Cinnamon Lamb Saute

(4 servings)

It's a common misconception that an enticing dinner demands an awful lot of time and effort. Here to dispel this notion are Linda West Eckhardt and Katherine West DeFoyd and their project "Stylish One-Dish Dinners" by (Doubleday, $25). Serve this fragrant dish, which we adapted from the book, over rice.

1/4 cup olive oil

4 large lamb shoulder chops (about 2 pounds), boned and cut into bite-size pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

28-ounce can tomatoes, coarsely chopped and drained of most of the juice

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the oil and heat for 1 minute. Season the lamb with salt and pepper to taste and then brown the pieces on each side in the hot skillet, 5 to 7 minutes total. Transfer the meat to a plate; set aside.

Add the onions to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cinnamon and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and a little of their juice to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Return the lamb to the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice or couscous.

Per serving: 684 calories, 41 gm protein, 17 gm carbohydrates, 49 gm fat, 157 mg cholesterol, 19 gm saturated fat, 308 mg sodium, 4 gm dietary fiber

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This site from the folks at about.com has less to do with cheese than it does great entertaining tips--something most folks can use when it's two days before the biggest party night of the year. There's a wide range of handy hors d'oeuvres and cocktail recipes--to make ahead or at the last minute--along with links to more of the same. A votre sante!

[The Weekly Dish]

Playing it safe: Though it spent $25,000 on upgrades to combat potential Y2K snafus, Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe (1517 Connecticut Ave. NW; call 202-387-1462) is taking no chances as the clock ticks toward a new year. Extra food has been ordered to arrive early, 2,000 paper guest checks are ready to fill in for computerized slips, and six adding machines have been secured. "If the electricity is shut off," brags owner Henry Posner, "we can saute by candlelight [gas]." And if the gas goes? "Let them eat cake," he jokes.

Fire 'n' ice: Not all cocktails are created equal, you're reminded as you take the plunge into the new Passion Fruit Cocktail ($6.95) dreamed up by bar manager Todd Thrasher of the ever-inventive Cafe Atlantico (405 Eighth St. NW; call 202-393-0812). A sassy marriage of fresh passion fruit puree, Absolut mandarin vodka and simple syrup invigorated with the heat of ginger and jalapeno slivers, the drink goes down like a sunny beach vacation. Never one to mix in place, Thrasher is already working on his next elixir, featuring another prickly ingredient: cactus pears.

--Tom Sietsema

Museum Pieces

* Gold-etched Champagne flutes (below, $29.95 each) from Ritzenhoff. Corcoran Gallery of Art, 17th Street and New York Avenue NW; call 202-639-1700.

* Seagull Pewter salad set (right, $42) and a pewter-embellished bottle (above, $16) for storing olive oil. National Building Museum, 401 F Street NW; call 202-272-7706.

Have you always wanted to create lovely gifts and decorations for the holidays and the new year, but never felt that you could muster enough creativity? Then these books by Georgeanne Brennan are a must. Brennan has compiled a trove of deceptively simple yet elegant ideas encompassing everything from menu ideas and recipes to centerpieces to gifts and packaged them in "Holiday Fruit" and "Holiday Sweets" (Smithmark, $14.98 each). The inspiring color photos and straightforward descriptions illustrate just how easy it is to create new holiday traditions. These ideas are keepers.