DINNER TONIGHT

Penne With Zucchini and Ricotta

(4 servings)

Fresh ingredients work wonders. This simple recipe--just eight ingredients and minimal prep work--is surprisingly delicious when tender zucchini and fresh basil leaves are used. And it can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes. If desired, jazz up the dish with a touch of cumin or crushed red pepper flakes.

We found the dish in "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Lowfat Cooking" by Brigit Legere Binns (MacMillan, $16.95).

2 pounds small zucchini, untrimmed but cleaned

1/2 pound dried penne pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese, at room temperature, drained

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

15 fresh basil leaves, julienned

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the zucchini whole and boil for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon; set aside to cool.

Bring the water back to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened but not brown, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the ends from the zucchini and discard. Thinly slice the remaining zucchini at an angle. Add the zucchini to the skillet, increase the heat to medium-low and cook, tossing gently, until the zucchini is lightly browned around the edges, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Drain the pasta; transfer the pasta to the zucchini mixture. Stir in the ricotta and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the basil and Parmesan cheese and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 418 calories, 24 gm protein, 54 gm carbohydrates, 13 gm fat, 24 mg cholesterol, 5 gm saturated fat, 298 mg sodium, 4 gm dietary fiber

Last Call for Hardy Kiwis

Fuzzy, brown kiwi is available all year long. But its smooth-skinned, green, grape-size cousin, Hardy Kiwi, has a mere five-week season and will be in stores for only two to three more weeks. The flavor is similar to the larger fruit, but there's no need to peel the little guy.

Wrap one in a slice of prosciutto. Slice another in half and plop it on a goat-cheese-topped endive leaf. Toss some in a salad. They're perfect as a complement to a cheese course.

Look for Hardy Kiwi, also known as baby kiwi or kiwi berries (we like to call them kiwi-ettes) at local stores. A six-ounce package costs $2.97 at Magruder's and $3.49 at Fresh Fields.

Add this Web site to your bookmarks:

www.libbyspumpkin.com

"What moistens the lip, what brightens the eye; What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?"

--John Greenleaf Whittier

The humble pumpkin's influence reaches far beyond the traditional Thanksgiving pie. Its literary presence spans the Brothers Grimm and Thoreau. In ancient China the gourd was revered as an emblem of success and health. And Native Americans used pumpkin seeds as peace offerings. Who knew the pumpkin possessed such a rich and varied past?

But before we give away all of the interesting tidbits at Libby's Web site (check out the origin of the term "pumpkin head"), we'll switch gears. In our humble opinion, you can't go wrong with a site that offers eight versions of the standard pumpkin pie, not to mention recipes for cheesecake or Pumpkin Mousse Ice Cream Pie. Cream of Curry Pumpkin Soup and Pumpkin Apple Butter also are enticing, though we may not heed the advice to stir the orange mush into mashed potatoes, maple syrup or even (shudder!) smoothies.

Meet Anna G., a charming yet functional corkscrew who adds a bit of whimsy to opening a wine bottle. Anna G., named for the fiancee of its creator, Italian designer Alessandro Mendini, is a chrome-plated corkscrew sporting a red, yellow, blue or black handle, er, dress. ($56).

There's also a matching winestop, Anna Stop 2, also available in a variety of colors ($22).

Available at Chiasso (Tysons Corner Center, McLean; call 703-506-0420 or 1-800-654-3570) and American Hand Plus (2906 M St. NW; call 202-965-3273).

To Do

THURSDAY: Sake tasting and discussion sponsored by the Wine Tasting Association at Mindful Hands Gallery. Benefits the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry. $45. 7 p.m. 211 King St., Alexandria. Call 703-683-2074.

THURSDAY-SATURDAY: Armenian bazaar with traditional foods at St. Mary's Armenian Apostolic Church. Free admission. Buffet luncheon, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; shish kebab and chicken dinner, 5-9 p.m. 42nd and Fessenden streets NW. Call 202-363-1923.

FRIDAY: German beer tasting and buffet dinner at the German Embassy. Benefits the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. $100. 7 p.m. 1900 Foxhall Rd. NW. Call 202-371-0044.

SATURDAY: Holiday bazaar featuring Eastern European foods at St. Gregory of Nyssa Byzantine Catholic Church. Free admission. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 12420 Old Gunpowder Rd., Beltsville. Call 301-776-7929.

SATURDAY: Evening at the Embassy of Austria--food and wine tastings with waltz lessons and dancing. Sponsored by the D.C. Society of Young Professionals and Event Concepts Inc. $80 includes tax and tip. 8 p.m.-midnight. 3524 International Ct. NW. Call 202-686-6085 or www.dcyoungpro.com.

SUNDAY: Spanish wine dinner at Market Street Bar & Grill. $65 includes tax and tip. 6 p.m. Presidents and Market streets, Reston. Call 703-709-6262.

MONDAY: Champagne dinner at Restaurant Nora. Coordinated by Fresh Fields Georgetown. $125 includes tax and tip. 6:30 p.m. 2132 Florida Ave. NW. Call 301-984-4874 ext. 3029.

RESERVE NOW:

NOV. 10: Star Chefs of D.C.--food and wine tastings along with auction for creative dining experiences. Benefits the March of Dimes. $75. 6:30 p.m. Marriott at Metro Center, 775 12th St. NW. Call 703-824-0111.

NOV. 11: Rioja Festival 1999--Spanish wine and food tastings. Benefits the Wines From Spain Rioja Scholarship fund. $35 includes tax and tip. 6 to 8 p.m. Westin Grand hotel, 2350 M St. NW. Call toll-free 1-877-98-RIOJA.

NOV. 13: Pizza: Everybody's Favorite Food--seminar and demonstration with Michele Scicolone, author of "Pizza Any Way You Slice It." Sponsored by the Smithsonian Associates. $86 for nonmembers includes lunch. 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. California Pizza Kitchen, 1260 Connecticut Ave. NW. Call 202-357-3030.