Ratatouille is one of those dishes that always sounds really good in theory: peak-season vegetables stewed together in a rich, tomato sauce with herbs and olive oil. How could this be anything but delicious? But whenever I’ve ordered it at a restaurant, my high hopes have been dashed with a pile of mushy vegetables that isn’t really a soup, or a stew or even a main dish.
After a farmer’s market blow out last week, I was preparing a bunch of veggies for the grill: eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and considering a tomato-basil salad for the side. As the veggies were grilling it dawned on me that I had everything I needed to make ratatouille. My first instinct was to run and grab the veg off the barbeque, but I stopped myself realizing the great potential of adding the grilled goodies to the tomato base instead of the traditional method of cooking everything together. Would this simple change-up make the difference and prevent mushy-ness? It was just crazy enough to work.
I got to caramelizing onions on the stove to create the base, then added garlic, tomatoes, lemon slices and balsamic. So far, so good. The veggies were beautifully charred and grill-marked when I went to check on them, so I pulled them off, gave them a rough chop and added them to the simmering tomato mixture. So far, so really good.
As I was contemplating how to make this a more substantial meal, I remembered that I had cooked lentils in the fridge. If you recall my slightly gripe-y post about restaurants halfway catering to vegetarians with dishes that were delicious but not all that “complete”, you’ll see how traditional ratatouille definitely falls into this category. The quickest fix and simplest solution is adding lentils, in those cases and this one. So without hesitation the pulses took the plunge and not only added protein and fiber, but gorgeous texture and colour as well. For the win!
The final result is something I am pretty stoked about and definitely making again. It’s a rich-tasting, chunky, hearty summer-in-a-bowl. My ratatouille may not have much in common with the classic version beyond its base ingredients, but I think that it’s far more filling and delicious. The grilled veggies prevent the mushiness from taking hold, as they miraculously hold their shape and tenderness while adding a bonus flavour layer of smokiness. If you don’t have lentils, chickpeas or white beans would make fabulous stand-ins. You can also leave the legumes out altogether, but they definitely turn this light side dish into a more complete meal.
To take my Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille over the top, serve it with plenty of olive oil drizzled over the top and a solid hunk of bread or toast on the side. This dish keeps well for up to four days in the fridge, or I imagine in the freezer for a few months. I’ve already made another batch for a future dinner – I can hardly wait for the next time I’m too tired to cook.
Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille Serves 4-5
¾ cup / 150g black or du Puy lentils (about 1 ½ cup cooked or 1 can), optional
1 large red onion
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
4 cloves garlic
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 pint mixed large tomatoes (whatever your market / store has in season)
2 14oz / 400ml cans whole tomatoes
4 slices of lemon
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 large eggplant
2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
2 small green zucchini
1 small yellow zucchini
generous handful fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
small handful fresh oregano leaves
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
cold-pressed olive oil for garnish
crusty wholegrain sourdough bread or toast, for serving, optional
1. If possible, soak the lentils overnight or for up to 12 hours. Drain, rinse and place in a pot and cover with about 2 inches / 5cm fresh, cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender – about 10-15 minutes if you’ve soaked them, or about 20 minutes if un-soaked. Drain any excess water and set aside.
2. While the lentils are cooking, prepare the ratatouille base: slice the onion into thick rings and add them to a large saucepan with the coconut oil and salt. Once the oil has melted, stir to coat the onions and them let cook, stirring occasionally until the onions have lightly caramelized, about 15 minutes. Mince the garlic and add it to the onions, cook for a couple minutes until fragrant. Add the canned tomatoes and use the back of a large spoon to crush them up a little.
3. Roughly chop the large tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, leaving a few of the cherry tomatoes whole. Add all of the tomatoes to the pot and stir to combine. Add the lemon slices and balsamic vinegar, bring to a low simmer and cook covered while you grill the vegetables.
4. Preheat your grill to medium-high. Slice the eggplant and zucchini into rounds and slice the peppers in half then remove the seeds. Place the vegetables on the grill and close the lid. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the underside has slight grill marks. Flip and continue to grill on the other side until the vegetables are tender but not mushy. Let cool slightly, then roughly chop into bite-sized pieces.
