Although Ruth has always been interested in eating, she only became truly serious about cooking when she turned vegetarian and was faced with the challenge of coming up with meals that would appeal to her omnivore spouse.
Feeling a bit like Scheherazade, she would rack her brain for interesting menus that would not be obviously “vegetarian,” with its wretched implications of lentil loaf and clumpy brown rice. She studied her favorite cookbooks and magazines and found not only that she could easily adapt many meat dishes but that many side dishes could serve perfectly well as main courses.
This is one of those dishes, combining elements of two recipes from Fine Cooking (an excellent magazine with an excellent Web site): Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatoes* and Gratinéed Red Potatoes with Chives. Although both Fine Cooking recipes call for baby potatoes, we used quartered Red Bliss potatoes ($1.99 for a five-pound bag at Shop Rite), and they worked very well.
2 pounds red potatoes, either baby or adult
½ cup olive oil
salt, fresh-ground pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Boil the potatoes until soft. If you’re using full-size spuds, leave them whole; it takes longer to cook them, but they’ll be less mushy.
2. If using full-size potatoes, cut them into quarters.
3. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
4. Drizzle about two-thirds of the olive oil over the bottom of a baking pan. Arrange the cooked potatoes in the pan, then smash each one nearly flat (a flat-bottomed drinking glass works well for this).
5. Top the smashed spuds with the remaining oil, salt and pepper to taste, and the grated cheese.
6. Bake until cheese is golden-brown, about 25 minutes.
Serves at least four as a main dish, eight as a side dish.
* The crispy roasted potatoes article was written by Susie Middleton, whose first cookbook, Fast, Fresh, and Green, a collection of 150 vegetable side dishes, will be published by Chronicle Books in March 2010. Everything of Susie's that we've ever made has been wonderful—keep an eye out for this book!