Dinner Tonight:

GRILLED TUNA WITH BROWN RICE AND ASPARAGUS

(4 servings)

2 cups short-grain brown rice*

Salt to taste

FOR THE DRESSING:

10 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

5 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

6 whole scallions, sliced into 1/4-inch rings

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper

TO FINISH:

4 8-ounce tuna steaks

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces, tough ends discarded

Rinse rice well. Simmer, covered, with 3 cups of salted water for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by combining tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, scallions, garlic and pepper. Set aside at room temperature to allow flavors to blend.

To finish: Preheat broiler or prepare a pan for grilling fish. Prepare a steamer or boiling water for asparagus. Brush tuna steaks with oil and set aside.

Ten minutes before rice is done, grill or broil fish until opaque throughout, 7 to 8 minutes.

Steam or boil asparagus until crisp-tender, about 1 1/2 to 3 minutes.

Fluff brown rice with a fork and spoon onto plates; nap with tomato dressing. Place tuna steak over rice and scatter asparagus over top for garnish.

* Short-grain brown rice is available at health food stores. Long-grain brown rice, cooked according to package directions, may be substituted.

Per serving: 797 calories, 51 gm protein, 87 gm carbohydrates, 27 gm fat, 5 gm saturated fat, 64 mg cholesterol, 89 mg sodium

-- Michael Kalanty

Peter Kump's School of Culinary Arts has been teaching New Yorkers to poach and braise, filet and truss for 20 years. And now Kump, like so many others in the food world, is placing at least a small bet on the Washington area. The local branch opens next Monday, under Alexandria-based director Karen Metz, who was head instructor at the New York school for several years.

The first offering is Techniques of French Cooking I: A meal, designed to teach specific techniques, is prepared during each of five five-hour, hands-on sessions with 12 participants per class.. There will be nine groups of Tech I classes, the first starting May 10, with subsequent groups starting as late as October 14. Techniques of French Cooking II classes begin September 13. And, yes, Tech I is a prerequisite for Tech II.

Sessions will be held in the kitchen at Sutton Place Gourmet's Bethesda store. Each class costs $290, plus a $145 materials fee. Students registering by September 15 get a 15 percent discount on the tuition; all students will get a 10 percent discount on personal purchases at Sutton Place Gourmet while enrolled in classes.

For further information, call 703-823-5647.

Tired of hearing about yet another new bakery selling crusty breads, the kind that make eating hard work? Granted, bread made from sourdough starters is great stuff, but those interested in an easier, softer chew will welcome the new Spring Mill Bread Co., at 4961 Elm St., in Bethesda.

Spring Mill makes bread from good old-fashioned yeast, turning out heavy, round loaves of peasant white, raisin walnut, whole wheat, rye and garlic cheddar. What makes the bakery unusual (this is downtown Bethesda, after all) is that owners Steve and Katherine Rurka mill their own flour -- from Montana wheat berries -- in a back room. Plus, the Rurkas are an unlikely pair for the task: Steve, 33, was an antitrust attorney with the Federal Trade Commission, then a corporate lawyer in Chicago, and Katherine, 30, was a pharmaceutical salesperson with Upjohn.

For connoisseurs of the crusty school, Spring Mill's breads may taste like Wonder Bread for mature adults. Even the lazy chewers among us would prefer that the breads be cooked a bit longer. But for those who want to sink their teeth into some filling comfort food, Spring Mill's loaves are the ticket. The bakery also sells homemade scones, cookies and muffins, including a surprisingly successful no-fat muffin made with unsweetened applesauce and studded with apples, dates, raisins and apricots.

THREE CHEERS FOR FOUR LOCALS! The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va., won the Restaurant of the Year Award at the Third Annual James Beard Awards, announced in New York City on Monday night. Co-owner and chef Patrick O'Connell accepted the award (a gold-plated medallion imprinted with an image of Beard) with partner Reinhardt Lynch.

When it came to Chef of the Year, it was a deadlock tie between Jean-Louis Palladin (of Jean-Louis at the Watergate) and Larry Forgione (of An American Place in Manhattan).

Marcel Desaulniers, chef/owner of the Trellis in Williamsburg, was voted Best Chef/Mid-Atlantic region, and his book "Death by Chocolate: The Last Word on a Consuming Passion" (Rizzoli), was voted best book in the baking and desserts category. And local cookbook author Yamuna Devi won for best book in the international category for her "Yamuna's Table" (Dutton).

Out-of-town winners of the awards, which honor food and beverage professionals in a variety of categories, included: Lynne Rosetto Kasper, Cookbook of the Year, for her "The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Foods," (William Morrow); Bobby Flay of the Mesa Grill in Manhattan as Rising Star Chef of the Year; Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream fame, Humanitarians of the Year; and Andre Soltner, chef/owner of Lutece, was presented with the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award.

In the awards' Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America, a sort of hall of fame, the seven inductees were Ariane and Michael Batterberry (who founded Food & Wine and Food Arts magazines), Gael Greene (New York Magazine's restaurant critic), Robert M. Parker, Jr. (publisher of the Wine Advocate), Carl Sontheimer (creator of the food processor and Cuisinarts), Chuck Williams (founder of Williams-Sonoma), and Gregory Usher (director of l'Ecole de Gastronomie Francaise Ritz-Escoffier in Paris).

TO DO ....

Saturday: Cooking demonstration and book signing by chef and restaurant owner Tommy Tang, for his new book, "Modern Thai Cuisine," 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., at Sutton Place Gourmet, 3201 New Mexico Ave. NW.; 3:30-6:30 p.m., at 600 Franklin St., Alexandria. Call 301-231-5050 for information.

Saturday: Taste of Middleburg will showcase three Middleburg vineyards and food from three local restaurants, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at Waverly Farm, Route 626, Middleburg. Also: big band music, crafts and herbs for sale. Tickets $8 in advance, $10 at the gate. To order, call 703-687-5528.

Saturday: An Evening of Chocolate, 8 p.m.-midnight, at the Kennedy-Warren Ballroom, 3133 Connecticut Ave. NW. More than 100 chocolate desserts prepared by area chefs will be featured, along with live swing music. Black-tie optional. Proceeds go to the Maryland affiliate of the National Abortion Rights Action League. Tickets $25; $30 at the door. Call 301-565-4154.

Saturday-Sunday: Montpelier Wine Festival will focus on Virginia vineyards and specialty regional foods, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., at Montpelier, the home of President James Madison. Also: music, wine making, pony rides and a rare dog exhibition. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door for adults; $3 for those between 6 and 21; children under 6 are free. Call 703-672-0298 for tickets and more information.