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Summer Yummies

By Ann Hattes
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With a nod to our Independence Day festivities and to Bastille Day in France (July 14), consider wine-infused coffee.

July 4th and summer means it's time for grilling, farm fresh produce, and time-saving recipes.

Jennifer Hill Booker realized as she learned French cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris that rustic French and Southern dishes use many of those basic summery ingredients. Thus she created a cookbook, Dinner Déjà Vu Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow (Pelican Publishing), which features both Southern favorites and French dishes. Try her grilled summer zucchini, squash and onions, and her French ratatouille. Prepare perfect pan-fried chicken breasts or the fried chicken salad with fresh grapes and toasted almonds.

With a nod to our Independence Day festivities and to Bastille Day in France (July 14), consider wine-infused coffee. The idea of wine and coffee is not totally new as famed winemaker Robert Mondavi is known to have enjoyed wine in his morning coffee. Now, café owner Rick Molinari has introduced Molinari Private Reserve (MPR), a wine-infused coffee brand made in the heart of Napa Valley. Each regular and decaf blend is made from carefully selected coffee beans that are rehydrated to a specific liquid percentage using a special house made red, created exclusively for Molinari by local Napa wineries, and then dried and roasted. The result is an alcohol-free, rich, full-bodied coffee with a blueberry note. MPR is sold at Molinari Caffee ( and online.

The following recipes are courtesy of Pelican Publishing.


Grilled Summer Zucchini, Squash & Onions

Serves 6.


A hot grill enhances the flavor of the vegetables while keeping them crisp. This dish is good served hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 large cloves garlic (about 1 tablespoon), minced

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

3 large zucchini, trimmed, and sliced diagonally into 1/4-inch slices

5 large yellow crookneck squash, trimmed, and sliced diagonally into 1/4-inch slices

2 large red onions, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch rings.


Whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and thyme together in a large stainless steel bowl until well combined. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Gradually whisk in the oil. Transfer 1/4 cup of the marinade to a small bowl and set aside.

Put the zucchini, yellow squash, and onions in a large casserole dish and pour in the remaining marinade to coat. Cover and marinate at room temperature at least 4 hours or refrigerate up to 1 day.

Oil the grill grate and heat the grill to 400 degrees F. Grill the vegetables for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown and crisp around the edges. Transfer the vegetables to a platter and drizzle with the reserved marinade.


Ratatouille with Fresh Cottage Cheese

Serves 6.


1 cup tomato paste

1 small onion, diced, about 1/2 cup

12 large cloves (about 1/4 cup) garlic, minced

4 tablespoons olive oil plus more to oil the parchment

2 cups vegetable stock

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 small eggplant, trimmed, and cut into 1/4-inch rounds

1 zucchini, trimmed, and cut into 1/4-inch rounds

1 yellow squash, trimmed, and cut into 1/4-inch rounds

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cored, and cut into 1/4-inch strips

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cored, and cut into 1/4-inch strips

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves


1 cup fresh cottage cheese, chilled


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, and use 1 teaspoon olive oil to oil the parchment. Set the parchment aside.

In a large bowl, mix the tomato paste, onion, garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and the vegetable stock until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and spread in the bottom of the baking pan.

Arrange alternating slices of eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red bell pepper, and yellow bell pepper, starting at the outer edge of the dish and working clockwise towards the center of the dish, overlapping the slices so that a bit of each vegetable's color shows. Drizzle the vegetables with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, season with salt and black pepper to taste, and sprinkle with the thyme leaves.

Cover the vegetables with the oiled parchment paper, oil-side down, tucking the edges inside the dish, and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are roasted and tender. Serve with chilled cottage cheese.


Perfect Pan-Fried Chicken Breasts

Serves 4.


This isn't battered or deep fried but lightly dredged in well-seasoned flour and pan-fried until it is light, crisp, and juicy.

Vegetable oil for frying

Salt and pepper for seasoning

4 (6-ounce) chicken breasts

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon paprika


Add the vegetable oil to a depth of 1 to 1 & 1/2 inches in a large cast iron skillet with a lid, and heat to a temperature of 350 degrees to 375 degrees F.

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and set aside. Season the flour with additional salt, pepper, and paprika.

Dredge the chicken pieces through the seasoned flour. Place the chicken breasts in the skillet of hot oil, cover, and fry for 20 minutes, until golden brown, turning once after the first 10 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the chicken pieces over once more, and cook an additional 5 to 10 minutes to crisp up the skin.

Use a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer the chicken to a paper-towel-lined platter. Serve hot.


Fried Chicken Salad with fresh grapes and toasted almonds

Serves 8.



1 cup mayonnaise

4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

5 teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste



4 fried chicken breasts, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

2 cups red or green seedless grapes, halved

3 stalks celery, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper, to taste


In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, honey, poppy seeds, salt, and pepper.

Refrigerate until you are ready to dress the salad – and be prepared up to 2 days ahead.

Fry the chicken breasts, or use leftover fried chicken for this recipe.

Place the diced chicken in a large bowl and add almonds, grapes, celery, and dressing. Stir to combine and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve chilled.


Ann Hattes has over 25 years experience writing about both travel and food for publications both in the US and internationally. A senior living in Wisconsin, she’s a member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association and the Midwest Travel Writers Association.

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