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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.
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.