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Comfort food and books for comfort

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Christina Stock Photo Tortellini di bosco e di fattoria (Forest and farm tortellini).

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Tortellini di bosco e di fattoria

And ‘Hopscotch,’ by Kris Neri

Thanksgiving has passed and no matter how big or small the celebration was, virtual or with your loved ones, chances are that by now you have finished all your leftovers and are ready for something different. Remember, you can keep leftovers only for a few days in your fridge before they spoil.

So, are you ready for a change of pace, I mean food? Then I have a treat for you. Not every pasta sauce has to have loads of cream or tomatoes in them, in fall you may very well get a sauce served in Italy that is rich and creamy without either ingredient. What is important, however, are mushrooms. If you find porcini mushrooms, those are the best, but you can also use regular white button mushrooms. Why mushrooms you ask? It’s because fall means mushroom season in Europe. The French begin to comb their forests for the expensive truffle mushrooms (nothing to do with the chocolate but the name and shape), the Germans are hunting for King Brown mushrooms, which is one of the largest mushrooms on the continent, and the Italians in northern Italy are looking for Portobello mushrooms. No matter which mushroom you prefer, here is the recipe:

Tortellini di bosco e di fattoria

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(Forest and farm tortellini)

Serves 4 to 6

3.5 oz mushrooms, sliced

8 oz package of dried three-cheese tortellini

2 c beef broth

1/2 pound lean ground beef

1-2 Tbsp olive oil

1 cup sliced shallots

2 tsp dried thyme, oregano and basil

(or Italian premix herbs)

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Preparation:

In a large pot, bring salted water (it should taste as salty as ocean water) to a boil and cook the tortellini until just tender.

While the tortellini are boiling: In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. When it starts shimmering, add the ground beef and sauté until it is slightly brown. Add shallots and stir for about four more minutes. Add mushrooms and the dried herbs. Add the beef broth.

Use about 1/2 cup of the tortellini water and add it to the sauce. No more salt should be needed. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.

Drain the tortellini and arrange on plates. Spoon the sauce on top of it and serve.

You can add the parmesan cheese before serving or have a chunk of parmesan cheese with a grater for everybody to serve themselves.

Books for comfort:

Kris Neri’s “Hopscotch Life”

Award-winning author Kris Neri is part of the New Mexico Author Coop and lives in Silver City. She is known for her Silver City mystery and fantasy books, in “Hopscotch Life” the author released her first women’s fiction.

The story’s center character is plump Plum, a funny pun by the author. The book hits every stereotype in abusive characters toward a plump cute female hero: Distant mother in coma, successful skinny, clueless sister, a thief of a boss, a cheating fiancé and then it becomes interesting. Let’s say, nothing is more fun to read than an underdog having a Cinderella wake-up call all by herself at age 36.

The comedy has its dark sides and the writing and story is slow at the beginning, slow like the beginning of an avalanche. When Plum returns home early after the devastating news that she has no job anymore, the author finds the right words that resonate with everybody who had a crushing day, month or year: “… she felt so broken inside, she moved with care, as if stirring of too much air would hurt her internal organs.”

This is just an example of the vivid details that the writer captures, that of a big city California against small town Arizona Americana lifestyle reflecting the 21st century; its expectations and its rose-colored glasses of norm — what’s supposed to be versus the reality.

Plum compares her life to hopscotch, which is where the title comes from. While others race through life, she is jumping back and forth, not finding a purpose.

Fortunately, everything comes to an abrupt halt with above mentioned stereotypes, and the readers join Plum in her explorations of her wild side, finding a new home, a new life and a new man. But the past won’t stay in the past and hopefully one of her wild decisions doesn’t put her new life in jeopardy when the old one comes knocking.

Neri’s novels have been nominated for such prestigious awards as the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, the International Book Award, Lefty Award, and the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. She is a three-time finalist for the Lefty Award for humor, and her last fantasy novel, “Magical Alienation,” was a New Mexico-Arizona Book Award winner.

Next to working on her books, Neri teaches writing for the prestigious Writers’ Program of the UCLA Extension School and other organizations, and has worked with countless writers as a writing coach and freelance editor. A former bookseller, she and her husband owned The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona, Arizona for 10 years.

“Hopscotch Life” is available through all online sellers. For more information, visit krisneri.com.