Pork has suffered from a pretty dismal reputation lately -- first as a harborer of the dreaded parasite trichinella spiralis, and most recently, as the source of unnecessary calories and saturated fat.
Well, the pork producers are heeding the hue and cry of consumers. Pigs have spent the last two or three decades becoming less fat and therefore less caloric. In fact, pork can, in some cases, have fewer calories than comparable cuts of beef.
This is not true of bacon, sausage and fatback, however, which contribute little to the diet but fat (and are counted as fat on virtually all food exchange lists). But other parts of the pig shouldn't be judged by the company they keep.
This week's dinner is welcome respite from rich foods that are prevalent in the midst of the holiday season. The favorite taste combination of ham with pineapple is even more appealing when it can be prepared in less than 15 minutes.
But is it low-calorie? The recipe, which is adapted from the new "Weight Watchers 365-Day Menu Cookbook" (New American Library, $14.95), lists it as 206 calories per serving.
If you serve the ham steaks with brown rice and snow peas, dinner will be not only nutritious but colorful. By cooking the rice in chicken bouillon, it won't require any butter. Since brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice, you might want to save energy by preparing double or triple amounts and storing it in the refrigerator or freezer for later meals.
Snow peas, like the rice, taste better steamed with a little chicken bouillon. Cook them quickly over very high heat. They'll take less time than the ham does, only 3 to 5 minutes.
If you're not watching your weight, you'll be able to splurge on dessert. Try a good quality vanilla ice cream sprinkled with chopped candied ginger. If you are counting calories, cover peeled pears with water sweetened to taste, and poach them until they are barely tender. Then sprinkle them with the ginger.
EXPRESS LANE LIST: crushed pineapple, mustard, ham steaks, brown rice, chicken bouillon, snow peas, vanilla ice cream (or slightly underripe pears) and candied ginger.
GRILLED HAM STEAK WITH PINEAPPLE (2 servings) 1/4 cup crushed pineapple in its own juice 1 teaspoon dijon-style mustard 6 to 8 ounces boned pre-cooked ham steak, trimmed of all visible fat
Combine the pineapple and mustard in a bowl. Place the ham steak on a rack in a broiling pan and spread it with half the mustard mixture. Broil for 3 or 4 minutes. Turn the steak, spread with remaining pineapple mixture, and broil 3 or 4 more minutes or until pineapple begins to brown and ham is hot throughout.