This trio of eggplant, tomato, and ricotta cheese makes for a hearty, if not terribly exciting, twist on a caprese salad. Give the appetizer a Paleo twist, though, and the dish transforms into something far more interesting. Michelle Tam's recipe in her new cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo, pairs eggplant slices (coated in ghee and broiled) with thick tomato steaks, a balsamic and shallot reduction, and her own macadamia nut-based ricotta "cheese." The nutty and rich spread adds heft and dimension to the silky eggplant and the punchy reduction echoes the sweet acidity in the tomatoes.
Why I picked this recipe: I liked the ricotta "cheese" well enough on its own, but I wanted to see how it worked in a complete dish.
What worked: I was surprised by how well the flavors of the "cheese" and the balsamic reduction worked together. And coating the eggplant with ghee was a nice alternative to the usual olive oil.
What didn't: It look much longer to broil the eggplant than advertised. If the eggplant burns before cooking through, you can stick it in a warm oven to finish cooking.
Suggested tweaks: Tomatoes aren't exactly in season now. If you can get decent ones, use them; otherwise I'd try stirring in sun dried tomatoes to the "cheese" and skip the tomato layer altogether. Grilling the eggplant will also work if you can stand to be outside.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. She blogs at Cooking Wolves. Follow her @KateHWiliams.