the author of three previous cookbooks, The Healthy Hedonist; The Healthy Hedonist Holidays; and The Voluptuous Vegan. She teaches in the Graduate Nutrition program at the Maryland University of Integrative Health and at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York, and she is head chef for the website She specializes in cooking parties and team-building events. For more info: and






Stephen Massimilla

Stephen Massimilla is a poet, scholar, professor, and painter/photographer. Acclaim for his previous books includes a Stephen F. Austin University Press Prize for The Plague Doctor in His Hull-Shaped Hat; the Bordighera/CUNY Poetry Prize for Forty Floors from Yesterday; the Grolier Poetry Prize for Later on Aiaia; a Van Rensselaer Award, selected by Kenneth Koch, and other honors. He has recent work in hundreds of journals, periodicals, and anthologies. Massimilla holds an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. from Columbia University and teaches at Columbia University and The New School. For more info: and

“Cooking with the Muse … leaves the reader exulting in every meal they remember relishing, connecting the experience—of shopping for groceries, preparing a mise en place, simply stirring a soup or stew, of spooning the first hopeful bite into your mouth, and then the quiet and happy-sighing meal that followed—of food with something both historic and lyric.” — Chloe Anne Campbell, storySouth

Getting to Know Stephen Massimilla, Myra Kornfeld, and their new book Cooking with the Muse— Mass Poetry

“What sets this book apart is the added literary component of culinary poetry on food, cooking and eating, making it my pick as the best cookbook of the summer.”  Diane Worthington, The Chicago Tribune

“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 an inspiring by the stove as in the living room. Cooking with the Muse: A Sumptuous Gathering of Seasonal Recipes, Culinary Poetry, and Literary Fare, a compendium of 150 recipes, 200 full-color photographs, poetry about food and cooking, culinary and historical notes, and literary notes is at home in every room of the house, the stuff of dreams and of action, thinking and making.” — Grace Dane Mazur,

“This creative and vibrant effort marries two highly imaginative endeavors.” — Barbara Jacobs, Booklist

“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 Magazine

“If I ever had the chance to take off a year and spend it in the country with my family, the one cookbook I’d pack is Cooking with the Muse. Preparing recipes from this book will persuade you to slow down and appreciate the powerful connection between food, poetry, and nature. Come to think of it, wherever you are–enjoying the fantasy vacation of your dreams or anchored to herth and home–Cooking with the Muse will provide you with a tasty new seasonal recipe, and poem, every night.” — Sara Moulton, Chef, Cookbook Author, Television Personality

“This vertiginous, seductive, learned book surprises the palate on every page. Its ranging, awakening recipes and awakening, ranging poems would be more than enough to satisfy any cook or reader. The added notes, though… These are an 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. The only dilemma is where to shelve this—in the kitchen among the cookbooks, or in the library next to Dickinson, Hopkins, and Heaney.” — Jane Hirshfield, Poet, Essayist, and Translator

“A sensual chef-d’oeuvre of culinary prowess seasoned with the cultural notes of poetry and nutritional wisdom–you will savor every page of this holistic masterpiece.” — Kathie Swift, Leading Nutrition Author and Speaker

“I have fallen in love with Cooking with the Muse. What a treasure trove of recipes, poems, quirky and fascination literary references and reflections on food and its meaning in our lives. I don’t knowwhen a cookbook has been such a good read! I find myself underlining my favorite bits, like this from Lucile Clifton: ‘I taste in my natural appetite/the bond of live things everywhere.’ I want to give this book to every poet and cook I know.” — Ellen Bass, Poet and Teacher

“Delicious and captivating–the perfect source of inspiration–literary and culinary arts. What a great gathering of the gifts of poetry and cooking!” — Barbara Sibley, Co-Founder of the San Miguel Poetry Week and Chef-Owner of La Palapa Restaurant

“Part love song, part practicum, part history lesson, Cooking with the Muse is a delightful page-turning compendium heralding the life-giving joy of cooking with the seasons.” — Mary R. Cleaver, The Cleaver Company, The Green Table, Table Green at the Battery

“Prepare your appetites! This glorious compendium of recipes, food lore, poetry, and history offers savory layers of enjoyment in every category — It’s a delicious feast of love.” — Naomi Shihab Nye, Poet and Novelist

Cooking with the Muse is a book I want to cuddle up with in bed until it becomes tattered and splattered.” — Liz Lipski, PHD, Author of Digestive Wellness, Director of Academic Development Nutrition Programs, Maryland University of Integrative Health 

“Cooking, like any other art, requires the Muse. She leads us down misty paths of green herbs, tantalizes us with the smells from a simmering cauldron, drizzles sweet rosewater dew on our tongues. Alas, all too often, the Muse escapes us, and we experience a culinary cul-de-sac. In this mouth-watering book, Kornfeld and Massimilla generously mix rich poetry and prose, irresistible recipes, vibrant photographs, and timeless nutritional wisdom to reaswken the sleeping Muse within us. She entices us back to the kitchen, whispering in our ears the long-forgotten names of beloved flavors, inspiring us on every level: to listen, to taste, to celebrate, to cook, to love, and to eat.” — Jessica Prentice, Co-Founder of Three Stone Hearth Community Supported Kitchen

“A golden idea comes to the table in Cooking with the Muse. Of course there is poetry in cooking! Recipes even look like poems–the lines distince and the outcome magically blended. Literally delicious, Cooking with the Muse delights, entices, comforts and enthralls. Each dish is a poem in itself.” — Molly Peacock, Poet, Author, Speaker

Cooking with the Muse not only guides you through the seasons showing you how to make inspired dishes with global flavors; it does so with wordsof poetic inspiration, providing a multicultural view of the pleasures of cooking and eating. Cooking with the Muse offers a combination that satisfies both stomach and soul.” — Richard Ruben, Seasons to Taste, LLC, AUTHOR, The Farmer’s Market Cookbook