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Lemon infused ham and pasta salad

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The lemon has been a staple of Italian cuisine for centuries. Lemons are grown commercially in Tuscany, and lemon juice and zest show up in Italian classics such as gelato and ices, chicken in lemon sauce and as a flavor enhancer in pesto.

The following is classified as a pasta salad, but can be eaten warm or cold. The addition of lemon juice and zest to the dressing makes this tart and tasty while modulating the garlic a bit. Even people who routinely turn down vegetables will take a second helping.

Ham and Pasta Salad
2 c. cooked ham, cubed
1/4 c. creamy Italian dressing
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dried lemon peel (or 1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest)
1 tsp. dried basil
2 c. cooked rigatoni pasta
2 c. frozen Italian-blend vegetables

Mix together Italian dressing, lemon juice, lemon zest and dried basil. Place cooked ham into a medium bowl, pour dressing over ham and toss. Cover bowl and refrigerate, allowing ham to marinate in dressing for at least 1 hour.

Cook rigatoni; drain and rinse. Steam Italian-blend vegetables until just cooked.

Remove ham from refrigerator. Add rotini and vegetables; toss. Serves 4 - 6.

Wednesday: Lime-ginger scallops and the perfect margarita