Thursday, February 23, 2012

Red Beet & Goat Cheese Napoleons with Hazelnuts

This gorgeous stacked salad has become a standard at Wolfgang Puck's famed restaurant Spago, in Los Angeles. Rounds of brilliant red beets layered with slices of white goat cheese make up one of the most striking and elegant appetizers they serve. The earthy beets and pungent cheese ask for just a drizzle of tangy vinaigrette, a sprinkling of toasted nuts and some microgreens for colour. A healthy and delicious recipe, this stunning appetizer tastes incredible and is guaranteed to impress all of your friends. The key is to purchase beets that are all about the same size, and to save time, the beets can be roasted beforehand as well as preparing the two vinaigrettes. 

Red Beet & Goat Cheese Napoleons with Hazelnut Vinaigrette
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Wolfgang Puck + photo Susan Hathaway 

3 lb large (at least 3" in diameter) yellow or red beets, washed and trimmed
8 oz rice wine vinegar
8 oz granulated sugar
6 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 8 oz log herbed Goat Cheese, cut into eight round slices
3 cups mixed baby lettuces, washed and dried
1/2 cup Spago House Dressing
1/2 cup Citrus Hazelnut Vinaigrette
4 tbsp toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wrap the beets individually in aluminum foil and bake for 60-90 minutes, depending on their size. To check if they're done, gently insert a skewer into a beet. The skewer should slide through easily. Remove the beets from the oven, allow to cool a bit, and then remove from the foil, and peel.

Cut each beet into 1/4-inch thick round slices, from top to bottom. Then using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut each slice with a 3-inch round cookie cutter. You'll need 10 rounds. Save trimmings for another use.

In a sauté pan, bring vinegar and sugar to a boil. Lower to a simmer and poach beets one minute on each side. With a slotted spatula, remove and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

When ready to assemble, heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan. Arrange the slices of herbed Goat Cheese in the pan and warm slightly, turning them with a small spatula just to warm both sides. This has to be done quickly or the cheese will melt.

Herbed Goat Cheese is cut into eight round slices

To assemble the napoleons, place 1 of the beet rounds on a firm, flat surface and begin to layer. Top with a slice of goat cheese, then another beet round, a second slice of cheese, another beet round, a third slice of cheese and a final layer of beet round. Continue until you have five layers of beets and four layers of cheese. Carefully cut through layers, dividing into three wedges. Repeat with the remaining beets and cheese. Carefully cut through layers with a very sharp knife, dividing into 4 wedges.

To serve, arrange 3 of the wedges, pointed ends facing out, on a long narrow white porcelain plates. Toss the baby lettuces with the Spago House Dressing and mound half of the lettuces on top of each arranged napoleon. Drizzle one half of the Citrus Hazelnut Vinaigrette around each mound. Sprinkle toasted nuts and reserved diced beets on top of drizzled vinaigrette. This dish should be served immediately, or else the beets will really start to bleed into the goat cheese — it'll taste great though!

Citrus Hazelnut Vinaigrette
Makes 1 1/3 cups

1 large shallot, peeled and minced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp orange zest
1/3 cup hazelnut oil
1/3 cup olive oil

In a medium saucepan, bring orange juice to a boil. Lower to a simmer and reduce until only 1/3 cup remains. Cool to room temperature. In a medium bowl, combine orange juice, shallot, thyme, vinegar and orange zest. Slowly whisk in both oils until thick and emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until needed.

Spago House Dressing
Makes 1 cup

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp sherry wine or red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup walnut oil
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk together the balsamic and sherry or red wine vinegars, the Dijon mustard, minced shallot and minced thyme. Slowly whisk in the oils and when emulsified, season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate in a covered container. It'll keep for 3-4 weeks. When ready to use, whisk again.