DINNER TONIGHT

Grilled Chicken With Apricot-Cilantro Sauce

(4 servings)

At Palomino Euro Bistro, which opened last month in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, executive chef Amanda Boucher has been wooing Washington diners with rustic, seasonal Mediterranean cooking such as spit-roasted garlic chicken and applewood-smoked pork loin.

Palomino Euro Bistro (1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW) will celebrate its grand opening on Sept. 22 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. with a reception to benefit the Congressional Hunger Center's local programs. Tickets are $100 per person and include cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and samples from the dinner menu. For tickets, call 202-547-7022 ext. 10.

Here's a sample from the dinner menu, adapted for the home cook by Boucher.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/2 sweet onion(preferably Vidalia), peeled and diced

1-inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced

4 ounces dried apricots, soaked in water for 30 minutes, drained and chopped 1/2 cup apricot preserves

28-ounce can (about 4 cups) whole plum tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

3-inch cinnamon stick

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

2 to 3 ounces (about 1 cup) fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped (plus additional for optional garnish)

Preheat the grill or broiler. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the onions and ginger and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the drained apricots, apricot preserves, tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups reserved juice from the tomatoes, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, coriander, cloves, pepper and cilantro. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, grill or broil the chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Sprinkle with more cilantro, if using. Serve the chicken with the sauce (remove cinnamon stick before serving).

Per serving: 484 calories, 50 gm protein, 59 gm carbohydrates, 7 gm fat, 115 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 604 mg sodium, 5 gm dietary fiber

OPENING GAMBIT

The new Swiss-made LidLifter by Kuhn Rikon looks like an ordinary can opener. But take a closer look. This is one cool kitchen tool. The cutting wheel moves along the side of the can, rather than the top. The result: there is no sharp edge on the lid to worry about. The often less-than-clean lid can't fall into the food. In fact, hands need not touch the lid at all. There are two models, one regular, the other "deluxe." We prefer the design of the lightweight regular model. Suggested retail price is $15.99. Available at Dean & Deluca (3276 M St. NW; call 202-342-2500) or by mail from Williams-Sonoma (call 1-800-541-2233). Also available at many specialty stores. For the nearest location call 1-800-662-5882.

TO DO

TONIGHT-SEPT. 24: Dakshin--South Indian food festival at Bombay Bistro. $15.95. 5-10:30 p.m. 3570 Chain Bridge Rd., Fairfax. Call 703-359-5810.

THURSDAY-SUNDAY: Clyde's Restaurant Oktoberfest celebration at Fountain Square Pavilion. $1 admission fee for over age 12. Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday, 5 p.m.-midnight; Saturday, noon-midnight; Sunday, noon-9 p.m. Reston Town Center, 11905 Market St., Reston. Call 703-787-6601.

FRIDAY: Harvest Moon Dinner cooking class at Someplace Special Giant store. $15 includes $15 gift certificate. 2 p.m. 1445 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean. Call 703-448-0800.

SATURDAY: Adams-Morgan Day Wine Around--food and wine pairings at various Adams-Morgan restaurants. Sponsored by the Tasting Society International. 1-5 p.m. $45 in advance. Cities, 2424 18th St. NW. Call 202-333-5588 or www.tastedc.com.

SUNDAY: South American wine dinner at Stardust restaurant. Sponsored by the Winery Inc. $65 includes tax and tip. 6:30 p.m. 608 Montgomery St., Alexandria. Call 703-535-5765.

TUESDAY: Wine dinner featuring Californian wines from Italian grapes at Pulcinella Restaurant. $59.95 includes tax and tip. 6:30 p.m. 6852 Old Dominion Dr., McLean. Call 703-893-7777.

RESERVE NOW:

SEPT. 22: Champagne and sparkling wine tasting at Loews Annapolis Hotel. Sponsored by Fishpaws Liquors & Deli. $100. 8-10 p.m. 126 West St. Call 410-263-7777.

SEPT. 23: Ivan Tamas Winery and Wente Vineyards wine dinner at the Wyndham Bristol Hotel. $70 includes tax and tip. 6:30 p.m. 2430 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Call 202-955-6400 ext. 7358.

OCT. 1: Champagne Extravaganza-- tasting of more than 75 champagnes at the French Embassy. Sponsored by Wide World of Wines. $89 includes tax and tip. 7-10 p.m. 4101 Reservoir Rd. NW. Call 202-333-7500.

OCT. 6: Cookeasy Contemporary Cuisine--series of 3 cooking classes begins. $100. Wednesdays, 7:30-9 p.m. Wheaton location. Call 301-946-3714.

IN SEARCH OF VOLUNTEERS

Operation Frontline, a joint effort of the Capital Area Food Bank and Share Our Strength, is seeking local professional chefs and nutritionists who will volunteer their time to teach a series of cooking classes to low-income participants. Weekly classes will follow a set curriculum emphasizing nutrition and food budgeting topics.

Classes are two hours in length and run for a total of six weeks beginning in late September. For more information, call 202-526-5344 ext. 290 or www.washing tonpost.com/yp/foodbank.

ADD THIS WEB SITE TO YOUR BOOKMARKS: www.healthyideas.com/cooking

College students, Hill staffers, retired airline pilots--everyone stands to benefit from an occasional tip or two about sneaking healthful nutrients into a meal or snack. Click on this site for everything from mix-and-match bagged lunch ideas to the latest science/medical journal articles on nutrition.

* Tasty fat-free frozen pizza? What will they think of next? "They" are McLean native Eric Gault and his two partners, Jim Heffron and David Solesbee. Their Santa Monica, Calif.-based company Heavens' Bistro makes a delicious, well-seasoned, 99 percent fat-free Grilled Vegetable pie. The crust was crispy. There was the perfect amount of mozzarella and provolone cheeses mingled with grilled bell peppers, red onions and mushrooms atop a tangy sauce. And believe it or not, each generous portion contained less than 2 grams of fat, hovered around 200 calories and included a healthy dose of calcium and protein. They also make a Turkey Pepperoni pie. It was nice and not the least bit greasy. We didn't care for Barbeque Chicken, which had an overly sweet and smoky sauce. But two out of three isn't bad. Heavens' Bistro frozen pizza ($4.99, serves 2) is available at Super Fresh stores.