When you think of fruit, what pops into your mind? Apples, oranges, and grapes? These are all terrific examples, but what about tomatoes, squash, and bell peppers? Yup, those are all fruit, too! In our Kitchen Academy box “Fruit: From Apple to Zucchini,” kids will develop their knife skills on what we like to call sneaky fruit—like zucchini and eggplant—while making a savory ratatouille.
Here are a few teachable tips from this lesson:
Fruit or veg?
In botany—the science of studying plants—a fruit is the fertilized ovary of flowering plants that contain the seeds of that plant. Vegetables are the other parts—leaves, stems, and roots. So while we usually refer to eggplant, squash, zucchini, bell pepper, and tomatoes as vegetables, in this recipe they are all scientifically classified as fruit! Only the onion and garlic are technically vegetables. Other fruit you may not think of as fruit includes beans, peanuts, cucumbers, and corn.
Ratatouille, besides being an adorable movie, is a traditional dish from the Provence region in France. Simple, nutritious, and wonderfully tasty, it gets its deep flavor from slowly cooking fresh fruit and vegetables with olive oil. We often think of French cooking as fancy and often heavy—ratatouille proves that this is not always the case!
As kids are learning how to safely and confidently use a knife, it’s important to encourage them to go slowly and stay in control. Speed comes later. Have them stand up straight and hold the knife firmly with all their fingers curled around the handle, close to the blade, and the back of their cutting hand facing the ceiling. The hand steadying the food on the cutting board should be in what is often called “the claw:” Their fingers should be pointing straight down and very slightly curved under, with their fingertips gripping the food. Their thumb should always be tucked behind their fingers. And remember: when the knife is moving, their eyes are on the food they’re cutting.