5. Add the grilled vegetables to the pot along with the lentils, basil, oregano and thyme. Taste and add salt and freshly cracked black pepper to suit your taste. Stir well, bring to a simmer and let cook for about five minutes. Divide ratatouille among bowls. Drizzle generously with olive oil, garnish with basil, and serve hot with crusty bread.
The next thing I’m going to tell you has been the second most difficult secret I’ve ever kept…I’ve written another cookbook!!! It’s called Naturally Nourished: Healthy, Delicious Meals made with Everyday Ingredients, and it will be available for purchase February 14, 2017.
This book was a major departure from the first cookbook, and a true response to the feedback I’ve received from you. Some readers found the ingredient lists from the first book too daunting, expensive, or unfamiliar, so the recipes from this next one can all be found at a discount grocery store! I wanted to remind everyone (including myself) that we all have access to fresh, healthy food in our supermarket, and that by preparing it consciously with simple techniques, we can make incredibly tasty meals every day on any budget. I absolutely loved creating this book as it pushed myself to the creative limits. I am so proud of the recipes and I know you’re going to love them as much as I do!
I’ll keep you all updated as far as pre-orders go and my book tour. Thank you all again for inspiring me to write this book!
Show me your Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille on Instagram: #MNRratatouille
Cruising the health food store a few months back, I happened upon a bag of locally made, grain-free granola that really spoke to me. Something about its un-designed packaging, its minimalistic ingredients and flagrant chunks flirting with me through the cellophane window, begged me to take it home. The $15 price tag begged me to leave it on the shelf. So I went and perused the tea section, while spiritually distracted by the promise of crunchy sunflower seed clusters and juicy raisins. I went back. I picked up the bag and walked swiftly to the cash register so that I wouldn’t change my mind on the way there. I bought it, ran home, tore open that bag and sat gorging myself on handful after handful of total luxury granola bliss. I did again the next week. And the following week too. It took about five rounds of $15 granola before I realized, firstly, how insane it was that I, Sarah Britton, would spend such a preposterous amount of money on something like breakfast cereal, and second, that I wouldn’t just figure out how to make it myself.
Grain-free granola is nothing new, but nothing I’d ever tried making before since I love grains so very much. But as I tend to enjoy grain-centric breakfasts, pouring a bunch of mostly-oat granola on top of mostly-oat porridge seemed like oat overkill, ya know? It didn’t take long to perfect this recipe and secure its place as a rotating staple in my household. I eat it on all kinds of things besides porridge too. It’s great on top of chia pudding, smoothie bowls, chopped fruit, coconut yogurt, waffles and pancakes, and ice cream (the healthy kind, of course). And like all other granolas, this stuff is pretty addictive. I’m warning you.
This recipe is excitingly versatile, so don’t get too caught up on the ingredients themselves – instead think of them as inspiration. If you’re allergic to nuts, or you simply want to cut down on the cost of this recipe, simply swap out the nuts for more seeds. You can also replace the coconut if you’re so inclined, use another spice instead of cinnamon, honey instead of maple syrup…you get the idea. Just make sure that whatever you choose to alter is substituted with the same amount of something else. If you dig dried fruit, chop up a bunch and add it to the mix after it’s cooled down. Apricots, figs, mulberries, and raisins are some of my favourites with this mix.
Maple Cinnamon Grain-free Granola Makes 8 cups / 2 liters
2 cups / 275g raw nuts (I used almonds and hazelnuts)
2 cups / 250g raw, shelled sunflower seeds
1 cup / 80g unsweetened desiccated coconut
1 cup / 60g large flaked coconut
3 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
¾ tsp. fine sea salt
1/3 cup / 80ml expeller-pressed coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup / 80ml maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
1.Preheat oven to 300°F / 150°C. Line two rimmed baking sheets with baking paper.
2. Add the nuts to your food processor and pulse to roughly chop. Add sunflower seeds and pulse to chop, until all nuts and seeds are about the same size. If you don’t have a food processor, this step can be done by hand.
