What a thrill to be the new cooking columnist for The Explorer.

In addition to a passion for cooking, I love sharing recipes, and this will allow me to do that on a grand scale. Some cooks are reluctant to give away the secrets to their signature dishes; I consider it the highest compliment to be asked for a recipe and happily oblige. It's rewarding to think a guest enjoyed a meal so much that they would want to recreate it.

The first recipe I'd like to share with you dates back to my husband's Air Force career; we had the good fortune to spend four years in Spain in the early 1980s. A love affair with Spanish food promptly ensued. To this day, we still seek out Spanish restaurants and fix many of the dishes at home.

Our first two years in the country found us residing in an ático apartment, on the top floor of a high rise apartment building in the village of Torrejón de Ardoz. Being in the ático, gave us a rooftop patio with plenty of room for our charcoal grill, a wading pool, and my first, not too successful, attempt at vegetable gardening.

Every evening, the aroma of something — to be more accurate, many things — frying in garlic and olive oil from the kitchens below would waft up the stairwell to our 10th floor apartment, and it was fantástico. It's difficult to imagine a savory dish in Spain without garlic and olive oil.

It won't be long until I'm harvesting the green beans in my garden, and they'll be plentiful (and featured specials) in the local markets too. Judias verdes con jamón not only lets you take advantage of this seasonal offering, but do it in a memorable way. Once prepared, the beans keep well in the refrigerator for several days. A quick reheat in a skillet or microwave is all that's needed for the leftovers.

Also on the plus side, the addition of the ham is a way to get the carnivores in the family eating vegetables. I've used Italian prosciutto rather than Spanish jamón serrano just because it's more readily available in Tucson (both are dry-cured). Occasionally, I'll find packages of diced prosciutto at Sprout's or AJ's. I like to keep a couple of packs in the freezer for recipes such as Judias Verdes.

Northwest resident Lois Britton also writes about her culinary adventures at http://FoodLoveLanguage.blogspot.com. Have a question or food related story to share? Contact her atFoodLoveLanguage@gmail.com.

Judías Verdes con Jamón (Green Beans with Ham)


2 pounds fresh green beans

2 T. vinegar

2 T. olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 c. onion, diced

3 oz. prosciutto, diced

Salt and pepper

Balsamic vinegar (optional)

A mild goat cheese (optional)


Snap the ends off the beans. Blanch in boiling water and vinegar for 5 minutes. Drain the beans thoroughly.

Add olive oil and beans to a large frying pan, on medium-high heat. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring. Reduce heat, add garlic, onion, and prosciutto. Cook for 5 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally.

Cover and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The beans should still have a little crunch to them. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Variation: to offer your guests a more chef-like version, try giving the finished beans a drizzle of good quality balsamic vinegar and a crumble of a mild goat cheese.

Serves 10-12

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