Used in small amounts to deliver a big hit of flavor, ham can send healthful eaters to hog heaven.

Look up "porky" in the dictionary and you'll see it means fat. But farmers today breed pigs to be lean--so much so that the leanest pork lacks flavor and dries out if you cook it too long. But ham, that's another story. I believe that a beautifully cured ham is one of gastronomy's finest achievements. And, used in modest amounts, it can add heartiness and robust flavor to recipes that might otherwise call for butter, mayonnaise or cheese. The best quality hams, such as fine, salty country ham, smoky Black Forest Ham and rich prosciutto or Serrano, come from the hindquarters of a pig--the meatiest part. They can add pure, luscious flavor to a variety of low-fat spring dishes. I've been exploring the various types of ham and have come up with three recipes that show them to their best advantage: Risi e Bisi (a light, soupy stew with rice and peas); parsley salad tossed with thin slices of green apple and red onion and served with polenta cakes; and a deviled ham salad spiced with cayenne and hot sauce.