3. Place chopped nuts and seeds in a large mixing bowl. Combine the coconut, chia seeds, cinnamon, salt. Pour in the coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Mix well to coat. Divide the mixture in half and spread out evenly onto the lined baking sheets (you can do this on one baking sheet if that is all you have, but in my experience it cooks more evenly with two).
4. Bake for 30-35 minutes, stirring a couple times from the 15-minute mark. The granola is ready when it is golden and fragrant. It will crisp up outside the oven as it cools.
5. Store fully-cooled granola in an airtight glass container at room temperature for up to one month.
This recipe was included in my online video series, Healthy Kickstart, that I produced with my friends over at Cody! If you’d like to see me making this recipe in the flesh, and the many other breakfast delights (such as the Grab-and-Go Carrot Bread below), clickhere. I had such a blast with this series, as I feel passionate about helping you to create mornings that are as delicious, vibrant and easy as possible! I hope you all enjoy.
Deep gratitude for all of your ongoing support of My New Roots!
Show me your Maple Cinnamon Grain-free Granola on Instagram: #MNRgrainfreegranola
This post has literally been years in the making. After countless requests for a kombucha brewing method and recipe, I finally feel confident enough to write about such a HUGE topic. Considering the fact that there are entire books about this one subject, I’ll start off by saying that I do not consider myself a kombucha-brewing expert. Although I’ve brewed hundreds of liters of the stuff by now, I am still learning and just happy to share my processes and experiences with you so far. Everyone has a slightly different way of brewing and this is mine – it works perfectly for me and I hope for you too!
Making kombucha, like any “kitchen project” seems pretty daunting until you actually do it. Once you take the first step and brew your own batch, you won’t believe how simple and easy it is to make your own kombucha and be able to drink it every day of your life! You’ll also wonder why you waited so long to start. With just a 20-minute time investment every 7-10 days you’ll have access to the most delicious, high-vibe kombucha you’ve ever tasted at a faction of the cost of buying from the store. Plus, if you make it yourself, it will be 100% raw and full of those precious, digestion-supporting enzymes that our diets are typically lacking, whereas commercial kombucha has often been pasteurized – a process that destroys enzymes. You can ferment it to suit your taste, make it as fizzy as you desire, and even add flavourings. How rad is that?
What is Kombucha?
Although kombucha is experiencing a major surge in popularity, it has actually been around for thousands of years. It is essentially sweetened tea, fermented with the help of a SCOBY, transformed into a fizzy, effervescent drink. SCOBY is an acronym, which stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. It’s an odd-looking thing – often compared to an organ, a slippery mushroom, or a rubbery pancake – but it’s the essential ingredient in making the miracle beverage that is kombucha. Its flavours can range from pleasantly vinegar-y to champagne-like, with sweetness varying according to the original brew and second fermentations.
Where can I get a SCOBY?
Since the SCOBY duplicates every time you make kombucha, there are plenty out there in the world for free! I recommend asking at your local health food store – in my experience it seems like the place to either purchase one, or connect with someone who brews and enjoys spreading the kombucha gospel and giving their extra SCOBYs away. Alternatively, try your local Craigstlist to find a culture. You can even buy them online. Here is a worldwide source: www.kombu.de
What about sugar?
Yes, you need sugar to brew kombucha but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be consuming it – it’s only food for the SCOBY! What starts off as very sweet tea completely transforms through the fermentation process, and that SCOBY turns all of that food into a delightful mixture of beneficial organic acids, B-vitamins, and enzymes. If it’s something you are concerned about, just let your kombucha ferment for the full 10 days, or longer. The longer the tea ferments the less sugar it contains. Usually by day 10 there isn’t a trace left – but your tea will be rather acidic-tasting just so you know!
There are a few types of sugar you can use for feeding the SCOBY, but cane sugar is the most recommended by seasoned brewers. I use the least processed form of cane sugar I can find – organic evaporated cane juice – but even the most sugar-avoiding, health-conscious people I know brew with refined white sugar. Remember: the sugar feeds the SCOBY, not you!
What about caffeine?
