DINNER TONIGHT

Skirt Steak Cajun-Style

(4 servings)

Perfect for a quick weeknight dinner, skirt steak can almost always be found in the meat case of your local grocery store. Once you taste it, you may recognize it as the cut used in fajitas.

To maximize skirt steak's succulence, cook it quickly over high heat, either on the grill, under the broiler or in a skillet. And always cut it across the grain on the diagonal.

Here's an easy idea from "Cooking With the 60-Minute Gourmet: 300 Rediscovered Recipes From Pierre Franey's Classic New York Times Column" by Pierre Franey and Bryan Miller (Random House, $30). This recipe is pretty tame despite its Cajun spice blend. If you have any leftovers, toss some slices in a sandwich or onto a salad.

About 2 pounds skirt steak

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Sprinkle the steaks with the salt; set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the oil, chili powder, cumin, cayenne and black peppers and thyme. Brush the steak all over with the mixture. Cover the steak with plastic wrap; set aside for 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill or broiler.

Grill the steaks (covered) or broil (with the oven door ajar) for 4 minutes. Turn the steak and cook until the desired degree of doneness, about 4 minutes for medium.

Transfer the steak to a platter and dot it with the butter. Set aside in a warm place for 5 minutes to allow the juices to settle. Sprinkle the steak with the parsley and serve.

Per serving: 467 calories, 50 gm protein, 1 gm carbohydrates, 28 gm fat, 109 mg cholesterol, 12 gm saturated fat, 208 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Looking for shrimp with heads on, fresh from North Carolina? Sea scallops from Rhode Island? Live lobsters lazing in crystal-clear tanks, waiting for you and some drawn butter? Jeff Grolig, longtime seafood buyer for Sutton Place Gourmet, has opened his own fishing hole in Potomac: River Falls Seafood Company. In addition to an array of fresh seafood in a sparkling-clean market, Grolig and chef Ian Rickerby offer marinated seafood (ready for the grill or oven) and prepared foods for the shopper on the go. Rickerby takes the best of the season in making his appetizers, soups (try traditional Maryland crab), vegetables, sides and salads and entrees. But each day you can count on two fish entrees, a chicken entree and a selection of side dishes (we tried the grilled vegetables, tomatoes with mozzarella and leek mashed potatoes). 10124 River Rd., Potomac, Md. (in the Potomac Place Shopping Center); call 301-765-8001.

Shelf Life

More for Your Condiment Collection

Quick, what's the origin of the word ketchup? If you answered kecap or ketjap--Malay for "condiment"--you're correct. Another condiment named for this root word is what could be described as ketchup's Indonesian counterpart, kecap or ketjap manis. But any similarity between these two condiments ends abruptly with a brief etymology lesson.

No ordinary condiment, kecap manis is a dark, syrupy Indonesian sauce with an intoxicating aroma. It is reminiscent of--but infinitely more complex than--soy sauce. Imagine soy sauce laced with palm sugar and infused with the flavors of garlic and star anise. Tasted on its own, kecap manis is redolent of blackstrap molasses.

Kecap manis is indispensable in Indonesian cuisine. It works wonderfully as a marinade--either alone or in conjunction with other soy-based marinades and sauces--or just brush it onto chicken, fish or shellfish, pork, vegetables or even tofu while grilling or sauteeing.

It is also the base for many satay sauces; in a pinch, squeeze a little lime juice over grilled beef, poultry or pork and simply dip into kecap manis for a quick satay sauce.

Reach for a bottle of this thick, intensely flavored nectar whenever you desire a slightly sweet, rich accent instead of the overwhelmingly salty overtone imparted by soy sauce.

Or just keep kecap manis on hand to stir a little depth and oomph into Asian carryout fare; it makes the dullest of dishes palatable and even tames down fiery foods enough for the kids.

Store kecap manis in a cool, dark place. Available at Asian grocery stores for about $2.

The manufacturer calls it perfect. We call it practical. You can decide for yourself after checking out this plastic conical beaker with six easy-to-read columns listing measurements in cups, ounces, teaspoons, tablespoons, milliliters and grams. It's a timesaver even if you only need plain old American measurements but are fed up with miscellaneous measuring spoons and cups strewn across your counter. The Perfect Beaker by Emsa; available at Williams-Sonoma stores for $6 and at Restoration Hardware stores for $6.95.

To Do

SUNDAY: Brazilian Independence Day Carnival at Malibu Grill. Includes churrasco (marinated grilled meats) tasting. $5 for adults; under 10 free. 1-6 p.m. 5715 Columbia Pike, Falls Church. Call 703-379-0587.

SUNDAY: A Stellar Night Out at Stars--dinner, theater performance of "Baby" and swing dancing (including lesson). Sponsored by the D.C. Society of Young Professionals. $66 includes tax and tip. 5 p.m. Stars, 1330 E. Gude Dr., Rockville. Call 202-686-6085.

Add this Web site to your bookmarks:

www.lpl.arizona.edu/bcohen/cucumbers/info.html

Why on earth is page after page of cucumber facts and recipes tucked away on a Web site for the University of Arizona's Department of Planetary Sciences? We haven't a clue. And we wouldn't care if it weren't for the more than 100 savory recipes to choose from--ranging from the very elemental chilled soups, side salads and tea sandwiches to the more, well, creative, including Pecan Pancakes With Grilled Shrimp and Cucumber Salsa.

CORRECTION

* Oops! As if it hasn't been hot enough this summer, last week we tried to heat up your kitchen unnecessarily. In the recipe for Yakitori, we told you to preheat the oven to 350 degrees for no apparent reason. Hopefully you figured it out before your air-conditioning bill increased.

* We also goofed in the recipe for Lobster Bisque, neglecting to inform you when to add the creamed corn to the bisque. For your convenience, we have reprinted the recipe in its entirety, on Page F6. Our apologies.