Along came Sam Sifton’s new cookbook last week, and I spent a happy few minutes dreaming of quick and easy dinners as I breezed through it outside the post office. A book like this is just what I need, I thought – inspiration for simple dinners. Because I have a tendency to complicate things: Chopped ginger and chopped garlic. Soy sauce and oyster sauce. Basil and mint. If one flavor is good, two is better. Or three!

But The New York Times Cooking No-Recipe Recipes is not fancy-pants. It’s essentially about using your pantry creatively to lift up whatever protein (or other item) you’ve hauled in from the grocery. The “recipes” offer ingredients and directions, but no specific amounts. There are tips and modifications suggested, but the real purpose of the book is to get your mojo going for cooking dinner (again!) or fixing lunch at home (again!). There's a photo with every dish (hurrah!). In fact the straightforward format reminds me of some of my favorite British cooks’ books: Nigel Slater’s Eat or Skye Gyngell’s A Year in My Kitchen.

What caught my eye? Pan-Roasted Chicken with Chiles, Broccoli with Ham and Melted Cheese, Brown Butter Tomato Salad, Speedy Fish Chowder, Pot Stickers with Tomato Sauce. And these Miso-Glazed Scallops (here with permission from Ten Speed Press).

The scallops reminded me that I’ve been meaning to offer you a quick primer on miso. I got friendly with miso when I was a full-time vegetarian (lapsed now, but still veggie-centric!), but I’ve since learned how versatile that sweet-salty-funky flavor can be in all sorts of dishes.

Randi Baird

Of course it’s great in a broth for soup. (Udon or ramen, yes!) Just the excuse I need to highlight Spring Miso Broth with Stir-Fried Asparagus, Romaine, Scallions, Tofu and Mint, even though I am violating my own rule to never mention asparagus until it actually pokes out of the ground on this Island.

Susie Middleton

But I also use miso in a quick Lemon-Miso Butter. I make that ahead, keep it in the fridge, and toss it with sautéed vegetables during the week. (It’s almost a no-recipe recipe!) I also use miso in salad dressings, like this Crystallized Ginger-Miso Dressing. A light-colored (white or shiro) miso is most versatile, but I’m fond of some of the darker ones for broths. (Massachusetts is home to artisan miso maker South River Miso Company; many of their misos are available at Cronig’s.)

Susie Middleton

I’m guessing that miso wasn’t on everyone’s list of must-use ingredients this week. So if the mentions above of pan-roasted chicken and fish chowder put ideas in your head, I’ll remind you of our favorite Crispy Roasted Chicken Thighs, with Garlic, Lemon and Rosemary and our delicious Cod, Corn, Bacon, and Leek Chowder with Fresh Thyme. (There I go again, recommending out-of-season vegetables. Make it anyway with frozen corn kernels!)

Susie Middleton

For some reason, I’m craving rice this week. So I’ll be making Curried Rice Pilaf with Peas, Crispy Shallots, Almonds and Coconut.

Susie Middleton

And maybe Vanilla Rice Pudding, too. Only instead of a version with orange zest and clementines, I'll make it with lemon zest and maybe some out-of-season blueberries, since I'm being obstinate about spring!

Susie Middleton

No one ever said spring on the Vineyard (if you can even call it spring) was easy on the palate!

Have a great week, and we’ll see you on Instagram @cookthevineyard.