The caffeine range in kombucha is extremely broad, and is mostly dependent on the type of tea used to brew it. Black tea contains substantially more caffeine than green tea for instance, and since I am sensitive to caffeine, I always brew with green tea. In general, brewed kombucha will contain approximately 1/3 of the caffeine of the original tea. If black tea contains 30-80mg of caffeine per cup, the same sized up of kombucha would contain 10-25mg. Green tea kombucha may have just 2-3mg per cup. Whatever you do, do NOT use decaffeinated tea to brew kombucha. Instead, blend the black tea with green tea or simply use green tea alone.
What about alcohol?
Fermenting anything sweet with yeasts is going to produce booze, that is just nature! With kombucha you’re looking at an average of 0.5 – 1% alcohol by volume. With home-brewing, there is always a risk of more alcohol forming since it is in an uncontrolled environment, so keep that in mind if that is a concern for you or someone you are serving it to.
What are the health benefits of Kombucha?
First, kombucha is a probiotic drink, so it is an excellent beverage for improving digestion, and supporting healthy bacteria in the gut. Its high enzyme content also promotes healthy digestion and nutrient assimilation.
Lab tests show that kombucha has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, and the ability to improve liver function and reduce oxidative stress in the body. Many people report success in relieving their symptoms of arthritis, allergies, chronic fatigue, hypertension, metabolic disorders, and digestive issues.
What I think is very exciting and promising about kombucha however, are the acids formed during fermentation. These acids have incredible detoxifying and antioxidant capabilities. Glucuronic acid, for example, is the body’s most important detoxifier and made by the oxidation of glucose. Glucuronic acid binds to toxins in the liver and flushes them out through the kidneys. It also works in conjunction with gluconic acid, which binds with heavy metals and ushers them out of our systems. Acetic acid inhibits the action of harmful bacteria. Usnic acid protects against viruses through its antibiotic properties. Malic acid helps detoxify the liver. Butyric acid is produced by the beneficial yeasts in kombucha and protects cellular membranes and combines with gluconic acid to strengthen the walls of the gut to combat harmful yeasts such as candida albicans.
Of all the healthy habits I’ve adopted in my life, I’d say that drinking kombucha has actually made a difference in how I feel. Every time I take a sip it feels like every cell of my body is screaming YAAAAAHHHHHSSSSSS! Really and truly. To me, it is life elixir, and a fabulous drink to add to your healthy lifestyle. But I will also say that kombucha is not a panacea. The hype around this beverage has reached astronomical heights and I believe it’s important to consume kombucha without the expectation that it’s going to change your life. What works for me, may work for you and it may not. At the end of the day, kombucha is purely delicious and I think it’s best to enjoy it for that reason alone.
Can I drink too much kombucha?
Kombucha, like anything, should be enjoyed responsibly. Just as you wouldn’t eat a pound of chia seeds in a sitting, nor should you drown yourself in kombucha (although it would be a delicious way to go). If you have never had kombucha before, start out with about half a cup (125ml) and work your way up over the course of a few weeks or months. I probably drink around 1-2 cups a day (250 – 500ml) but my body is used to it and I too eased into this amount. Remember: food is medicine! You never know how your body will react, so it’s best to take things slow with such powerful potions.
Second fermentation – flavouring your brew and making your kombucha fizzy
Although kombucha straight after the first fermentation is delish, I love to flavour it and make it really fizzy through a second fermentation. This involves adding a sweet substance, like fresh fruit or juice (I use unfiltered apple juice), to the bottles of brewed kombucha and letting it sit, sealed at room temperature for another couple of days instead of refrigerating it right away. This extra dose of sugar will feed the kombucha further and produce gas, which builds up inside the sealed bottle. This step is optional, but will make your kombucha really special and sparkly!
It’s essential that you use flip-top bottles with good seals for this step, since you want the gas to build inside the bottles at this stage. But because the pressure can be quite strong, I always recommend “burping” your bottles once a day until they have reached the amount of fizz you’re after. Simply flip the top on the bottles and you should hear the gas escaping, which is just enough to take the pressure off – there will still be plenty of sparkle in the kombucha. If you fail to burp your bottles, you may end up with an explosion on your hands! Needless to say this is quite dangerous, so set a timer for once day if you’re a forgetful person.
Taking a break from fermenting
There will come a time when you’ll have to pause your kombucha brewing cycle – perhaps if you’re traveling for a period of time, or simply feel like stopping – in which case, you need to know how to take a break.
