DINNER IN 25 MINUTES

Tuna, Pasta and Lemon

4 servings

This recipe originally called for tossing tuna tartare with pasta.

Though we're fond of raw fish, we prefer it with sushi rice. Instead, we seared the tuna briefly on each side then tossed it with the pasta, lemon, chili peppers and basil.

Adapted from "Fast & Fresh," by Louise Pickford (Ryland Peters & Small, 2003):

12 ounces dried fusilli, penne or similarly shaped pasta

8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) extra-virgin olive oil

4 to 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Generous pinch seeded, finely chopped fresh chili peppers or crushed red chili peppers (optional)

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 large tuna steak (about 1 pound)

2 large handfuls fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Lemon wedges for servings (optional)

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, heat 6 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chili peppers and lemon zest and saute for 1 more minute. Remove from the heat; cover to keep warm.

In another skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil. Add the tuna and cook, without turning, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and cook to the desired degree of doneness, 1 more minute for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board; set aside to cool slightly. Cut the tuna into thin slices.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the hot oil mixture, lemon juice to taste, basil, salt and copious amounts of pepper to taste and the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and toss gently to combine. If desired, add some of the reserved cooking liquid and/or additional oil. Taste and adjust the amount of chilis, lemon and basil accordingly. Divide the pasta among individual plates and top each portion with tuna. Serve at once, with lemon on the side if desired.

Per serving: 686 calories, 38 gm protein, 66 gm carbohydrates, 29 gm fat, 51 mg cholesterol, 4 gm saturated fat, 118 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Pasta Plus

Israeli couscous is not technically couscous, that granular semolina or cracked wheat from Moroccan cuisine and often cooked in the colander-like vessel called a couscoussiere. Instead, it is a tiny, barley-shaped pasta, also called pearl couscous or toasted couscous, pictured above and below, at right, which can be prepared like pasta (boiled for a few minutes in salted water) or risotto (sauteed in butter with stock or wine added until it's tender) and mixed with herbs or minced vegetables.

Though it's not as quick to cook as traditional couscous, it's still ready to go as a side dish in a matter of minutes., Add mint and lemon to Israeli couscous and put it next to lamb chops; saute it in butter and add a hint of saffron or curry and serve it with chicken. Look for packages labeled "Israeli couscous" or scout the pasta aisles for bags labeled "toasted barley shape."

See the Market Watch recipe on Page 5

Quality Egg Time

Here's vindication for those of us who are in the habit of keeping eggs way past the carton's "sell-by" or expiration date: Properly refrigerated, eggs are considered safe for consumption four to five weeks beyond that date, as reported in the June issue of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) magazine.

In researching the subject, Deana Jones, of the Athens, Ga., ARS center, monitored the amount of microbial action on eggshells over time, baked "light and fluffy" angel food cakes with eggs that were up to 10 weeks old and looked for discernible differences in the emulsion capabilities of older eggs used in mayonnaise recipes (there were none).

Jones also endorses the keep-them-in-the-carton mode of egg storage, for better insulation and less odor contamination. For details, go to www.nps.ars.usda.gov.

When Jacques Arrived

"In the process of my travels and tastings, I was unconsciously moving away from a purely French style of cooking. The rigid culinary constraints that my classical French training had instilled in me were dissolving but provided just enough structure so that I could assimilate new ideas without creating silly or absurd recipes. I no longer attempted to label my food as one style or another. I simply cooked the way I felt, based on the ingredients at my disposal. That became my definition of American cuisine."

-- From "The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen,"

by Jacques Pepin (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)

Brines Worth Their Salt

Want to make your grilled chicken spicy or your seafood smoky and tenderize them at the same time? Mix boiling water in a bowl with the appropriate amount of Victoria Taylor's Brining Blends, add your uncooked seafood, pork or poultry and infuse it with a depth of flavor before it even hits the grill. Choose Spicy (jalapeno, cumin, coriander), Asian (sesame, garlic, coriander, ginger, anise), Traditional (garlic, rosemary, citrus, allspice) or Smoky (hickory, mesquite, chipotle) blends. And remember to follow package directions for the proportions as well as the timing of your brining.

Victoria Taylor's Brining Blends are available at www.vgourmet.com, $8.95 (plus shipping) per 12.7-ounce jar. The Web site also provides recipes.

* * *

Q. What's the best way to keep a bowl of salsa cool in sweltering weather?

An ice cube. At first we thought the waiter at Alero Restaurant in Cleveland Park had dropped the ice cube into our salsa by accident. But then we realized, as we sat outdoors in the hot sun, that the melting cube served a purpose. A plastic ice cube, frozen to a chill, would also keep a dip cool without watering it down.

* * *

66

The number of additional daily calories from soda or fruit juice that Americans consume now versus 27 years ago.

-- From the June issue

of Health Magazine

Today's Tip

To make a pie crust flakier, freeze the flour for about an hour before you use it. This helps prevent the butter from getting too soft when you cut it into the flour.

-- From the December 2003 issue of Cooking Light

To Do

FRIDAY-SUNDAY: Old Dominion Beer Festival featuring 30 breweries, food tastings from local restaurants and entertainment. Admission, $10; beer tastings, $1 or $2. Friday, 5-11 p.m.; Saturday, noon-11p.m.; Sunday, noon-7 p.m., on the field next to the brewery at 44633 Guilford Dr., Ashburn. Call 800-752-6118 or see www.olddominion.com.

SATURDAY: Cooking demonstration with chef Susan McCreight Lindeborg from Majestic Cafe at the Arlington Farmers Market. Free. 10 a.m. N. Courthouse Road and North 14th Street, Arlington. Call 703-228-6423 or see www.arlingtonfarmersmarket.com.

SATURDAY: Argentine national day celebration; food tastings. Sponsored by the Argentine Committee of Virginia. Admission, $12. 6:30 p.m. Thomas Jefferson Theatre, 125 S. Old Glebe Rd., Arlington. Call 703-228-1899 or see www.arlingtonarts.org.

SATURDAY: Spices & Rices -- cooking demonstrations, lectures and food tastings from local restaurants featuring the cuisines and cultures of Afghanistan, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam. Sponsored by the Asia Society. $65 for nonmembers. 7-9 p.m. Embassy of France, 4101 Reservoir Rd. NW. Call 202-833-2742.

SUNDAY: 18th-Century Colonial Wheat Harvest -- hands-on demonstration at the Claude Moore Colonial Farm. Adults, $3; children under 12, $2. 1-4 p.m. 6310 Georgetown Pike, McLean. Call 703-442-7557 or see www.1771.org.

RESERVE NOW

JUNE 27: Hearty Main-Course Salads -- cooking class with "Cooking One on One" author John Ash at Sur La Table. $55. 6:30 p.m. 1101 S. Joyce St., Arlington. Call 703-414-3580.

JUNE 29: Macallan Scotch Whisky dinner with guest Casper Macrea and chef Todd Gray at Equinox. $115 includes tax and tip. 7 p.m. 818 Connecticut Ave. NW. Call Calvert-Woodley (not restaurant) for reservations; 202-966-0445.

JUNE 30: A tasting of Oak Grove Farm's milk-fed veal at Restaurant Eve in the Chef's Tasting Room. $70 dinner excludes tax and tip. Seatings from 5:30-9:30 p.m. 110 S. Pitt St., Alexandria. Call 703-706-0450.

JULY 1: Greek winemakers dinner at Zaytinya Restaurant. $75 includes tax and tip. 7:30 p.m. 701 Ninth St. NW. Call 202-638-0800.

PLEASE NOTE: Space limitations sometimes prevent Food from publishing all submissions. For possible inclusion, send notices 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.