Sunday, November 15, 2009

Japanese Spinach with Sesame Dressing

This appetizer/side dish is very simple and very delicious, adapted slightly from The New York Times' Recipes for Health section. The dressing pulls the spinach together and turns what would have been an unappealing "healthy" alternative to fries into something you'll be getting requests for over and over again.

Makes: 2-4 servings (more like 2 than 4)


2 6-oz. bags baby spinach (or 1 1/2 pounds, stemmed and washed)
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake (can be omitted)
1 tablespoon water (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil


1. Boil a large pot of generously salted water. Fill a bowl with ice water. Blanch the spinach for 10 to 20 seconds in the boiling water and transfer to the ice water using a deep-fry skimmer. Drain and gently squeeze out water. Chop the spinach roughly.

2. Make the dressing. If you haven't toasted your sesame seeds have not been toasted, heat a dry skillet over medium heat and add the sesame seeds. Stir and shake the pan constantly, and as soon as the seeds turn golden and smell nutty, transfer to a mortar & pestle or to a spice mill. Allow to cool. Grind the seeds just until crushed.

3. Combine the soy sauce and sugar in a small bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the sake and water, then stir in the ground sesame seeds. Thin a bit with some water. Toss with the spinach and stir together until the dressing infuses the spinach. Be careful not to bruise the spinach leaves. Divide into four small bunches and place in the middle of four small plates or bowls. Drizzle on a few drops of sesame oil.

I serve this warm, but it also works very well at room temperature.

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