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Valentine’s Day comfort food

Maureen Malloy | Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Amid New Year’s resolutions, pre-spring-break diets and crowds at Rolfs, a girl needs a little comfort food once in a while. Everyone has a favorite comfort food, whether it is their mom’s creamy macaroni and cheese or a special chicken noodle soup served when they are sick.

While comfort food loses its appeal if you eat it all the time, now and then it serves as a soothing end to a long day on campus.

Treat yourself to one of these rich dishes and remember that if you share it with a friend, the calories don’t count.

Barefoot Contessa’s Mac and Cheese

Kosher saltVegetable oil1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi1 quart milk8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided1/2 cup all-purpose flour12 ounces Gruyere, grated (4 cups)8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg3/4 pound fresh tomatoes (4 small)1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, six to eight minutes. Drain well. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt six tablespoons of butter in a large (four-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for two minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, one-tablespoon salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a three-quart baking dish. Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh breadcrumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top. Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten.

Sour Cream Carrot Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour2 cups sugar2 tsp baking soda2 tsp pumpkin pie spice1 tsp salt4 eggs3/4 cups vegetable oil1 cup sour cream3 cups grated carrots1 cup grated apple1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Add eggs, vegetable oil and sour cream and mix well; add carrot apples and raisins. Pour into three nine-inch round greased, floured pans. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for five minutes. Remove from pans, place on wax paper and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 (12 oz total) packages cream cheese1 cups sour cream1 (24 oz total) boxes powdered sugar1 tsp vanilla1 tsp pumpkin pie spice2 cups chopped pecans

Combine all ingredients except for nuts and beat until fluffy. Frost cake. Sprinkle nuts on top.

Recipe based on “Grandma Heir’s Carrot Cake”, The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook by Paula Deen.

Quick Creamy Tomato Soup

2 (15-ounce) containers, chicken or vegetable stock/broth (preferred brand: Kitchen Basics)1 (28-ounce) can concentrated crushed tomatoes1 cup heavy creamCoarse salt and black pepper20 leaves fresh basil, cut into chiffonade, for garnishSoup toppers, for garnish, recipe follows

Combine broth and tomatoes in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. When soup bubbles, stir in heavy cream and reduce heat to low. Season with a little salt and pepper and simmer gently 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. With an immersion blender, puree soup. Serve bowls of soup with basil chiffonade and floating soup toppers.

Soup Toppers

4 slices crusty bread, 4 inches across, 1/4-inch thick-slice artisan breads at counter in market2 cloves cracked fresh garlic, optionalExtra-virgin olive oilFreshly ground black pepper1/2 pound shredded cheese to compliment your soup: provolone, Asiago, cheddar, Gruyere, Swiss, etc.

Toast bread slices in your toaster until golden. Rub the toasted bread rounds with crushed garlic, if using. Arrange bread on cookie or baking sheet. Drizzle each slice with extra-virgin oil and top with a grind of black pepper and a layer of shredded cheese. Place under hot broiler to melt cheese until toppers are golden brown in color.

Yield: four servings Preparation time: five minutes Cooking time: one minute

Recipe courtesy of Rachel Ray.