Dinner in 20 Minutes

Ancho- and Chipotle-Spiced Anything

4 servings

Everyone should have a standby.

A standby isn't so much a recipe as it is something simple and edible that doesn't require planning, shopping, measuring or even thinking. This is mine.

4 chicken breast halves, pork chops, tuna steaks, salmon fillets, shrimp or firm, white-fleshed fish

Salt to taste

Large pinch or so ancho chili powder (see Ingredient item, below)

Tiny pinch chipotle chili powder

Olive oil

Pat the meat or fish dry and place on a plate. Sprinkle both sides lightly with salt and a pinch each of ancho and chipotle chili powders. The sweetness of the ancho offsets the heat of the chipotle. Drizzle the meat or fish with a bit of oil and, using your hands, turn the meat so that it is evenly coated.

Preheat the grill, grill pan or broiler. Grill the meat or fish, turning as few times as necessary, until cooked to the desired degree of doneness. Serve immediately.

Ingredients too variable for meaningful analysis

-- Renee Schettler

INGREDIENT

Ground ancho chili powder, pictured at left, comes from a large, flat pepper that is known in its fresh state as the poblano. Its flavor is often described as fruity with a sort of sweet heat. A staple of Mexican cooking, ancho is commonly found in sauces, including mole. It carries close to 2,000 heat units out of a possible 300,000 on the Scoville scale.

Ground chipotle chili powder, directly above, is made from jalapeno chili peppers that have been slowly smoked over wood and pulverized. More commonly available in adobo sauce, the chipotle has a richly flavored, robust heat that is not as one-dimensional as, say, cayenne pepper. It carries about 10,000 heat units.

Use the powders not as one might the generically labeled chili powder, but rather cayenne pepper. Separately or in tandem, stir the chili powders into sauces, marinades or dips or blend with oil to form a spice rub to slather onto entrees or corn on the cob.

SHOPPING CART

This lightweight cutting board from Ikea has a built-in serrated knife with a blunt tip ($5.99, available only at the Woodbridge location). It effectively puts an end to the problem of loose or forgotten knives when picnicking. The 6-by-8-inch wooden cutting board, made of beech, is also handy for the slicing of limes for mojitos or lemons for iced tea.

A lot of companies make battery-powered frothers for espresso drinks. Some cost $20 or more. But at less than $2, Ikea's version is practically disposable.

Now, good luck finding a parking space.

Ikea is located at Woodbridge (2901 Potomac Mills Circle; 703-494-4532) and College Park (10100 Baltimore Ave.; 301-345-6552).

Sugar Highs

Cake decorators and sugar artists from around the world will gather in Washington this weekend for the 29th annual International Cake Exploration Societe (ICES) show and convention.

ICES members will attend demonstrations by noted sugar professionals and view the wares of equipment and supply vendors. But anyone can visit the Sugar Art Gallery, which will display more than 1,000 decorated cakes and sugar showpieces, many by Washington-area ICES members.

The Sugar Art Gallery will take place Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Hilton Washington, 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW. Admission is $10; proceeds benefit the Hospital for Sick Children. Call 202-797-4830.

THE BIG BOOK OF BEER: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Greatest Beverage on Earth

Author: Duane Swierczynski

Publisher: Quirk Books, $19.95

Oh sure, there's history, brew comparisons and some serious stuff in this glossy paperback for suds lovers. But the book is worth the price just for the close-ups of labels (beer as art), crafts (how to make a beer-can votive candle), the drinking games and songs ("Beer Barrel Polka") and the glossary (a barley sandwich means having a beer for lunch). Not recommended for the abstemious, or for anybody that hasn't used a funnel as a liquid delivery system at the frat house.

Soy by the Cute Carton

Each of these cartons contains a different soy-based sauce made by family-owned Kamada Foods of Japan. The most popular is the assertive Dashi Soy that is terrific for a soup base or over soba noodles. Use Ponzu Soy as a dipping sauce for dumplings or grilled meats. Salad Soy is a non-oil dressing for salads or cooked vegetables. Sprinkle Teien Dashi Soy directly over tofu. Double-fermented Sashimi Soy has been formulated specifically for raw tuna.

All five are sold, by mail, in an assortment box with seven-ounce cartons for $17.15 (plus shipping). Kamada Foods, www.kamada.ca; call 877-722-5769.

TODAY'S TIP

To avoid brain freeze when you're drinking a milkshake, keep the straw away from the roof of your mouth. To lessen the already headache-inducing effect, press your tongue or your thumb up there.

TO DO

THURSDAY: Cantina Tramin winemaker's dinner at Vidalia restaurant. Special guest: Wilhelm Sturz. $143 includes tax and tip. 6:30 p.m.; 1990 M St. NW. Call 202-659-1990.

SATURDAY: Pickling produce demonstration at the Claude Moore Colonial Farm. Adults, $3; children 3 to 12, $2. 1-4 p.m.; 6310 Georgetown Pike, McLean. Call 703-903-9330. MONDAY: Slow Food farm dinner at Clyde's Tower Oaks Lodge. Special guests: cheese expert Carole Palmer and co-director of FreshFarm Markets Ann Yonkers. $50 for nonmembers includes tax and tip. 6:30 p.m.; 2 Preserve Pkwy., Rockville. Call 703-471-6454.

TUESDAY: Book signing and food and wine tasting at Best Cellars, Dupont Circle, with "The Olive and the Caper: Adventures in Greek Cooking" author Susanna Hoffman. Sponsored by Olsson's Books & Music. Free. 5:30-7 p.m.; 1643 Connecticut Ave. NW. Call 202-387-3146.

TUESDAY: Reception and wine dinner at Equinox restaurant. Sponsored by the American Institute of Wine and Food; 6:30 p.m. $135 for nonmembers includes tax and tip; 818 Connecticut Ave. NW. Call 301-230-1251.

RESERVE NOW

AUG. 11: Tastes of Campania -- wine dinner at Ristorante Terrazza. $85 includes tax and tip. 7 p.m.; 2 Wisconsin Circle, Chevy Chase. Call 301-951-9292.

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.