DINNER TONIGHT

Sweet Curry Chicken Melon Salad

(6 servings)

Just when we thought we'd seen every possible way to prepare chicken, someone proves us wrong. This time the creative culprits were the finalists in the National Chicken Council's 1999 Chicken Cooking Contest. The recipes are available for $2; write to Chicken Cookbook, Dept. NCC, Box 307, Coventry, Conn. 06238.

This simple but delicious recipe was originally entered in the 1997 contest. The salad was concocted by Cheryl McAtee from Washington state, who suggests serving it on a bed of mixed lettuces with avocado, lime wedges and chopped walnuts. We found that it also makes a great sandwich when paired with sourdough bread.

1/2 cup water

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

4 cups cubed mixed melon (cantaloupe, honeydew, and/or red and yellow watermelon)

1 red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed and cut into a julienne (optional)

1 cup seedless red grapes

3/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon mild curry powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon lime juice

4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, add the water and chicken, cover and cook until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside (still covered) to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the melon cubes, bell pepper and the grapes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, brown sugar, curry, ginger, lime juice and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro,.

Cut the chicken into cubes. Add the chicken to the curry-mayonnaise mixture, tossing gently to coat well. Garnish the chicken salad with the remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro and serve with the melon mixture as a side salad or garnish.

Per serving: 348 calories, 19 gm protein, 15 gm carbohydrates, 23 gm fat, 56 mg cholesterol, 3 gm saturated fat, 223 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

We've stumbled upon the quintessential conversation starter for your next backyard barbecue: quirky chip and dip servers made by Lotus International. These hand-painted ceramic dishes are a hoot. We adore the Swimming Pool and Hot Tub set, but if the scantily clad hot tubbers don't tickle your funny bone, you can choose from an assortment of silly, borderline-kitschy dishes fashioned as spoofs on tanning, golfing, bowling and various other pastimes.

Approximately $40. Available at Platypus, Georgetown Park Mall, 3222 M St. NW; call 202-338-7680. Some designs are also available by mail-order from Wireless; call 1-800-669-9999.

More For Your Condiment Collection

From chutneys, to curries, to pickled limes and mangoes, Patak's--the British company--rules the world of Indian condiments. One of our favorites from its collection is Patak's Original Tandoori Paste, an intense and rosy mixture of garlic, tamarind, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and chili peppers. Though traditional tandoori chicken is cooked in a vat-shaped clay oven called a tandoor, you can easily create your own version in your home oven or on the backyard grill. Marinate chicken pieces, pork chops or pork tenderloins in a mix of this tandoori paste and plain yogurt. Before cooking, brush off most of the marinade and bake, broil or grill. The marinade leaves your meat spicy, moist and with the characteristic rosy tint of tandoori. But be careful with the paste: Its color is so intense it can also paint your counters and fingertips with its orange-rose hue.

Available at specialty markets and some supermarkets, 11-ounce jar, approximately $3.99.

Add this Web site to your bookmarks:

www. cookinglight.com

Sure, compulsive calorie counters can go to this site to track down recipes using the percentage of calories from fat as a search criteria (yawn). But in addition to thousands of low-fat recipes, the publishers of Cooking Light magazine also share valuable culinary tidbits in clever categories. You'll find your own favorites, but we enjoyed "99 Ways to Be a Better Cook," "Today's Tip" and the quick and easy "Menu Ideas."

To Do:

FRIDAY-SUNDAY: Mid-Atlantic Wine Festival at Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds. $16. Friday, 3-9 p.m.; Saturday, noon-8 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m. Exit 5 off Rte. 97. Call 410-280-3306 or www.winefest.com.

SATURDAY: Taste of the Town--international food tasting and entertainment. Benefits the Medical Care for Children Partnership. Free admission; tastings $1-$5. 1-10 p.m. Reston Town Center. Call 703-707-9045 or www. restonchamber.org.

MONDAY: Lecture by "The Scottish-Irish Pub and Hearth Cookbook" author Kay Shaw Nelson at the American Newswomen's Club. $10. 6:30 p.m. 1607 22nd St. NW. Call 202-332-6770.

TUESDAY: Italian wine dinner sponsored by Arrowine and Osteria Goldoni. Guest speaker: local importer Michael R. Downey. $79 includes tax and tip. 7 p.m. 1120 20th St. NW. Call 703-525-0990.

TUESDAY: Wines of Europe 101--lecture and tasting sponsored by DC Young Professionals. $40. 7-9:30 p.m. Wyndham Hotel, 1400 M St. NW. Call 202-333-8992.

RESERVE NOW:

JUNE 3O: Secrets of Great Barbecue--cooking class at Fresh Fields Arlington. Guest chef: Rocklands chef-owner John Snedden. 7 p.m. 2700 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Call 703-527-6596.

JULY 10: Cooking With Herbs: The Art of Flavor-- seminar and luncheon sponsored by the Smithsonian Associates. $130 for nonmembers. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Dr. SW. Call 202-357-3030.