Dinner in 20 Minutes

Chicken & Avocado Salad

4 servings

In this updated version of Waldorf salad, the core ingredients of apples, walnuts and chicken are still present. But the celery is replaced by red onion, the mantle of mayonnaise replaced by a mustardy vinaigrette and the leaf of lettuce swapped for bitter greens.

Adapted from "CookSmart Chicken," (Silverback, 2004; see the Book Report below):

For the salad:

5-ounce bag mixed greens, Asian greens, spinach or mizuna

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 small apple, thinly sliced

About 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

2 avocados, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons raisins (optional)

Cooked chicken (white and/or dark meat, about 11/2 cups shredded or chopped

For the vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons coarse-grain mustard

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 clove garlic, smashed and minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad: Divide the ingredients among four plates. Start with the greens, then add the onion, apple, walnuts, avocado, raisins and chicken. Set aside.

For the vinaigrette: In a bowl, whisk together the mustard, oil, vinegar, sugar, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Taste and adjust the ingredients accordingly.

Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and serve immediately.

Per serving (using spinach): 450 calories, 21 gm protein, 12 gm carbohydrates, 39 gm fat, 45 mg cholesterol, 4 gm saturated fat, 295 mg sodium, 15 gm dietary fiber

-- Renee Schettler

INGREDIENT | Quinoa

Once a staple food of the Incan civilization, quinoa (KEEN-wah) is one of several "ancient" grains enjoying a resurgence of interest. The individual seeds are about the same size and color as couscous but possess a slightly nutty, subtly bitter flavor and a far less chewy texture.

Quinoa is considered nutritionally superior to most cereal grains because it contains far more protein and far fewer carbohydrates. Though often referred to as a grain, quinoa is botanically classified as a leafy plant.

We learned the hard way that the individual quinoa seeds are coated with a natural, bitter-tasting resin. To reduce the bitterness, place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse it under a faucet until the water runs clear before cooking. Then add a cup to a large pot of salted boiling water, reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently until the grains are translucent, about 10 minutes. Drain, discarding the cooking liquid.

Cooked quinoa can be used as one would rice, bulgur or couscous. Serve it as a side dish drizzled with olive oil or toss with vegetables, herbs and a vinaigrette and chill through before serving.

ON THE LABEL | Light Tuna

Those who are concerned about the mercury implications of their canned tuna habit may wish to switch to light tuna.

Recent research indicates that canned light tuna contains significantly less mercury than levels found in canned white or albacore tuna, according to a joint federal advisory issued by the U.S. Health and Human Services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Light tuna typically comprises yellowfin, bluefin and/or skipjack tunas, which are smaller in size than albacore tuna. Because large fish tend to prey upon smaller fish, the mercury content is compounded as the fish grows. Hence, the larger the fish, the higher the mercury content. BOOK REPORT

COOKSMART CHICKEN, PASTA, WOK, CHOCOLATE, LOW-FAT OR VEGETARIAN

Publisher: Silverback, $7.95

These clever combination cookbooks and shopping lists (shown at top and below) give new meaning to the phrase "convenience cuisine." The easy-to-use format frees you from that easy-to-lose handwritten list scribbled on a scrap of paper. They're portable enough toss into your backpack, briefcase or diaper bag then pull a CookSmart out in the aisle, fan the recipes out like a deck of cards and take your pick. The dishes are creative but unfussy with a modern twist on classic flavors, such as a non-mayonnaise take on Waldorf salad (see Dinner in 20 Minutes, above), chicken and mango spring rolls, and pumpkin, sage and chili risotto.

CookSmart cookbooks are available locally at Proper Topper (Dupont Circle, 1350 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-842-3055; Georgetown, 3213 P St. NW, 202-333-6200) and by mail order from amazon.com.

TODAY'S TIP

To prevent the filling of an overstuffed sub sandwich from spilling out, remove some of the interior crumb from the top and bottom halves of the bread. This creates a trough for the fillings and helps to stabilize the sandwich.

-- Adapted from "The Best Kitchen Quick Tips" by the editors of Cook's Illustrated

TO DO

FRIDAY AND SATURDAY: Book signing and wine tasting with "Coastal Cooking" author John Shields at Best Cellars. Sponsored by Olsson's Books and Music. Free. Friday, 5:30 p.m., 1643 Connecticut Ave. NW, Dupont Circle. Call 202-387-3146; Saturday, 2 p.m. , 2855 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, call 703-741-0404.

SATURDAY: Johnny Appleseed festival -- apple and cider tasting with cooking and pie-making demonstrations at the Mount Pleasant Farmers' Market. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Lamont Park, at the intersection of 17th, Lamont and Mount Pleasant streets NW. Call 202-234-0559.

SATURDAY: Middle Eastern bazaar at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church. Free admission. Festival: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; dance party: 7-11 p.m. 7164 Alaska Ave. NW. Call 202-829-5554.

MONDAY: Abadal wine dinner at Taberna Del Alabardero. $68 excludes tax and tip. 6:30 p.m. 1776 I St. NW. Call 202-429-2200.

MONDAY: Champagne Krug Opera dinner -- wine dinner with performances by the Washington National Opera Young Performers at Seasons restaurant of the Four Seasons Hotel. $200 excludes tax and tip. 7 p.m. 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Call 202-944-2055.

RESERVE NOW

SEPT. 29: Book signing and discussion with Gourmet magazine editor and "The Gourmet Cookbook" author Ruth Reichl at Olsson's Books and Music, the Lansburgh/Penn Quarter. Free. 12:30 p.m. 418 7th St. NW. Call 202-638-7610.

SEPT. 30: Wine dinner, discussion and book signing with "Coastal Cooking" author John Shields at the National Press Club. Sponsored by Olsson's Book and Music. $80 for nonmembers includes tax and tip. 6:30 p.m. 529 14th St. NW. Call 202-662-7638.

OCT. 2: Children's sushi-making class at Sushi-Ko -- hands-on cooking and demonstration class for children ages 9 and up. $30 per child. 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. 2309 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Call 202-333-4187. OCT. 5: Talk-show host Charlie Rose interviews Patrick O'Connell, chef-proprietor of the Inn at Little Washington, on his just-released second cookbook, "Refined American Cuisine (Bulfinch, $45). A champagne toast and interview in the Atrium of the Kennedy Center will be followed by a reception featuring dishes from the book (including Fricassee of Maine Lobster With Potato Gnocchi, Seared Tuna With Daikon Radish and Cucumber Sorbet), all paired with fine wines. $180 includes autographed book. Interview: 6:30-7:15, Atrium; reception and book signing: 7:30-9 p.m., South Gallery. Call 202-416-8396 or see www.kennedy-center.org/eventplanning.

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.