For beginners and experienced cooks, this book shows you how to wow your company and your family with little effort. These are familiar ingredients and recipes, just a different way of presenting the dish. The recipes cover salads, starters, seafood, savory and sweet. No special equipment is necessary, although the stacks will be easier to make in some of the recipes if you own a set of stacking cylinders. These can be purchased, or for the truly frugal, save your soup cans to use (the book tells you how). A couple of the recipes show how to use other things for shaping the stack, like a pyramid mold. Many recipes are ‘freeform’, just layering the ingredients without using a mold at all.
So much of a meal is in the presentation, and I always get rave reviews when I start the dinner party with a stacked salad course. My favorite is to use heirloom tomatoes in yellow and purple-red, layered with goat cheese and fresh basil leaves, dressed with a little balsamic vinaigrette. The idea came from the charts in the beginning chapter that give you a mix of ideas, simple as choosing one ingredient from each column that best suits your taste or what you have on hand.
My favorite recipe for a brunch from Stacks is the Grilled Salmon and Corn Pancake Stack. The pancakes can be made an hour ahead, so you just have to assemble the stacks right before serving. Place a little Crème Fraiche to hold the layers together with some watercress for crunch, and you have a winner.
The Enchilada Stacks are yummy, and I made them with full size tortillas and didn’t use the stacking cylinders. Tortillas are layered with meat mixture and cheeses, baked briefly and garnished with lettuce, tomato, avocado, scallions and sour cream. Just cut the stack into quarters for serving.
The Seafood Risotto Stacks are elegant and tasty, and not that hard to do using the shortcut method at the end of the recipe.
The recipes lend themselves easily to substitutions. The Raspberry Lemon Meringue Stacks were wonderful made with in-season blueberries instead. Some of the recipes give suggestions for substitutions, like putting grilled chicken in the recipe for the corn pancake stacks instead of salmon.
Stacks: The Art of Vertical Food has neat ideas, and lovely full color photographs of most of the recipes. Each recipe gives tips to plan ahead and most have shortcuts too. Next up for me to try will be the Death By Chocolate dessert stack, yum!!