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Comfort food and books for comfort

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For a couple or four — chicken tenders in a creamy mustard/mushroom sauce with rosemary potatoes is an easy to make meal that may just be perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Chicken tenders in a creamy mustard mushroom sauce

And award-winning author, editor and publisher Zelda Gatuskin

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

In today’s recipe, I am including again one of my favorite ingredients: mushrooms. There might be no other living thing that has such a diverse history as the mushroom does. It belongs to the fungi family and is neither plant — it doesn’t use photosynthesis or contain cellular pulp — nor animal. It is something in-between. Instead, edible mushrooms consist mainly of chitin, which is also found in shrimp and crab shells.

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One cup of mushrooms provides one to two grams of protein; they also provide the B vitamins riboflavin and niacin — very important for vegetarians. They also are a great source of minerals and nutrients, such as selenium. Selenium is necessary for our body to be able to become pregnant, for our thyroid gland function, DNA production and protecting our body against infections.

Potassium is another of those minerals that we need to keep our nervous system and muscles functioning, and to keep our heartbeat regular. Mushrooms can even increase their own vitamin D content when exposed to light, just as we can. No other “vegetable” is able to do that.

Early on, humans throughout the world knew about good and bad mushrooms. The abbess Hildegard of Bingen (also known as Saint Hildegard or Sibyl of the Rhine, 1098-1179) wrote about mushrooms in her apothecary book — a first for Europe. She thought that mushrooms that grow on trees would have medicinal benefits and those that grew in the ground were not digestible. It is no surprise that many of the “bad” mushrooms carried the German word for witch in them.

Superstitious mushroom hunters of the ancient times would leave the first edible mushroom that they saw untouched to appease the forest spirits. Despite that Christianity had taken root in Europe’s culture, many medieval villagers still believed in earthly spirits, giants and dragons, which was based on their ancestor’s Celtic or Nordic belief system. Local priests usually pretended not to know about it.

Certain mushrooms were considered to be essential for so-called “love potions.” During the medieval times, many men and women who were caught philandering would use this as an excuse saying that they fell victim to such love potions. After all, the penalty for adulterers may be the removal of nose and ears. The story of Tristan and Isolde (“Le Morte d’Arthur” by Sir Thomas Mallory, 1415-1471) includes such a love potion. Those medieval folks loved their romances with a lot of doom, gloom and tragic endings.

As a young girl, I studied Celtic and tribal traditions of the medieval age and was fascinated with the lore and legends of Europe. Thursday, which comes from Thor’s Day, Donnerstag in German, was supposed to be the best day to collect mushrooms. The Nordic god Donar — which is an old name for Thor — was the god in charge of mushrooms and farmers. To appease him, mushroom hunters would wear only shaggy clothes and enter the woods unwashed. It was not a hassle for the citizens of medieval Europe, because during those times, everybody — royalty, clergy and farmer — believed that to wash or bathe too often would let the “devil” in and they would get sick.

The civilization in the Americas, including North America, had a very different approach to the mushroom, they rather respected fungi and used them in healing the sick, as a spiritual tool, to eat and even to use as tinder to get a fire started. Some of these fungi in Mexico were considered sacred, its translation being “God’s Flesh.” The Aztec god Piltzintecuhtli was the god of hallucinatory plants, including mushrooms. I thought it startling that the first part of this ancient mythological being’s name “Piltz” is similar to the German word Pilz, which means mushroom. Coincidence? Probably, because we know that early Vikings traveled to the Americas, not German tribes. Scientists today are still researching the proprieties of fungi growing in the jungles of South America.

The following recipe can be made with chicken or without for vegetarians.

Chicken tenders in a creamy mustard mushroom sauce

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

4 chicken tenders, sliced

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1 sprig of fresh rosemary

4 Tbsp heavy whipping cream

1 Tbsp German mustard or mild Dijon mustard

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 large sweet onion, sliced

1 basket button mushrooms, sliced (about 8 oz — double if using no chicken)

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided

Salt and white pepper to taste

In a deep pan, fry the chicken tenders in the olive oil on all sides for 3 to 5 minutes on high heat on every side until light brown. Remove the pan from the fire and put the chicken on a warm plate and set aside.

Return the pan and turn the heat on medium. Add one Tbsp butter and with a wooden spoon make sure to loosen all that is left from frying the chicken. Separate the rosemary needles from the stem and chop the needles. Discard the stem. Add the needles to the butter mix, stirring for a minute until the fragrance of the rosemary gets released. Add the onions and garlic and stir until the onions are translucent.

Add the mustard and the rest of the butter and continuously stir. Add the mushrooms and continue stirring for another 4-5 minutes. Add the broth, cream and salt and pepper to taste. Return the chicken to the pan, cover and simmer on low. Serve with a side dish of your choice. You can add rice, potatoes or wide egg noodles.

Books for comfort:

Submitted Art Cover
“The Time Dancer,” by Zelda Leah Gatuskin.

Zelda L. Gatuskin is the pen name of Zelda L. Gordon, an award-winning author, poet, editor and publisher out of Albuquerque. Her biography gives a small glimpse into the multi-tasking artist: “Born in Wilmington, Delaware; Gordon attended Emerson College in Boston, graduating in 1979 with a degree in visual communications. In 1983, she moved to Albuquerque with her true love, musician Frank G. Johnson. Together, they are proprietors of Studio Z, multi-media arts. 1991 saw publication of Zelda’s first book, ‘The Time Dancer,’ and the beginning of an ongoing collaboration between Studio Z and Amador Publishers. Gordon is currently owner and editor-in-chief of the press. She served as president of the Humanist Society of New Mexico 2010-2014, and co-chair of the AHA Feminist Caucus 2012-2014. Gordon has also been known to do some work as a consumer activist.”

Her series that started with “The Time Traveler” is now completed. The story starts as follows: A romantic tale of time travel, mistaken identities and parallel worlds. Can one really navigate the sea of time? When George Drumm falls in love with the Gypsy Esmarelda, he must learn the secrets of the Spiral Map of Time, or lose her to the future. But the Gypsy is on her own quest. The two leapfrog across the spiral in search of lost cats, missing satchels and each other, and in the process share glimpses of their magical universe with residents of the dusty town of Caliente.”

In an email Gordon wrote, “After writing several other books, I put my mind to the sequel I had always planned, and then I did not delay in wrapping up the series. Book No. 2, ‘The Two Magicians’ came out in 2017; and while I worked on ‘The Ten Years,’ I re-issued ‘The Time Dancer’ in a new printing last fall. Now all three books are readily available for order anywhere, and they are also available in e-book editions. Book 3 in my Spiral Map of Time trilogy came out last spring. ‘The Ten Years: double or nothin’” was actually more than 30 years in the making.”

The covers of the books were created by Claiborne “Mike” O’Connor, who moved to Albuquerque in 1965 where she worked at the Albuquerque Academy. Before she moved to Albuquerque, she taught art in public schools. In the mid-’80s, O’Connor met the previous owner of Amador Publisher who asked her to join as cover art designer and illustrator.

For more information, visit amadorbooks.com.

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