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Slice of Life

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Stacking pleasing to eye, palate

Readers with health or food issues bring me to new levels of creative “crazy.”

People with Celiac disease can use all the help they can get to find recipes that don’t make them feel as if they have to settle for “almost.” I’ve found that a great way to “avoid” having to use specific grains as a binder or filler is to create dishes that stand on their own without any grain products and taste good.

I am, of course, talking about stacking my ingredients vertically.

Simply put, creating a stack is a basic cooking technique that consists of layering food so that it becomes two or three inches high, often using a mold to create the structure then removing it for the big reveal on the plate.

Lots of foodie magazines and online websites will tell you that you have to have special molds or rings to create these culinary masterpieces.

Truly, you don’t have spend big bucks to buy these pricey molds. You can use an empty large tuna fish can (wash it very well) and remove both ends of the can. Voila! A perfect mold to make your stacks.

If you lack the time (or ambition) to create individual stacks for your guests or family, you can always create a one dish strada or utilize a spring form pan.

Stacks can be served hot or cold and are perfect for an appetizer or main course.

Portobello Stacks

Note: Cut the vegetables about 1/4 inch thick for uniform stacking.

4 small Portobello mushrooms, stems removed

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 cup sliced zucchini

1 cup sliced yellow squash

1/2 cup sliced red onion

2 ( 1/4 -inch-thick) slices tomato

1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled goat cheese or herbed cream cheese (optional)

In a self-sealing plastic bag, combine the mushrooms, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, basil and pepper. Shake gently to coat and let sit at room temperature for 25 to 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove the mushrooms from the bag (save the marinade) and place it in a 9-by-9-inch baking dish. Pour the wine over the top of the mushrooms and set them aside. Place the zucchini, yellow squash and onion on a baking sheet and drizzle the marinade over the top. Bake the mushrooms and the vegetables for about 10 minutes or until slightly soft.

Place 2 mushrooms, gill sides up, on a baking sheet, layer the vegetables any way you like, top with cheese (you can omit it if you want to) and top with the remaining mushroom gill side down. If you use the cheese, bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese melts. Serve immediately. Makes two. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Potato Tomato Salmon Stacks

2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon mince garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and boiled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices

8 ounces smoked salmon

1/2 red onion diced

1 to 2 avocados diced

1/2 cup chopped black olives

Extra parsley if desired

In a bowl combine the tomatoes, parsley, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper. Mix to combine and set aside. (You will need to repeat this eight times.) Using a mold placed on a salad plate, place one slice of potato on the bottom then layer the salmon on top. Place the onion on top of the salmon then the avocado on top of the onion. Spoon some of the tomato vinaigrette over the top and decorate with the black olive and any additional parsley. Serves 8. This recipe can be doubled and made ahead of time up until you top with the tomatoes. Do that just before you serve.

White Fish Stacks

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

2 green onions sliced thin

4 large red and yellow tomatoes cut into 1/4 inch slices

3/4 to 1 pound smoked white fish

12 to 15 fresh spinach leaves, thinly sliced

In a bowl combine the lemon juice, oil, dill, pepper, parsley and green onions; whisk until combined. Set aside. Arrange the stacks on eight salad plates, alternating tomato slices, fish, spinach strips. Drizzle with dressing and serve. Serves 8.

Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.