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Back to Basics

Written by Victoria Carreiro on Friday, 08 June 2012. Posted in Food Mood

Raise your hand if you still don't know how to cook rice? So many people are fabulous cooks but still can't master some basics. From rice, to mashed potatoes and potato kugel, once you master it, you can't believe how simple it actually is. This week, let's get back to basics. Master one basic recipe and you'll be off to creating great dishes! CookKosher

I’ll be the first to admit it. The word “basic” intimidates me. It carries with it all sorts of connotations. For instance, that you’re supposed to know exactly how to make a specific dish, possibly without a recipe, and even worse, that it’s supposed to be easy. I don’t claim to be an expert; in fact I’m merely an itsy bitsy balebusta, so as far as I’m concerned, toast is basic. Cereal is basic. Anything else I’d even dare to label basic would essentially mean it came about after either: A. Consulting with my Mom or B. Searching through cookbooks or websites for help. It’s only after I manage to successfully make a “basic” dish that I move it from the intimidating category into what I think of as essentials.
Basic recipes are fundamental to any kitchen. Whether they serve as go-to recipes, bases to build other dishes on, or comfort food, their importance is indisputable.  While I was incredibly excited the first time I made a roast with all the trimmings, nothing compares to the first time I managed to hard-boil an egg. Yes. At some point we’ve all been there, staring helplessly at the pot trying to figure out the science of making an egg salad. 
When I recently saw Leah tweet asking us to concede as to which basic recipes we actually needed a recipe for, I couldn’t help but respond. I am thrilled and grateful that she asked me to share a few with you. Late last year I started my adventure over at Itsy Bitsy Balebusta, learning how to make a home and take all the lessons and recipes the incredible Balebustas in my life have given me and try my hand at them! Throughout this adventure, I’ve found that the more comfortable I am picking up seemingly basic recipes, the more willing I am to try complicated traditional ones.  Yet another benefit of basic recipes – they serve as a great confidence boost!  
Here are a few recipes which I consider basic, fundamental recipes in my kitchen. They are either my go-to for quick meals or building blocks for more intricate recipes. The great thing about them is that with a little effort whether in the form of a garnish or spice, you can transform the basic into exquisite!

French Toast

French Toast is a great basic recipe to have on hand whether it be for breakfast or brunch. It’s versatile in the sense that once you make it, it can either be served on its own or with a sprinkle of icing sugar, sliced strawberries, or even made into a sandwich with warm goat cheese or chocolate spread between slices! The possibilities are endless and the entire process takes less than 10 minutes!


1 Tbsp of oil or butter or margarine
1 loaf of day old challah
2 large eggs
¼ cup milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
Dash of salt
Dash of cinnamon
Icing sugar (optional)


Begin by slicing the challah into 1-½ inch slices. 
Warm a tablespoon of oil/ butter or margarine in a frying pan over low-medium heat.
Crack the eggs into a medium-sized bowl. Add the vanilla extract, milk, and salt and mix to combine.
Place one slice of challah at a time into the bowl, lightly pressing down to ensure that the challah is soaked and not only glazed with egg. Soak each side for 10 seconds. Shake off excess or else you’ll be cooking the egg that drips off in the frying pan! 
Transfer the slices from the bowl immediately into a frying pan.  Leave enough space between them in the frying pan to ensure there is sufficient room to flip. Allow one minute to pass, then using a spatula press down on the slice for 20 seconds. Flip and repeat. 
Continue with remaining challah slices.
As the slices begin to turn golden, remove and place on a prepared tray. Sprinkle each with a dash of cinnamon while still warm. 
After 3-4 minutes, sprinkle with icing sugar, if desired. The wait time ensures that the French Toast has cooled and that the icing sugar won’t congeal or become runny. 

Egg Salad

This recipe is versatile in its ingredients, presentation, and menu options. My Mom frequently makes egg salad and tuna “party sandwiches” on the weekend (you know those wonderful sandwiches, cut into triangles that you can’t help but devour). It’s also a great go-to option to break a fast, for breakfast, lunch, as a side on Shabbat, and wherever else you deem fit! The ingredients are also open to your preference. You can add cayenne pepper, green onion, parsley, and paprika! Below is the basic recipe, ready to be adapted to your liking!


3 eggs
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise


Place the eggs in a saucepan and fill with water, covering the eggs completely (with about an inch of water above them).
Keep the stove on high until you’ve reached a rolling boil
Once at the rolling boil, cover the saucepan and reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 12-13 minutes.
Next, turn off the element and immediately drain the hot water. 
After draining, immediately run the eggs under cold water.
If you plan on using them right away, run the eggs under the cold water for at least 1 minute, to ensure that you don’t burn yourself while peeling them.
Peel the eggs, running them underneath water afterwards to ensure no remnants of shell were left behind. Pat dry.
Place the eggs in a medium sized bowl and crush using a fork. Alternately, you could also use a food processor, pulsing on low for 30 seconds.
Add salt, pepper, and mayonnaise. Stir to combine.
Depending on your preference, you may also take this opportunity to add green onions, cayenne pepper, paprika, parsley etc! 

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About the Author

Victoria Carreiro

You can follow my adventure over in my blog Itsy Bitsy Balabusta. When life gets messy, the best way to step back and regroup is by creating a messy kitchen! There's nothing like mixing bowls and measuring cups strewn about & the smell of warm Challah or cupcakes baking! I cook & bake to preserve the memory of & celebrate the incredible Balebustas in my family! Next to them, I’m still an itsy bitsy balebusta, learning what it takes to make a home & how to take the batches life gives us with a grain of salt (& lots of chocolate too!).


Comments (1)

  • thekosherspoon
    13 June 2012 at 01:31 |

    I have to admit, if it wasn't for skype and google, it would have taken me much longer to go from desperate newlywed to Balabusta in progress!

    Great post!!

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