Remove the SCOBY from the jar, separate the mother and the baby and put them into the same or separate glass jars (separate if you’re giving one away) with enough brewed kombucha to cover it, and seal with a plastic lid (remember that kombucha can not come into contact with metal, so stay on the safe side and use plastic). Keep this in the fridge where the temperature will slow down fermentation, and it will keep for many months. When you want to brew your new batch, remove the SCOBY from the fridge and let it come to room temperature before adding it to the sweetened and cooled tea, along with kombucha from your last batch, the SCOBY and the liquid it was stored in.
If you can time it properly, it’s a nice to be able to bottle your last batch right before you leave so that you can put your SCOBY away at the end of a cycle. I time it so that my second fermentation ends on my travel day so that I can store my bottles in the fridge while I’m gone. If it doesn’t exactly line up, you can do this by increasing the first or second fermentations by a few days. Remember that if you bottle early, it will be sweeter, and if you leave it longer it will be more acidic. Some people will leave their kombucha brewing for up to a month and that may suit you, but I personally wouldn’t leave mine for more than 2 weeks. If you are flexible on the taste and don’t mind these flavour variations, it will be a lot easier to time your break.
Whatever you do, don’t start a brew right before you leave for more than a couple weeks (unless you like very vinegar-y kombucha), and definitely don’t leave your second fermentation bottles out at room temperature! You’ll come home to an epic mess or worse.
Homebrewed Kombucha Makes 1 gallon / 4 liters
something to brew tea in (very large teapot or stockpot)
1 five-quart / five-liter glass jar
4 one-quart / one-liter flip-top glass bottles
tightly woven cloth (a clean tea towel, paper towel, or many layers of cheesecloth)
1 cup / 210g organic, evaporated cane juice or raw sugar (you can also use refined white sugar)
2 Tbsp. loose black or green tea OR 8 tea bags (I prefer green)
4 quarts / liters water
2 cups / 500ml kombucha tea (from your last batch or acquired)
1 SCOBY (from your last batch or acquired)
Second fermentation (optional):
3 cups / 750ml fruit juice of your choice
1 cup chopped fresh or dried fruit
fresh or dried fruit
fresh ginger / ginger juice
fresh or dried herbs and spices
honey or maple syrup
food-grade essential oils
1. Brew the tea. Use unchlorinated / unflouridated water. Bring to the boil and pour over the tea of your choice and let steep for 20-30 minutes (you want it to be very strong). If using a small tea pot, brew two pots and pour brewed tea into your kombucha container.
2. Sweeten the tea. Add the 1 cup / 210g of sugar and still well to dissolve.
3. Cool the tea. This step is important since the SCOBY does not tolerate heat and has the potential to die if added to hot liquid. To speed up the cooling process, I brew 8 cups / 2 liters of strong tea, then add 8 cups / 2 liters of cold water. This way, it usually takes only an hour or two to reach room temperature.
4. Add 2 cups / 500ml pre-made kombucha and the SCOBY. Add the pre-brewed kombucha, which raises the acidity level of the tea. This aids the fermentation process, but also protects the SCOBY from harmful bacteria during the initial fermentation phase. If it is your first time brewing kombucha, simply purchase 2 cups / 500ml of kombucha to add to the cooled tea, along with whatever liquid your SCOBY came with. If you are bottling your own kombucha, simply add 2 cups / 500ml from your last batch. Remove all of your jewelry and wash your hands thoroughly. Gently slip the SCOBY into the tea.
5. Cover. Use a piece of fabric that is tightly woven (a clean tea towel works well) or several layers of cheesecloth, secured with a rubber band. You can even use a piece of paper towel or a coffee filter. The point here is to allow air to flow in and out of the brewing container, while keeping pests like fruit flies out – they love this stuff!
6. Give your kombucha a home. Place the kombucha container in a place where it will not be disturbed or jostled, out of direct sunlight, but where it will get enough airflow (a small cupboard is therefore not the best place). I leave mine out on the counter where I can keep an eye on it, but I do not move it until day 7 when I start tasting.
