Blog #17 – Craft Services

My daughter Georgia directed her NYU senior thesis film in our home this weekend.  I expected eight to ten people for 6 meals in a row.  I didn’t want to spend much money, and I wanted to use as much local, organic food as possible.  This may be of most interest to family members, but I’ve also added a couple new recipes.  Here’s how I coped with the filmmakers influx.  I settled on talapia, chicken and beans for protein, dressed them up in white bean ragout and tacos, made pizza with leftovers, baked whole wheat and french bread and local green salads, the last of my Winter’s CSA deliveries.

You have to plan these things like a small military campaign.I created the menus on Wednesday and completed a shopping list. Thursday I did most of the shopping, prepped the white beans for a ragout and the pinto beans for refried beans, and put up the starters for the French and whole wheat breads.

Beans soaked and Bread working

The real cooking began on Friday, after teaching an 8:00 am lecture class on the First Amendment.  I drained both pots of beans of their soaking water, covered with new water and put them on the stove to cook.  Cooking times for beans vary enormously depending on the freshness of the beans.  I wanted to partially cook the white beans so I set a timer for twenty minutes.

White Bean Ragout

White Bean Ragout [Recipe available on masthead] While the beans cooked, I diced the vegetables and sautéed them for about ten minutes until they were tender.  TIP:  I used more vegetables then usual, and the ragout turned out great.  When the beans were beginning to turn soft, I added the vegetables and seasoning, added a little water to completely cover he beans, and gently cooked them until they were very soft.  About ten minutes before the end, I added a couple of handfuls of freshly sliced greens.

Whole Wheat Bread [Recipe available on masthead] This recipe takes attention and timing over about a four hour period.  TIP: I’ve made this bread four times now, and  each time I’ve added at least a cup more flour than the recipe calls for.  Without the extra flour, my dough is simply too wet.  There are big differences between flours, and you have to use your judgment.  The dough should be workable and not sticky when you finish kneading it on a counter top.

Crusty French Bread [Recipe available on masthead].  This  bread takes about two hours after you shape a loaf and put it up to rise.  I’ve made it so often now it’s pretty intuitive.

Pan Fried Talapia – this is an inexpensive fish that is farm raised. Like most aquaculture, talapia can be raised responsibly or not.  Talapia’s mild taste and firm flesh make its an acceptable substitute for New Orleans Redfish.  I sautéed it quickly in a Cajun bread crumb coating just after the first contingent arrived at about 7:00 pm.  We set out the bread with various local cheeses, the reheated beans and the talapia.  I completely forgot about the salad. And I was much to preoccupied to take a picture!  This is an original recipe for this blog.

Pan Fried Talapia – Ingredients.

  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon parsley flakes
  • ½  teaspoon thyme flakes
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • 6 to 8 tilapia fillets
  • ⅓ cup Creole mustard or a spicy brown mustard
  • ⅓ cup light mayonnaise
  • Vegetable oil as needed.


Put the bread crumbs and spices in a blender and blend as finely as possible.      Mix together the mustard and mayonnaise. Cut each talapia filet into three somewhat equal pieces, and coat each piece with the mustard/mayonnaise mixture.  Dip into the bread crumbs and fry in hot oil until golden brown.

The rest of the crew arrived about 11:00 pm.  When I woke the next morning, the left-overs had been put away and dishes were stacked and ready for the dishwasher.

Saturday – Day 2.

Saturday breakfast – bagels and cream cheese, coffee and juice.

Saturday lunch – pizza.

Pizza dough (12 – 6 inch pizzas)  I doubled the recipe and ended with almost thirty small pizzas, but everyone of them was gone shortly after they came out of the oven.  I painted the tops with olive oil to seal the dough and added a heaping tablespoon of tomato sauce, a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese and used up some leftover salami, winter greens, lamb sausage and roasted eggplant as toppings along with black olives, garlic slices, red onions, and fontina cheese.

The big lesson on Saturday, however, was cleanup.  There was a lot of it.  The NYU team helped by putting away the food at night and stacking the dishes, but it was still three dishwasher loads a day and lots of hand washing.  But as Georgia reminds me, this is her last “school project.”

Saturday dinner – tacos with refried beans and grilled chicken.  I had planned a more elaborate dinner with guacamole and a salad, but the NYU team was hungry and started eating flour tortillas filled with refried beans, a wicked red pepper sauce I’d just made, a mild Amish cheese and strips of grilled chicken.  The pepper sauce wasn’t spicy for the kid’s sake, and I also had a jalapeno sauce that only Georgia and I could eat.

Sunday breakfast – I had first planned on buckwheat pancakes and bacon.  I bought the buckwheat flour and buttermilk I needed for them.  Then, when most of my French Bread remained uneaten I changed to French toast, which made with this bread is unbelievable.   As it turned out, Susan had bought a couple of breakfast cakes and muffins, and after that no one was interested in more breakfast.

Sunday lunch – Leek Fritata, salad with Kim chi and olives.

Ingredients for Fritata

5 large leeks

3-4 tablespoons olive oil


Slice the white part of the leeks and the tender green parts into slices ¼ to ½ inch wide.  Put them in a bowl of very cold water, break them  into individual rounds, wash thoroughly and let soak for about ½ an hour.  Then saute the leeks in about ½ the olive oil until very soft, about ½ an hour.  Remove from the stove and let cool.

Beat six eggs at room temperature until thoroughly mixed and slightly frothy.  Mix in the leeks, and pour the mixture into a preheated 10 to 11 inch cast iron frying pan with the remainder of the olive oil and cook over medium heat until the bottom is set and well browned.  The top still may be runny.  Put a large plate over the pan and invert it quickly to dump the fritata on the plate.  Return the pan to the fire, and slide the fritata in to complete cooking it on the other side.

Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

For those of you interested in the deregulation campaign to help local; farmers avoid onerous Federal and State regulations and fees, here’s another article pointed out to me n a blog by John Ferry. “An increasing number of growers who say federal and state food safety regulations are not working for small farmers in Maine; several communities on the Blue Hill Peninsula have passed or are considering ordinances this town meeting season seeking to exempt local farmers and food producers from state and federal regulations.  A group of farmers in and around Brooksville drafted the local laws. Brooksville was home to the late Helen and Scott Nearing, who were influential forces in the back-to-the-land movement. Ironically, Brooksville is the only town on the Blue Hill Peninsula where voters rejected such an ordinance.”

About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is a journalist and filmmaker who is now teaching at Montgomery Community College
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One Response to Blog #17 – Craft Services

  1. Georgia Koch says:

    great post! And even better food…. I don’t think you can get any better craft services…

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