Comfort food still rules &mdash at summer camp and at home

The first two summer sessions at Camp Tawonga have passed, and once again the campers’ favorite foods are the comfort foods — macaroni and cheese and spaghetti with meat sauce. Shabbat at Tawonga brings more relaxed meals, with breakfast and lunch buffets and a full camp barbecue at dinner.

Although feeding 420 people on a daily basis should be overwhelmingly daunting, the encouragement, support and love the kitchen staff receives constantly are what make this job the most enjoyable, rewarding and delightful experience for my family and me. I’ve scaled these favorites down considerably, but as long as they’re prepared with loving kindness, they are guaranteed to be delicious.

Macaroni and Cheese | Serves 8

3 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. flour
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 Tbs. mustard powder
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 lb. elbow macaroni

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour and whisk together with the butter. Whisk in the salt and mustard powder, and allow to cook for a few minutes until thickened. Whisk in milk, and cook over low heat, whisking constantly. Simmer until thick.

Remove the milk mixture from the heat, and stir in the cheddar and Parmesan cheese.

Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Toss the hot macaroni with the cheese sauce. Mix well, and serve warm.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce |Serves 8

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 ribs celery chopped
1 ½ lb. ground beef
4 cups chopped tomatoes
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. black pepper
1 ½ lbs. spaghetti

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onion, carrot, garlic and celery, and sauté for 5 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add the ground beef, and cook until the meat is browned. Add the chopped tomatoes, thyme, oregano, salt, sugar and pepper, and simmer over low heat until thickened, about 45 minutes.

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Toss the hot pasta with the sauce. Serve warm.

Camp Tawonga Shabbat Chicken | Serves 8

2 small kosher chickens, cut into serving pieces
2 Tbs. sweet paprika
1 Tbs. kosher salt
1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
4 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, through the press
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

Rinse the chicken well under cold water. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Mix together the paprika, salt, oregano, olive oil, garlic, pepper and vinegar. Rub the mixture all over the chicken pieces.

Lay the chicken on a baking sheet, and roast uncovered for 45 minutes in a preheated 375-degree oven.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].