7. Let ferment for 7-10 days. During the fermentation time, you may see a lot of activity in the brewing container. Bubbles, film-y bits, and the mother SCOBY floating and around and changing positions are all normal occurrences. After a few days you’ll notice the surface of the tea changing and becoming cloudy or opaque-looking. This is the new SCOBY forming and is a great sign that you have a healthy brew on the way!
The fermentation time depends on a few factors, such as the temperature of the environment (warmer temperatures speed fermentation), but also your preferences. If you like a sweeter kombucha, one week may be enough time. If you like a less sweet, more vinegar-y kombucha then allowing the brew to ferment for 10 days or more may be what you’re into. I recommend tasting the kombucha every day from day 7 onwards and bottle it once it’s reached a taste that you enjoy. It’s totally subjective and totally up to you! That’s one reason it’s so great to brew your own.
8. Remove SCOBY and 2 cups / 500ml kombucha. Once your kombucha tea tastes just the way you want it to, prepare to bottle it. Take off all your jewelry and wash your hand thoroughly. Remove the SCOBY
9a. Bottle kombucha and repeat the process. I like to pour the kombucha tea from the large brewing jar into a container with a spout to avoid spills. You can also use a funnel for this process. Seal the bottles and place in the fridge.
And now it’s time to brew a fresh batch! Start up at step 1 and complete the cycle. Now you’re a kombucha brewer!
9b. Second fermentation – optional. If you want to carry out the second fermentation, divide the juice or fruit among the bottles first, then add the brewed kombucha on top. Seal the bottles and let at room temperature for 2-3 days until it is carbonated to your liking, then store in the fridge. Very important: remember to release the pressure in the bottles every day that they sit at room temperature – this is called burping – open the lid briefly to let any excess gas out, which will prevent an explosion (I am totally not kidding).
10. Enjoy! It’s finally time to enjoy your kombucha! Drink it as is, or flavour it further as you like. I like to add sliced seasonal fruit to my glass before serving, a few slices of ginger, essential oils, superfoods like spirulina or more fresh juice.
Important things to note:
1. Kombucha survives and thrives on cane sugar. You can use raw cane sugar like I do, instead of bleached white sugar, but both work fine. Honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar etc. and other “healthier alternatives” have very mixed results. I realize it’s hard for any health-conscious person to use sugar, but remember that the SCOBY is fed, not sweetened with sugar.
2. Always use unchlorinated / unflouridated water for brewing the tea.
3. Do not use herbal tea or any tea that contains flavourings or oils, Earl Grey tea for instance. Stick with organic, pure black or green tea leaves / bags.
4. Do not allow the SCOBY to come into contact with metal at any time (remember to remove your jewelry before handling the SCOBY).
5. Wash your hands and your equipment extremely thoroughly every time. Vinegar is better for cleaning than soap as it does not leave any residue that can harm the SCOBY.
6. Keep the critters out! Use very tightly woven fabric to cover your brewing container.
7. The SCOBY is very sensitive to air contaminants, so don’t burn incense or smoke near the brewing container.
8. If mold forms, or if you see any worms / flies in the kombucha or on the SCOBY, toss the entire batch including the SCOBY and start over. Do not be discouraged – it happens!
I know that this seems like a lot of information, but I wanted this post to be thorough so that you could have all the information you need to start brewing! If you have another variation on brewing, or tips and tricks that you think others would find helpful, please let me know in the comments! And because I know you’re going to have a lot of questions, I’ll try to check in on this post more often to answer them.
Here are some great online resources for those who want more information on brewing kombucha:
Remember that it may take a few batches (and a few SCOBYs) to get your kombucha just the way you like it, but it’s a really fun, empowering and delicious project that will make you feel like you can do anything in the kitchen! Did I mention you’ll get to drink kombucha every day for the rest of your life? Yes, there’s that too.
All love and happy brewing,
Show me your kombucha on Instagram: #MNRkombucha
* * * * * *
The My New Roots recipe app now has an updated iPad design and it synchronizes your favorites, shopping list and recipe notes between your iPhone and iPad. In other words: make your shopping list on the iPad, and you’ll have it right on the phone when you’re in the store. Neat!