Dinner in 20 Minutes

Eggs Sunny Side Up With Asparagus, Pancetta and Pecorino Romano

2 to 4 servings

Buying asparagus any time of year except spring is a tempting though iffy proposition.

But a slightly compromised asparagus flavor matters little if the recipe jumbles together various tastes and textures. Serve alongside crusty bread. Adapted from "Cooking the Roman Way," by David Downie (HarperCollins, 2002):

11/2 to 2 pounds green asparagus, stem ends trimmed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and halved

About 2 ounces pancetta or 2 strips bacon, diced

4 large eggs

1/2 to 3/4 cup (2 to 3 ounces) freshly grated Pecorino Romano* cheese

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring about 1 cup of water to a boil. Cut the asparagus into sections about 1-inch long. Boil the asparagus until almost tender, 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness. Drain and pat dry.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and pancetta or bacon and saute until the garlic begins to turn golden and the pork barely begins to crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic; transfer the pancetta or bacon to paper towels to drain.

Drain off and discard about half of the drippings in the skillet. Return the skillet to medium heat, add the asparagus and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon, for about 1 minute.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, return the pancetta or bacon to the skillet and crack the eggs atop the asparagus, being careful not to break the yolks. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of cheese and a generous pinch of pepper on top of each egg. Cover and steam until the egg whites are firm and the cheese has melted, 3 to 4 minutes.

Using a spatula, transfer the eggs and asparagus to individual plates and serve immediately. Pass the remaining cheese on the side.

*NOTE: Pecorino Romano is an aged sheep's milk cheese that has a sharp, salty flavor and a hard, gritty texture. You may substitute Parmesan (not as salty) or Asiago (much more sharp).

Per serving (based on 4): 207 calories, 16 gm protein, 7 gm carbohydrates, 14 gm fat, 228 mg cholesterol, 5 gm saturated fat, 270 mg sodium, 5 gm dietary fiber

-- Renee Schettler

TASTE TEST | Frozen chicken nuggets made from all white meat

Kids love them. Adults eat them on the sly.

Chicken nuggets keep for months in the freezer, they warm in the oven or microwave in less time than it takes to run to a drive-thru and they're relatively low-fat compared with their fast-food counterparts. And now several brands are made with all white-meat, non-processed chicken. Of the three brands we tried, we preferred Ian's Chicken Nuggets ($3.99 per eight-ounce box) with their crisp coating and strips of whole breast meat. But don't plan to feed the family with a single box. We counted eight modest-size nuggets per box, which hardly constitutes the advertised three portions, at least not for anyone over the age of 2.

We also liked Bell & Evans Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets ($5.99 per 12-ounce box), but would like them better if they had less breading. We didn't like the processed texture of Empire Kosher Chicken Breast Nuggets ($5.99 per 12-ounce box).

Ian's Chicken Nuggets ($3.99 per 8-ounce box) and Ian's Chicken Patties ($3.99 per 7-ounce box) are available at Whole Foods Markets and some natural food stores. See www.iansnaturalfoods.com.

BOOK REPORT

SIRIO: The Story of My Life and Le Cirque

Authors: Sirio Maccioni and Peter Elliot

Publisher: Wiley, $29.95

A slew of celebrities dined at his restaurant and dozens of talented chefs came and went from his kitchen. It's good to be Sirio Maccioni, the poor Italian boy who grew up to be New York restaurateur of the rich and famous. Co-author Elliot does the interviewing and reporting on Maccioni's rags-to-riches tale. Then he gets out of the way and lets Maccioni, in his own words, recount his waifish youth, tell tales of a charming Ronald Reagan and a surly Francis Sinatra, do some big-league name-dropping and provide home-spun wisdom as well. The rich, Maccioni advises, "use you when they need you and then don't remember you when you have a problem." Still, they will always get the best tables at Le Cirque.

SHOPPING CART | Cashews

Trust us, they're even better than they look. Trader Joe's World's Largest Salted Cashews have the outsize edge on lesser cashews with their tender texture, perfect salt-to-nut ratio and remarkably high number of unbroken beauties in every package.

Both roasted-salted and roasted-unsalted varieties are available at local Trader Joe's stores; $6.49 for a 16-ounce bag.

Trade Secrets

You work hard to pack the perfect lunch box, and this is the thanks you get. According to a recent study of 1,000 children ages 8 to 12 reported in the August issue of American Baby magazine:

* 73 percent of school-age kids admit to throwing out part of their lunch at least once a week.

* 36 percent admit to trading at least part of their lunch.

TODAY'S TIP

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends that refrigerators should maintain a temperature no higher than 40 degrees; freezers no higher than 0 degrees. Refrigerator and freezer thermometers (from $5.99) are available at most grocery, hardware and specialty stores.

TO DO

SATURDAY and SUNDAY: Middle Eastern food festival at Holy Transfiguration Church. Free admission. Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, noon-7 p.m. 8501 Lewinsville Rd., McLean. Call 703-734-9566 or see www.holytransfiguration.org.

TUESDAY: Paolo Coppo wine dinner at Galileo restaurant. $119 includes tax and tip. 7 p.m. 1110 21st St. NW. Call 202-222-0185.

RESERVE NOW

SEPT. 9: Barboursville Vineyards wine dinner at Charlie Palmer Steak. Special guest: winemaker Luca Paschina. $70 includes tax and tip. 7 p.m. 101 Constitution Ave. NW. Call 202-547-8100.

SEPT. 11: Oaxacan chocolate dinner with tequila and wine pairings at Rosa Mexicano restaurant. $75 includes tax and tip. 7 p.m. 575 7th St. NW. Call 202-783-5522.

SEPT. 14: Lunch with Redskins owner Dan Snyder at Nathan's restaurant. $25 includes tax and tip. 12:30 p.m. 3150 M St. NW (corner of Wisconsin and M streets). Call 202-338-2000.

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.