Some resolutions worth keeping

BURNING QUESTIONS

January 17, 2007|By Erica Marcus | Erica Marcus,Newsday

What, I wondered, would be some good New Year's resolutions for readers to adopt?

First, some simple upgrades: salt, pepper and canned tomatoes.

If you are using regular iodized table salt, buy a box of Diamond Crystal kosher salt (which has a milder, cleaner taste) and designate a small bowl as your new "salt cellar." Keep the bowl near the stove and get into the habit of salting while you cook - you'll wind up adding less salt at the table.

You also might want to invest in a fancy "finishing" salt such as French fleur du sel or English Maldon sea salt. These irregular-shaped crystals have a complex flavor because of mineral "impurities" and can do wonders for a simple salad, grilled steak or sauteed vegetables. (Go to salt works.us for an international selection of artisanal salts.)

If you are using pre-ground pepper, either unearth the pepper mill you got for your wedding shower or buy a new one. Fresh-ground pepper has a fruity piquancy unmatched by pre-ground. Treat yourself to some Tellicherry or Sarawak pepper, considered among the finest varieties. Penzeys has a great selection of whole peppercorns. Visit its Web site, penzeys.com. For more exotic peppers, visit bigtreebali.com.

There is a bigger difference than you might suspect among brands of canned tomatoes. Instead of picking up what's on sale at the supermarket, stop by your local Italian grocer. I guarantee that he will have big stacks of San Marzano tomatoes imported from Campania, Italy. Probably one of the brands will be on sale. You can't go wrong with any San Marzano tomato, a variety renowned for its flavor and low moisture content.

Finally, for you nonbakers, attempt to make brownies from scratch. The one-bowl brownie recipe on the Baker's unsweetened chocolate box is hard to beat.

Now, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. I hereby proclaim my own culinary New Year's resolutions:

I should make more soup. In fact, I will strive to make soup every Sunday so that I can have homemade soup for lunch during the week instead of depending on the company cafeteria.

I should visit more Honduran, Dominican, Colombian and Salvadoran restaurants. I want to familiarize myself with these cuisines.

I should start baking bread again.

I should explore frozen and canned fruit.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to burningquestions@newsday.com, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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