(ARA) - Summer is upon us, and so is the aroma of delicious home-cooked meals prepared for family and friends out on the grill. To keep dishes interesting and to serve something to please a crowd, you'll need just the right recipe and ingredients. Ham is a versatile protein that can be ideal for many meal occasions.
"Whether you are entertaining your extended family for a summer barbecue or simply making dinner for your family, ham adds flavor and variety to any meal," says Joan Hanson, Hormel Foods test kitchen director. "It doesn't take a lot of work to heat a boneless ham or even add ham to a popular appetizer recipe, such as honey roasted ham biscuits."
Beyond its ease of preparation, the secret to preparing a tasty, flavorful ham is to choose the highest quality product you can find.
"The quality of the ham you serve is important, and it all starts with perfecting the process of cooking the hams," says Brian Hendrickson, Hormel Foods curemaster. To ensure you're serving the best-tasting ham possible, look for one that's been made with the best-quality ingredients and that comes with a guarantee of freshness, such as Hormel's Cure 81 ham products."
To help pull off a successful meal, Hendrickson and Hanson share their tips:
* Know your numbers: When purchasing ham for a large crowd, count the number of guests scheduled to attend. It's a good idea to get about a pound of boneless ham for every three to four people. Don't forget to estimate a little extra for unexpected guests, and everyone's favorite - leftovers.
* Simply heat and serve: Hams are typically sold as a fully cooked product, so when preparing, all you need to do is heat it until the ham is hot throughout. It's a simple protein solution when you are pressed for time. A good gauge is when the ham reaches 140 to 145 degrees.
* A fit for any meal: In recent years, various cuts and flavors of ham have been introduced, making it a great option for entertaining or a weeknight family dinner. Ham items are available pre-diced or pre-cubed for an easy addition to your morning omelet, or in ham steaks that are great to throw on the grill.
* Pairing partners: The taste profile of ham is versatile and works well with both sweet and spicy flavors. Add a smoky barbecue sauce or black pepper rub to enhance the rich ham flavor, or try unexpected stone fruits such as plum or apricots to lighten the taste palate.
* Summer grilling: Ham is an easy protein to throw on the grill that is sure to please even the pickiest eaters. It heats up fast and offers various flavor pairing options - from sweet pineapple kabobs to savory grilled ham and summer vegetable salad.
Grilled Ham and Marinated Vegetable Salad
Total time: More than one hour
Preparation time: Less than 30 minutes
2 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise
2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise
2 yellow summer squash, sliced lengthwise
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon DI LUSSO Honey Mustard
1 jar Peloponnese Roasted Red Peppers Whole, drained and sliced
6 slices Cure 81 Boneless Ham
1/3 cup basil pesto
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Prepare grill. Grease grill grate. Brush eggplants, zucchini and summer squash with small amount of olive oil. Grill until slightly softened. In large bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup oil, the vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt and black pepper. Add grilled vegetables and red pepper; toss to coat. Cover; refrigerate 1 to 3 hours. Brush ham with small amount of oil. Grill 3 minutes on each side or until hot and grill marks appear. Serve with marinated vegetables and pesto.