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Tradition with a twist

PAM ANDERSON | 5/4/2010, 3:11 p.m.

USA WEEKEND Food

Because it comes so early this year, Easter could feel a lot like Christmas for many of us. I suggest a holiday meal that clings a bit to winter while reaching for spring.Anchor the menu with a big ham. The bone-in, spiral-cut variety is so readily available and easy to prepare, why consider anything else? Serve it with a pineapple sauce redolent of the past. Brown sugar, mustard, ginger, cloves and pineapple (the only thing missing is maraschino cherries) contribute to the classic flavor.Pair it with smashed golden potatoes, seasoned with flavorful extra-virgin olive oil and a handful of fresh herbs -- spring's distinctive kiss. Round out the meal with broiled asparagus.Wow them with Simple Yellow Cake with Coconut Glaze. The cake is easy to make and the glaze even more so. Not long ago, a friend served this at a dinner party, and the guests declared it the best cake they had ever eaten. It's that good.2 cups dark brown sugar

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

3/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

4 cups fresh pineapple (medium dice)

1 medium red onion (medium dice)

1 cup dark raisins

1 8- to 9-pound unglazed spiral-cut half-ham

1 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tb. waterMix brown sugar, mustard, ginger and cloves in medium bowl so mustard moistens sugar. Transfer 1 cup of sugar mixture to saucepan; reserve rest of sugar mixture to glaze ham.Add pineapple, onion and raisins to sugar mixture in pan. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. (Sauce can be refrigerated for 2 or 3 days.)About 3 hours before serving, place ham in 9-by-13-inch pan; discard any package of seasoning or glaze that came with the ham. Bake ham according to maker's instructions. When ham is done, remove from oven and set oven temperature to 425 degrees. Coat ham all over with remaining sugar mixture; bake until dark and well glazed, about 10 minutes total (brush ham with pan juices/glaze after 5 minutes). Remove from oven and let rest, covered, for 15 to 30 minutes.When ready to serve, return pineapple sauce to a simmer. Mix cornstarch with water; stir into sauce and simmer until thick enough to mound on a spoon. Serve ham with sauce alongside.SERVES 32 (3 OUNCES EACH)PER SERVING (HAM WITH 2 TBS. SAUCE): 207 calories, 22g protein, 22g carbohydrates, 4g fat (1g saturated), 65mg cholesterol, 1g fiber, 1,098mg sodium5 pounds golden potatoes, such as yellow Finnish or Yukon Gold, well washed but unpeeled

Salt and ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs, your choice (parsley, cilantro, chives, basil, mint, tarragon, thyme, oregano)

Note: Be generous with milder herbs (parsley, cilantro, chives, basil) and less so with stronger ones (mint, tarragon, thyme, oregano).Place potatoes in a single layer in a large roasting pan; cover with water. Bring to a boil over two burners over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered with foil, until potatoes are tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Smash potatoes with salt, pepper and enough water to make moist. Stir in olive oil and herbs.