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Sharpen Kids’ Knife Skills With This Surprising Fruit Ratatouille

You may not think of eggplant as fruit, but scientifically (and in this recipe), it makes the cut.

Cutting-Tomatoes

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.

Rata-what-y?

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!

Knife sense

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.

Unlock your child's self-reliance with skills that will keep them cooking real  food for life with our Kitchen Academy kit, delivered right to your door!

Oven-Roasted Fruit Ratatouille

This recipe comes from our Kitchen Academy kit “Fruit: From Apple to Zucchini”—and the directions aim, as you’ll see, at building kids’ knife-skills. Adult supervision is required, and a few steps will require grown-up hands. But for the most part, this recipe is written for the little sous in your life!

Ratatouille

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 medium yellow (summer) squash
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • One 10-ounce container cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Small handful fresh basil leaves
  • Salsa, sour cream, or guacamole (optional, for serving)

Steps:

  1. Step 1

    Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the top and bottom off of the eggplant, then slice it in half lengthwise. Cut each half into long, 1-inch wide strips, then slice across the strips to create 1-inch chunks. If some of the chunks are much larger than 1 inch cubes, cut them down so that all the pieces are about the same size. Transfer the pieces to the baking dish.

  2. Step 2

    Trim the tops and bottoms off of the yellow squash and the zucchini. Slice them in half lengthwise, and then slice lengthwise into quarters; you’ll have 4 long slices each of the squash and zucchini. Cut the pieces into 1-inch chunks. Transfer to the baking dish with the eggplant.

  3. Step 3

    Cut the bell pepper in half and remove the stem and seeds. You can use your fingers to remove the pith (the soft white part) from the inside. Slice the pepper into ½-inch wide strips and add to the baking dish.

  4. Step 4

    Peel the red onion and cut it in half lengthwise, then cut lengthwise into quarters. Slice each quarter into ½-inch thick slices and add to the baking dish.

  5. Step 5

    Carefully slice the garlic cloves as thinly as you can. (An adult might prefer to do this.) Add the garlic to the baking dish along with the whole cherry tomatoes.

  6. Step 6

    Pour the olive oil over the fruits and vegetables, add the salt, black pepper, and thyme, and toss it all together until everything is evenly coated.

  7. Step 7

    Ask an adult to transfer the dish to the oven. Roast for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes, until the fruits are super soft and lightly browned.

  8. Step 8

    Use your hands to gently tear the basil leaves into pieces and sprinkle over the ratatouille. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.