Orange and Cumin Braised Chicken

(2 servings)

Basic braises lend themselves to easy adjustments to suit your taste.

The first time we made this dish, the finished sauce tasted too earthy. All it took was a squeeze of extra citrus at the end to brighten the flavors.

The next attempt, we accidentally upped the amount of cumin, so we diluted the almost-finished sauce with some stock and simmered it briefly to meld the now milder, though still rich, flavors.

Here's the basic recipe; make it your own. But do serve it over freshly cooked rice.

Adapted from the December 1995 issue of Gourmet magazine.

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

About 2 tablespoons olive oil

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, finely chopped (optional)

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

About 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

About 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/3 cup small pitted green olives (optional)

About 1/4 cup chicken stock or broth (optional)

Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the chicken and cook until browned but not cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate; set aside.

Wipe the skillet clean, return to medium heat and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it begins to turn golden. Add the onion, if using, and cumin and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the orange and lemon juices and stir to combine. Return the chicken to the skillet along with the olives (if desired) and salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer gently, turning the chicken occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a platter; cover to keep warm.

Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning accordingly. If a tarter sauce is desired, add a slight squeeze of orange and/or lemon juice. If a milder, richer sauce is desired, add the stock. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

Per serving (using skinless thighs): 492 calories, 54 gm protein, 14 gm carbohydrates, 24 gm fat, 208 mg cholesterol, 4 gm saturated fat, 368 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

-- Renee Schettler

Taste of the Nation

Slip into your best black jacket and blue jeans -- or your favorite denim jacket and black slacks -- for the Taste of the Nation's black tie and blue jean gala on March 13. Best be certain the slacks are a little loose, though, since there will be samples from more than 50 local restaurants and wineries.

The annual event, spearheaded by Share Our Strength, unites chefs, restaurateurs, corporate partners and other concerned individuals in an effort to help those in need. Since 1988, Taste of the Nation has raised more than $900,000 locally to fight hunger in the community. All ticket sales benefit Capital Area Community Food Bank, D.C. Central Kitchen, Community Family Life Services, Food and Friends, and House of Ruth.

Taste of the Nation, March 13; Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 22nd and M streets NW. General admission, $125, 7-10 p.m.; VIP admission, $200, 6-10 p.m. Corporate tables available. For tickets visit www.strength.org or call 202-393-2925 (limited seating available).

Shopping Cart

We're stocking our refrigerators with a new yogurt. And it has a kangaroo on the label. Wallaby low-fat yogurt is Australian in style -- that is, creamy in consistency, mild in flavor and minus artificial ingredients and cloying flavors.

The texture is so liquidy -- closer to kaffir than yogurt -- that it's a little difficult to spoon, which also makes it ideal for pouring over fresh fruit. The only typical thing about this yogurt is its assorted flavors -- 12 in all -- including vanilla, maple, banana vanilla, strawberry banana, strawberry, orange passion fruit, raspberry, peach, cherry, blueberry, strawberry and lemon.

We've seen Wallaby low-fat yogurt for 79 to 89 cents per 6-ounce container at local health food stores such as Whole Foods Market.

Today's Tip

To maximize the amount of juice that can be squeezed by hand from citrus fruit, cut the fruit into quarters or eighths, rather than in half.

To Do

THURSDAY: Classic teas lecture and tasting featuring Rishi Tea at Whole Foods Market. Free. 4 p.m. 1440 P St. NW. Call 202-332-4300.

FRIDAY: Chocolate Galore and More -- food and dessert tasting with silent auction at Lansdowne Resort. Benefits the YMCA. $30 in advance; $40 at the door. 8 p.m. 44050 Woodridge Pkwy., Lansdowne. Call 703-777-9622.

SUNDAY: Basic Doughs and Batters -- first in a series of cooking classes at Sur La Table. March 2: Rustic breads, Breadsticks, Pizza Dough and Focaccia; March 9: Biscuits, Scones, Cobblers and Shortcakes; March 16: Coffee Cakes, Tea Cakes and Muffins. $180 for the series. 2 p.m. 1101 S. Joyce St., Arlington. Call 866-328-5412.

MONDAY: Fair Trade coffee tasting and lecture at Orinoco Coffee & Tea, Ltd. Free. 9:30 a.m. 9160-A Bursa Rd., Laurel. Call 301-953-1200.

MONDAY: Italian wine dinner at Firefly restaurant. $95 excludes tax and tip. 7 p.m. 1310 New Hampshire Ave. NW. Call 202-861-1310.

TUESDAY: Italian wine dinner at Villa d'Este. $70 includes tax and tip. 7 p.m. 818 N. St. Asaph St., Alexandria. Call 703-549-9477.

TUESDAY: Venetian Carnevale Celebration -- Northern Italian wine dinner at Maestro restaurant. $125 excludes tax and tip. 7 p.m. 1700 Tysons Blvd., McLean. Call 703-917-5498.

TUESDAY: The Fine Wines of Bordeaux -- four-part seminar and tasting featuring first growths, sponsored by the Sommelier Wine & Food Society. $400. 7:30-9:30 p.m. Tabard Inn, 1739 N St. NW. Call 703-685-7970.

Reserve Now:

MARCH 7: Festival of Food and Wine -- tasting featuring local chefs at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. Benefits the Rett Syndrome Research Foundation. $200. 7:30 p.m. 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Call 703-404-4774 or see www.Cure4Rett.org

MARCH 13: Burgundy wine dinner at Marcel's restaurant. $99 includes tax and tip. 7:30 p.m. 2401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Call 202-296-1166.