Food group met again and the theme this time was Ottolenghi, or maybe more loosely Middle Eastern food. I chose mezzes which are appetizers more or less. I do like Ottolenghi (if you don’t know who I am talking about you can look here and clearly you are not a friend of Sharon’s because he’s pretty much all she talks about). Anyway, I settled on swiss chard stuffed peppers. This is not something that appeals to me very much but it’s, you know, Ottolenghi!!! so it was gonna be ok with Sharon no matter what.

I dunno, this was a case of the sum equalling more than its parts. They were delicious. And pretty.

Recipe below

Baby peppers stuffed with chard and mozzarella

Bags of mixed baby peppers, 5-6cm long and in red, yellow and orange, are available from most supermarkets (they’re sometimes labelled “chiquino”). They vary in size, so use more or less of the filling as required. Serves four to six.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large bunch swiss chard, trimmed, stalks and leaves finely sliced
Salt and black pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 mild red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tsp dried oregano
30g pine nuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
50g pecorino romano, finely grated
80g mozzarella block, roughly grated
500g mixed baby peppers (ie, about 20 baby peppers)

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Heat the oil in a large saute pan on a medium-high flame, then fry the chard, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a generous grind of pepper for 15 minutes, stirring often, until the stalks are soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic, chilli and oregano, fry for another minute, then take off the heat. Leave to cool, then stir in the pine nuts and both cheeses.

Cut out a little V from the stalk of each pepper down almost to the base (reserve the bits of flesh for soup or salad), then scoop out and discard the seeds. Fill the peppers with the chard mix (you’ll need about 20g in each), then lay them cut side up on an oven tray lined with greaseproof paper. Roast for 18-20 minutes, until the peppers are soft and caramelized, then leave to cool for 10 minutes and serve warm (if you want to get ahead, they are also good at room temperature).

Zoom dinner parties

A pared down version of the food group met, exchanged food stuffs and then went home to eat them in a surprisingly fun Zoom get together. I made dessert. Tangerine almond tartlets. As complicated food items go, this was right up there with the best. In point of fact, making this tart was on the opposite end of the difficulty spectrum from the pizza.

First there is the tangerine zest short crust pastry. Just the words alone give me pause. While I am sure I’ve made a “short crust” at some point in my life but it’s not a go-to item and whilst reading the ingredient list followed by the process “Add the tangerine juice micro-droplet by micro-droplet” is never the kind recipe I feel I can comfortably bulldoze my way through which is my go-to method of making most things. When I’d completed the crust and patted it into my tartlet pans (in a masculine way) I then had to make caramel using superfine (say what?) sugar, brown sugar and orange blossom honey—I didn’t have that but I have my sister’s honey and there was no one around to chastise me so I went with it.

Caramel is something I am not familiar with and it frightens me. Possibly because the one time I recall making it I tasted it not realizing how hot it gets and burned the roof of my mouth right up into the prefrontal lobe of my brain. Not to mention that cooking shows are always issuing dire warnings about the dangers of caramel burning or crystallizing or seizing, requiring incessant brushing down of the sides of the pan with water, or in this case tangerine juice. I’m not really sure what happens because it never actually seems to happen on these shows. And it didn’t happen to me either but that didn’t stop me from being on high alert the entire time I was making it.

Once that was made I added toasted almonds to it and put that mixture into the crusts to bake—the little strips of paper are in the molds so that I can pull them out of the pans after they’ve baked, a trick I learned on The Great British Baking Show. It worked very well.

We had Ottolenghi eggplant dumplings (recipe) and NYT chicken thighs with tarragon (recipe) both of which were outstanding. The tartlets (Food52-recipe ) were pretty and I guess they were OK but really not the kind of thing I’d prefer for dessert. In fact I’d have preferred to have had more of the chicken and dumplings than waste my caloric intake on these.