I confess: I refuse to blanch, peel and seed a tomato, even if the recipe says to. Every cook has a fussiness threshold, and that exceeds mine.

So when the whole blanch-peel-seed thing comes up in dishes as delightful as Pierre Franey’s sautéed salmon with leeks and tomatoes, I simply cheat and throw unblanched, unpeeled, unseeded chopped tomatoes into the pan, where they release their sweet juices and coat the leeks just as richly. The skin and seeds may add a bit more texture, but certainly not enough to distract from the velvety fish and tender leeks, and I’ve saved 10 precious minutes.


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Ifrah F. Ahmed’s cagaar (spinach stew) calls for zero tomato peeling, so cheating is unnecessary. The chopped tomatoes are simmered with garlic and onions until they form a savory, ruddy base for the soft green mound of spinach and cilantro. Seasoned with warm xawaash spices and a jalapeño, it’s a complex vegan dish that’s best served with rice or soor (grits) to catch the heady sauce.

Another painstaking technique promulgated by some chefs is removing the germ in the center of each garlic clove before using. I have sometimes done this, carefully slicing the cloves in two and pulling out the center sprouts. But honestly I can’t taste any difference between germless garlic and germ-filled garlic, so I’ve stopped bothering. Maybe my palate isn’t terribly refined, but I’m fine with that if it saves me some work.

I have no idea whether Bryan Washington is a garlic de-germer, but he doesn’t mention it in his recipe for chilaquiles verdes, which uses a couple of cloves in the salsa. Bryan does recommend frying your own tortilla chips for the crunchiest, most flavorful result, and that sounds worth the time if you have it. But, he notes, good-quality store-bought chips work nicely, too. Once doused in salsa and queso fresco and topped with runny fried eggs, this beloved dish will shine either way.

More confessing: I don’t peel ginger before I grate it. I find that rubbing the cut side of the root against my microplane leaves most of the peel behind while turning the flesh into a quasi purée. If I absolutely need to peel my ginger, I use the tip of a teaspoon, which pulls the skin off more agilely than a vegetable peeler. However you prepare your ginger is all good in Café China’s dan dan noodles, which are more intense and robust than mouth-searingly spicy.

I guess I should tell you I also don’t peel asparagus stems, unless of course they’re thick and woody and really need it. For most asparagus, just snap off the stems where the stalk naturally bends and they’ll be ready for whatever recipe you’re hungry for, like Ali Slagle’s turmeric-black pepper chicken. This 15-minute, five-star recipe has more than 16,000 ratings, a testament to its ease and versatility. Serve it over rice or noodles for the speediest spring meal.

But I don’t cut corners when it comes to dessert, and it’s absolutely worth a bit of wiggly knife work to suprême the citrus in David Tanis’s citrus and coconut ambrosia. Suprême-ing citrus is actually pretty easy (David’s instructions walk you through it), and gives the juicy pieces of orange and grapefruit more surface area to absorb the orange liqueur. Serve it with shortbread or butter cookies, but skip the traditional marshmallows. This sophisticated version doesn’t need them.

Of course, you’ll want to subscribe to get all these amazing recipes (and thanks to you if you already do). If you need any technical assistance, you can send an email to cookingcare@nytimes.com; the smart folks there are sure to help. And I’m at hellomelissa@nytimes.com if you want to say hi.


Who says one-pot meals are only for winter? My one-pan orzo with spinach and feta is fresh and green, savory and easy, perfect for any weeknight as spring continues to unfurl. And it’s fuss-free — the spinach only needs the roughest of chops, and don’t worry about picking the dill, parsley or cilantro leaves (those small stems are tender and delicious).



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