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[Photograph: Henry Fong]

Nut "cheese" is not the first thing I expected to make from a Paleo cookbook. Most nut cheese recipes call for cashews; as someone with a cashew allergy, I have tended to avoid all dairy-free cheeses for the sake of safety. So I was pleasantly surprised when Michelle Tam's recipe for nut "cheese" in her new cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo, called for macadamia nuts. Mild-tasting, rich, and sweet, these round nuts not only fit into my diet, but they also seem like an ideal substitute for ricotta.

Now, using ground-up nuts in place of dairy won't ever create a product that tastes just like the original, but they do transform into a spread with a texture remarkably similar to firm ricotta. I could imagine spreading using it as a dip or a dessert topping. Tam uses the "cheese" in a towering stack of broiled eggplant, tomato, and balsamic reduction that we'll make tomorrow.

Why I picked this recipe: Could a nut-based "cheese" taste as good as the real thing?

What worked: As promised, this "cheese" came together lickety-split with a surprisingly creamy texture. It doesn't taste like ricotta, but it definitely tastes good.

What didn't: Nothing.

Suggested tweaks: Tam suggests mixing in smoked paprika, sun-dried tomatoes, and/or fresh basil to the "cheese." I think it would taste especially good spooned on top of baked fruit. You can make nut "cheese" out of cashews, as well. If you want to use a more dense nut, like almonds, you should use blanched nuts and soak them overnight before blending.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Nom Nom Paleo to give away this week.

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.

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