These elegant appetizers come from Wolfgang Puck's Los Angeles restaurant Spago. Laurie Ochoa wrote about the groundbreaking chef in "The King of LA," part of our special Los Angeles issue (March 2010).
- 5 large red beets, roasted, peeled, and cut crosswise into 1⁄4"-thick slices
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 9 oz. goat cheese, softened
- 4 tsp. minced fresh chives
- 4 tsp. minced fresh parsley
- 2 1⁄2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 3⁄4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1⁄4 tsp. orange zest
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp. hazelnut oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 3 tbsp. chopped hazelnuts
Using a 2 5⁄8" round cookie cutter, cut out 20 of the beet slices; reserve scraps for another use (like borscht or a salad). In a 12" skillet, bring rice vinegar and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and, working in batches, cook beet slices, turning once, about 2 minutes. Transfer slices to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Pat dry and let chill.
Stir goat cheese together with the chives, parsley, 2 tsp. thyme, and pepper in a bowl. Set aside.
Bring orange juice to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced to 1⁄3 cup, 4-5 minutes. Let cool. Transfer juice to a bowl along with remaining thyme, balsamic vinegar, zest, and shallots. While whisking, drizzle in olive oil and hazelnut oil; whisk until smooth. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper; let chill.
To serve: Put 1 beet slice on work surface; spread about 1 tbsp. cheese mixture over beet. Top cheese with another beet slice, pressing down so cheese oozes to edge. Repeat to create a stack with 4 layers of cheese between 5 beet slices. Make 4 stacks in all. Slice each stack into 4 wedges; transfer to 4 plates. Drizzle vinaigrette over each plate; garnish with nuts. Serve with mixed greens, if you like.