Students’ cooking skills are progressing. They’ve mastered proper and safe use of knives and measuring. Recipe reading and mis en place are still developing.

The week’s recipe was Ratatouille with Quinoa. Ratatouille is a dish which combines summer varieties of vegetables: eggplant, onion, zucchini, and peppers, seasoned with garlic and herbs, then roasted in olive oil. Of course, in off-season, these vegetables are imported from warm climate countries like Mexico or grown in indoor farms.

Several ingredients had to be prepared before roasting. Teachers demonstrated how to work with different vegetables: how to deseed sweet peppers before slicing; quarter and then cut onions thinly and safely, flat-side down, with finger tips curled under (“bears’ claws”). Students applied the demonstrated techniques and got busy chopping, measuring dry spices and stripping fresh herbs to get the ratatouille ingredients prepped for mixing and laying out on baking sheets for roasting.

As roasting proceeded, quinoa was prepared as a bed for the melange or combination of vegetables. Surprisingly, given reactions to earlier recipes with vegetables, students — except one— found the ratatouille flavorful and aromatic despite looking charred. Roasting deepens or caramelizes the natural sugars in vegetables, making for a sweet, rich taste. Quinoa turned out to be well-received. It is a whole grain which is a superfood, a complete protein containing all 9 needed amino acids. For thousands of years, it has been the main staple of South America’s Andean Mountain region and its nutritional value has been confirmed by scientific food research.