Bookcover of Cooking with the Muse by Myra Kornfield and Stephen Massimilla

COOKING WITH THE MUSE: A Sumptuous Gathering of Seasonal Recipes, Culinary Poetry, and Literary Fare

Myra Kornfeld, Stephen Massimilla

Tupelo Press
April 1, 2016
ISBN-13: 9781936797684

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author head shot

Myra Kornfeld is a chef, educator, 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 The Natural Gourmet Institute, and is the head chef for the website She specializes in team building events and cooking parties.

 Stephen Massimilla is a poet, critic, and professor who teaches literature and values pertaining to food; his honors include a Stephen F. Austin University Press prize for The Plague Doctor in His Hull-Shaped Hat; the Bordighera Poetry Prize for Forty Floors from Yesterday; the Grolier Poetry Prize for Later on Aiaia; and a Van Renssalaer Award, selected by Kenneth Koch. His work has appeared in hundreds of publications, and he teaches literature, food ethics, and writing at Columbia University and the New School.

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. Here’s a feast of words and images, with easy-to-follow steps for preparing individual dishes and whole meals.

  • 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.

Warm-Hearted Pea Cakes with Sesame Crust
and Garlic-Piquillo Pepper Sauce

Makes sixteen 2-inch cakes or 32 cocktail-size cakes

pea cakes

These bite-size spring pea cakes are crusty on the outside and soft and green on the inside—“in the interior / sweet for the taking,” to quote Maxine Kumin’s poem, “In the Pea Patch.” They’re also dual colored: Each verdant green cake is topped with a dollop of red pepper sauce, which is brighter, roastier, and more peppery than aioli. These truly festive cakes make crowd-pleasing plated or passed appetizers.

Use fresh or frozen edamame, English peas, or fava beans that you shell yourself —or for a shortcut, head to the organic frozen variety. Use sesame seeds or the more unusual hemp seeds for a crispy brown exterior.


  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted piquillo peppers (5 whole peppers)
  • 1 teaspoon red wine or sherry vinegar
  • Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon raw honey
  • Freshly ground black pepper

 Pea Cakes

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots
  • 3/4 cup chopped leeks (whites and light greens only)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups shelled edamame, English peas, or fava beans, fresh or frozen
  • 11/2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup rice flour or unbleached white all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup sesame seeds or hemp seeds
  • Coconut oil (preferably aroma-free), for cooking

Make the sauce: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Add the garlic and oil to an 8-inch square baking dish. Cover with foil and bake until the garlic cloves are tender, 20 minutes or so.

Transfer the garlic and oil to a blender. Add the peppers, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the honey, and a sprinkling of black pepper; buzz until smooth. Taste, and add an additional sprinkling of salt if necessary. Transfer to a bowl or squeeze bottle.

Make the cakes: Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, leeks, and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the peas, salt, and a sprinkling of pepper; stir until the peas are tender and warmed through, a few more minutes.

Transfer to a food processor and pulse just until well combined. (Don’t overprocess.) Form into cakes (16 cakes of 2 tablespoons each, or 32 cakes of 1 tablespoon for cocktail-size). Let sit for at least 30 minutes to firm up.

Have ready the flour on one plate, the beaten egg in a small bowl, and the seeds on another plate. Have ready two parchment paper–covered baking sheets.

One by one, first dredge a cake in flour, then dip in the egg, then roll in the seeds until well coated. Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat until all of the cakes are crusted.

Heat a medium skillet with oil 1/8-inch deep until hot. (Make sure there is enough oil to go halfway up the sides of the cakes.) The oil is hot enough when a hand held an inch above the skillet feels uncomfortably hot. Add the cakes, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, and fry until golden on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the cooked pea cakes to the other baking sheet. Repeat until all of the cakes are cooked, adding more oil to the pan as necessary.

Serve hot, topped with a dollop, a zigzag, or a drizzle of piquillo pepper sauce.

Cook’s Note: Keep the piquillo pepper sauce refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

You can make the cakes earlier in the day and reheat them in a 350ºF oven, or freeze them in advance. To store, place on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet and set in the freezer. Once frozen, stack and store in resealable plastic bags or rigid containers. To thaw, lay the cakes on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet for 30 minutes. Reheat in a 350ºF oven until heated through, about 15 minutes.

In the Pea Patch

These as they clack in the wind

saying castanets, saying dance with me,

saying do me, dangle their intricate

nuggety scrota


and these with the light shining through

call up a woman in a gauzy dress

young, with tendrils of hair at her neck,

leaning in a summer doorway


and as the bloom of the lime-green pod

rubs away under the polishing thumb

in the interior

sweet for the taking, nine little fetuses

nod their cloned heads.


—Maxine Kumin



These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit:

Recipes from COOKING WITH THE MUSE: A Sumptuous Gathering of Seasonal Recipes, Culinary Poetry, and Literary Fare by Myra Kornfeld and Stephen Massimilla. (Tupelo Press, April 2016; $39.95/hardcover; ISBN: 9781936797684).


Contact: David Carriere