WHEN IT comes to eating, I have a pretty good idea of what's good for me and what isn't. I try to avoid salt, processed sugars and fats. I seek out fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and whole grain, high-fiber foods. But we are all imperfect and some of us are more imperfect than others. In the middle range of my imperfections is an ongoing passion for homemade ice cream.

My earliest food memory is of my father giving me a chocolate-covered ice cream pop. I enjoyed it so much I instantly knew it must be bad for me. In later years I received to restrict my intake of this magnificent substance, but during these infrequent and limited encounters I indulged at the high end of the spectrum. I would only have a little, but it would be the best I could produce. Accordingly, I have allowed myself the grand indulgence of using ice-cream molds -- fluted towers, bursting stars, squares, rectangles, domes, all sorts of splendid shapes in each of my favorite flavors. If you're going to do it, do it right.

Cold molds should be made of metal because it cools quickly and completely. The simpler the details and overall shapes of the mold, the easier it will be to separate the contents for serving. If cold molds are new for you, start with a very simple shape. It is somewhat disheartening to unmold three quarts of your best swiss chocolate ice cream from an imposing multi-domed, fluted sculpture to discover flutes and domes have remained in the mold and what you are about to serve looks like something someone tripped over.

A warm, wet towel wrapped around the mold will usually spring the ice cream with ease. If you are still having difficulty, fill the sink with warm water and dip in the mold up to the top edge. Give it about 5 seconds, then cover the open side with a flat plate. Hold the two tightly together and flip the mold on top of the plate. Before filling the mold it's a good idea to rinse the inside with ice water, it will give the walls of the mold a better release surface.

If you are purchasing an ice cream mold that is conical or cylinder shaped, get one that is made in one solid piece or if there is a seam make sure the fitting is tight and smooth. You don't want leaks or seam marks that will mar the gentle surface lines of the finished dessert.

Molds are in great supply and the variety of shapes offered for sale in cooking equipment shops appears endless. As with all cooking equipment purchases, select a qualtiy mold that will last. It should have a clearly defined shape that will present a finished dish that is attractive and easisly divided.