Access in the Washington area to a variety ofethnic foods and markets makes it easy and fund to adapt a familiar recipe -- be it a snappy vinaigrette, a favorite pasta sauce or a basic barbecue sauce -- to various ethnic themes.

At home, there was always a jar of Mom's Basic Barbecue Sauce in the refrigerator, and not just in the summertime. In the winter, my father would pull on his heavy parka, sweep the snow off the gas grill and barbecue our traditional Friday night steak -- with Mom's Basic Barbecue Sauce, of course.

In this area, there's still a lot of time before it will be necessary to don a parka to cook out, so a batch of versatile barbecue sauce would be handy to have, especially over the Labor Day weekend.

Some of the sauce ingredients are traditional, some are not. Vinegar and sugar impart a sweet/sour effect, and when the sauce is used with grilled hot dogs the sugar will eventually caramelize to yield crisp, walnut brown areas. Worcestershire sauce adds a subtle depth of flavor and oil keeps the food moist and lessens sticking to the grill.

Another ingredient, which is hard to identify, is coffee, but you just know there is something in the sauce that refines the ketchup-like taste and texture.

For such ethnic variations as Cajun, Italian, Oriental, South Seas and Spanish; herbs, spices and an assortment of peppers are pure'ed and added to the barbecue sauce base. Use of the food processor makes this a quick, easy task. As an alternative, chop ingredients finely, use a mortar and pestle, or blender.

While the resulting textures will vary, the essential flavors will prevail for a successful dish. Marinate meat for three hours to overnight, and the vegetables for one hour. Make sauces one day ahead to blend flavors, if possible.

The universal food, chicken, tastes great with any of the sauce variations. Try lamb, chops or boneless chunks, with the Italian and Spanish sauces; pork chops or tenderloin with the ancho chili and oriental sauces, beef or pork ribs and shrimp with the Cajun sauce, flank steak, sirloin, top round or tenderloin with the five-pepper sauce, poultry or game, with or without bones with the holiday sauce, and any firm-fleshed white fish with the South Seas version. In general, two cups of sauce can marinate about three pounds of boneless meat, and lots of cut-up vegetables for kebabs.

Let the occasion, food, setting and your mood determine the direction seasonings will take, and enjoy these sauces all year round. MOM'S BASIC BARBECUE SAUCE (Makes 4 cups)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup worcestershire sauce

1 cup strong coffee

1 1/2 cups ketchup

1/2 cup corn oil

In a medium saucepan, off the heat, mix the brown sugar, cider vinegar, worcestershire sauce and coffee to dissolve the sugar. Whisk in the ketchup and corn oil.

Bring sauce to a boil and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes to blend flavors. Cool. The sauce will keep indefinitely refrigerated. Heat sauce before using to baste grilled food. ANCHO CHILI BARBECUE SAUCE (Makes 2 1/2 cups)

4 ancho chilies*

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon white pepper

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups Mom's Basic Barbecue Sauce (above)

Remove stem end and seeds from chilies. Pour water over chilies in a small pot just to cover, bring to a boil and simmer covered for 5 minutes. Let stand off heat for 5 minutes. Drain chilies, reserving liquid for future use. Use to poach chicken, cook pasta, etc.

In the work bowl of the food processor with a steel blade, place the chilies, garlic, cloves, cumin, white pepper, salt and black pepper. Pure'e the chilies for 10 seconds and scrape sides of bowl. The mixture will be lumpy. Slowly add the basic barbecue sauce with the machine running until the sauce is pure'ed and fairly smooth.

Bring sauce to a boil, and simmer, covered for 5 minutes to blend flavors, or microwave on high for 2 1/2 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to use. Use sauce as a marinade or basting sauce. Heat sauce before using to baste grilled food.

*Available in Spanish or Mexican markets. ITALIAN BARBECUE SAUCE (Makes about 2 cups)

3 cloves garlic

3 scallions, green and white parts

1/2 cup tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 tablespoon fennel seeds, ground to a powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups Mom's Basic Barbecue Sauce

Dash hot pepper sauce

In the workbowl of the food processor, with the steel blade, mince the garlic. Add the scallions and mince with on/off turns. Add the tomato paste, oregano, ground fennel seeds, black pepper and salt, and pure'e for 10 seconds. Slowly add the basic barbecue sauce with the machine running until the sauce is pure'ed. Add hot pepper sauce.

