Spicy Tomato, Fennel and Orange Sauce

With Seafood

4 servings

This light but intensely flavored tomato sauce -- with overtones of orange, chili pepper and fennel -- comes together in less than 30 minutes and is the perfect match for seafood.

Adapted from "The Provence Cookbook" by Patricia Wells (HarperCollins, 2004):

For the sauce:

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 plump cloves garlic, peeled, halvedand finely chopped

Sea salt to taste

28-ounce can peeled tomatoes in their juice

1/2 to 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Grated zest of 1 orange

Sprig thyme

A couple of stalks celery

Hot red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

For the seafood:

11/2 to 2 pounds cod, salmon or shrimp

Sea salt and freshly ground white or black pepper to taste

About 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

About 24 pitted green olives (optional)

For the sauce: In a large skillet over low heat, heat the oil. Add the onion, garlic and salt and stir to coat with the oil. Cover and cook until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, puree the tomatoes and their juices. Add the tomato mixture, fennel seeds, orange zest, thyme, celery and red pepper flakes to the skillet and stir to combine. Simmer, uncovered, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings accordingly. Remove and discard the thyme and celery. (May cover and refrigerate for 2 days.)

For the seafood: Season the fish with salt and pepper. In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the fish or shrimp and cook, turning once, just until cooked through, 6 to 10 minutes total, depending on the thickness.

To serve, transfer the fish to individual plates, spoon the sauce over the top and, if desired, garnish with olives.

Per serving: 286 calories, 43 gm protein, 11 gm carbohydrates, 6 gm fat, 98 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 260 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

-- Renee Schettler

Fruit Pureeists Can Appreciate

When restaurant chefs create dishes such as curried lamb with mango essence or duck confit with passion fruit emulsion, the intense fruit flavor sometimes comes from a jar. Now home cooks can aspire to such creations without having to puree a bushel of berries. Perfect Puree of Napa Valley makes exceptional, pure pulps from field-ripened fruit. They come frozen but are otherwise ready for you to add to sauces, vinaigrettes, desserts and cocktails.

The six offerings are passion fruit, mango, red raspberry, strawberry, prickly pear cactus and white peach (shown here) -- the last being particularly nice for making Bellinis. A 30-ounce plastic container is $15 (overnight shipping is $25 for one to three jars).

Perfect Puree of Napa Valley products are available at www.amazon.com.

Sundays With George

The Food Network has succumbed to the low-carb craze with last Sunday's premiere of "Low Carb & Lovin' It," hosted by restaurant chef George Stella (pictured at left).

Stella revamped his cooking style to incorporate a controlled-carb approach back in 1999. Since then, he's dropped more than 250 pounds to his current approaching-svelte weight of 210.

But in a refreshing change from many proponents of low-carb diets, Stella emphasizes more than just net carbs. Though he swaps soy flour for wheat and Splenda for sugar, he also emphasizes the importance of antioxidants and fiber, suggests lower-fat ingredient options and imparts solid -- and occasionally ingenious -- cooking advice, such as what to do when you can't use yeast and how to make that omelet extra fluffy.

The first episode addresses the most difficult low-carb dilemma of the day: breakfast. Stella whips up a towering steak, spinach and cheddar omelet alongside a batch of blueberry muffins.

"Low Carb & Lovin' It" airs on the Food Network at noon on Sundays.

Book Report

* A Meal Observed

Andrew Todhunter

Knopf, $23

A spirited writer with a keen interest in fine food takes us course by course -- from soup to souffle -- through a blow-out meal at Taillevent, a top-rated Paris restaurant. Todhunter worked briefly as an apprentice in this very kitchen, so he knows the players who make the magic come to pass. Along the way, as plates are cleared, there is time for memories of childhood food experiences as well as snippets of gastronomic history and interviews with Taillevent staff. But somewhere during the main course, a reader can experience a tide of lethargy from too much talk of gluttonous indulgence and one too many French terms.

-- Walter Nicholls

Brush Up

For those who are leery of using a scouring pad on a nicely seasoned carbon steel wok, there is a much less abrasive alternative.

The stiff bristles of a bamboo wok brush need nothing more than hot water and, perhaps, a few drops of liquid soap to scrub the wok clean.

Wok brushes cost about $3.95, depending on the size. Available locally at Asian markets and some specialty stores.

Today's Tip

When using citrus zest in a recipe, scrub the fruit thoroughly with cool running water prior to removing the zest. This removes most of the wax and/or pesticides from the surface. You may wish to use organic fruit, which tends to carry less pesticide residue. To Do

SATURDAY: Armenian festival featuring food tastings sponsored by the Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities and the Alexandria-Gyumri Sister City Committee. Free admission. Noon-6 p.m. Market Square, Old Town Alexandria. Call 703-883-4686.

SATURDAY: Italian cooking class at the Kitchen Guild featuring Jackie Cipriano of Capital Cuisine cooking classes. $35. 3:30-5:30 p.m. 5027 Connecticut Ave. NW. Call 202-362-7111.

MONDAY: French wine dinner at Mon Ami Gabi. Sponsored by the Washington Wine Academy. $49 includes tax and tip. 6:30-9 p.m. 7239 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda. Call 703-971-1525 or see www.washingtonwineacademy.org.


MAY 20: National ZooFari Elephant Romp -- gala fundraiser including food from more than 100 local restaurants. Benefits the National Zoo revitalization programs. $135 for nonmembers. 6:30-10 p.m. National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW. Call 202-673-4613 or www.fonz.org.

MAY 20: Australian wine tasting at the Australian Embassy. Sponsored by Wide World of Wines. $100. 6:30-9 p.m. Embassy of Australia, 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Call 202-333-7500.

MAY 20: Wine dinner and book discussion with "The Potsticker Chronicles" author Stuart Chang Berman at the National Press Club. $75 includes tax and tip. 6:30 p.m. 529 14th St., NW. Call 202-662-7638.

MAY 23: Cooking demonstrations and food tastings with Gala Events party planners and Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner executive chef John Coleman. Sponsored by Jewish Women International. Benefits JWI's Women's Economic Security Fund. $90 for nonmembers. 1-3:30 p.m. Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner, 1700 Tysons Blvd., McLean. Call 202-857-1300.

PLEASE NOTE: Space limitations sometimes prevent Food from publishing all submissions. For possible inclusion, send notices -- including organization name, date, cost, time, address and phone number -- to: To Do, Food, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington D.C. 20071 or food@washpost.com. Submissions must be received at least 14 days prior to publication date.