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.
Reprinted with permission from Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong. Copyright 2013. Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 medium shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
- 2 tablespoons melted ghee or fat of choice
- 2 globe eggplants (approximately 1 pound each), sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups Macadamia Nut "Ricotta"
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced into 1-inch rounds
In a small saucepan, bring the balsamic vinegar and shallots to a rolling boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium, and continue cooking until the liquid is syrupy and reduced by half, about 15 minutes.
While the balsamic reduction is cooking, place a wire rack 6 inches from the heating element in the oven, and turn on the broiler. Coat a foil-lined baking tray with the melted ghee, and arrange the eggplant slices on top. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and flip the eggplant slices over to season the other side.
Broil the eggplant rounds for 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip each slice over, rotate the tray, and broil for another 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
In a bowl, combine the Macadamia Nut “Ricotta,” basil, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and then stir to thoroughly incorporate.
Assemble the stacks by spreading generous spoonfuls of the herbed “ricotta” and drizzles of balsamic reduction between layers of eggplant and tomato slices.
Garnish with basil and a final splash of balsamic reduction before serving.