Bring the sauce to a boil, and simmer, covered for 5 minutes to blend flavors, or microwave on high for 2 1/4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to use. Use sauce as a marinade or basting sauce. Heat sauce before using to baste grilled food. FIVE PEPPER BARBECUE SAUCE (Makes about 1 cup)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons green peppercorns, drained and dried

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Generous pinch cayenne

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup Mom's Basic Barbecue Sauce

In a mortar and pestle mash together the salt, green peppercorns, black pepper, white pepper, paprika and cayenne. Stir in the lemon juice.

Put the basic barbecue sauce in a small saucepan and whisk in the pepper mixture. Bring the sauce to a boil, and simmer, covered for 5 minutes to blend flavors, or microwave on high for 1 1/2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to use. Use sauce as a marinade or basting sauce. Heat sauce before using to baste grilled food. SPANISH BARBECUE SAUCE (Makes about 2 cups)

3/4 cup drained pimento, patted dry, or roasted red peppers

1/4 cup capers, drained and patted dry

7 anchovies, drained

1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red peppers

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce

1 cup Mom's Basic Barbecue Sauce

In the workbowl of the food processor, with the steel blade, pure'e the pimento, capers, anchovies, crushed red pepper, black pepper and worcestershire sauce for 15 seconds. Scrape the side of the bowl, and slowly add the basic barbecue sauce with the machine running until well blended.

Bring the sauce to a boil, and simmer covered for 5 minutes to blend flavors, or microwave on high for 2 1/4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to use. Use sauce as a marinade or basting sauce. Heat sauce before using to baste grilled food. HOLIDAY BARBECUE SAUCE (Makes about 2 cups)

1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

Grated rind of 1 orange (about 1 tablespoon)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 to 4 dashes angostura bitters

Hot pepper sauce (optional)

1 cup Mom's Basic Barbecue Sauce

In the work bowl of the food processor, with the steel blade, place the cranberry sauce, orange juice, orange rind, pepper, bitters, and several dashes hot pepper sauce, if using. Pure'e for 10 seconds and scrape sides of bowl. Slowly add the basic barbecue sauce with the machine running until the sauce is pure'ed.

Bring the sauce to a boil, and simmer, covered for 5 minutes to blend flavors, or microwave on high for 2 1/4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to use. Use sauce as a marinade or basting sauce. Heat sauce before using to baste grilled food. CAJUN BARBECUE SAUCE (Makes about 2 1/4 cups)

2 cups Mom's Basic Barbecue Sauce

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon basil

2 teaspoons crushed rosemary leaves

2 bay leaves, crushed

1 tablespoon paprika

1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

In a small saucepan mix the basic barbecue sauce with the garlic, oregano, basil, rosemary, bay leaves, paprika, cayenne, black pepper, salt and lemon juice.

Bring to a boil and simmer, covered for 5 minutes to blend flavors, or microwave on high for 2 1/2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to use. Use sauce as a marinade or basting sauce. Heat sauce before using to baste grilled food. SOUTH SEAS BARBECUE SAUCE (Makes about 2 cups)

2 large garlic cloves

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and quartered

20 queen-size pimento stuffed olives, drained and dried

4 scallions, green and white part

1 tablespoon basil

1 cup Mom's Basic Barbecue Sauce

In the workbowl of the food processor, with the steel blade, mince the garlic and jalapeno pepper. Add the olives, onions and basil and pure'e for 10 seconds. Slowly add the basic barbecue sauce with the machine running until well blended.

Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer covered for 5 minutes to blend flavors, or microwave on high for 2 1/4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to use. Use sauce as a marinade or basting sauce. Heat sauce before using to baste grilled food. ORIENTAL BARBECUE SAUCE (Makes about 2 cups)

2 garlic cloves

1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and quartered

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup hoisin sauce*

1/4 cup apricot preserves

1 teaspoon ground roasted Szechuan peppercorns*

1 tablespoon hot bean paste (not chili paste)

1/4 teaspoon sambal oelek (optional)

1 cup Mom's Basic Barbecue Sauce

In the work bowl of the food processor, with the steel blade, mince the garlic, ginger and salt. Add the hoisin sauce, apricot preserves, ground roasted Szechuan peppercorns, hot bean paste and sambal oelek, if using, and pure'e for 10 seconds. Slowly add the basic barbecue sauce with the machine running until the sauce is pure'ed.

Bring the sauce to a boil, and simmer, covered for 5 minutes to blend flavors, or microwave on high for 2 1/4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to use. Use sauce as a marinade or basting sauce. Heat sauce before using to baste grilled food.

*Available in Oriental markets.

To roast peppercorns: Heat whole Szechuan peppercorns in a dry ungreased heavy saute' pan on medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the peppercorns darken, and yield their distinctive odor. Shake pan occasionally, and be careful not to burn. Grind peppercorns to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle, or coffee grinder.