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.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Barley and Mushroom Salad With English Peas

An old-y but good-y, adapted from the New York Times' always reliable, "Recipes for Health"


1 cup pearl barley
3 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 recipe walnut vinaigrette (recipe below)
6 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, or a mixture of parsley and other herbs (such as chives, dill, tarragon or marjoram)
2 to 4 leaves fresh sage, cut in very thin slivers
1 cup shelled English peas, uncooked or steamed for five minutes (to taste)
1 cup shredded radicchio
1 ounce shaved Parmesan


1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and add the barley. Stir in the pan until the barley begins to smell toasty, about five minutes. Add the stock (or water) and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 40 minutes, until the barley is tender. If all of the liquid has not been absorbed, drain.
2. While the barley is simmering, make the vinaigrette.
3. Place the mushrooms in a salad bowl, and toss with 2 tablespoons of the dressing.
4. When the barley is ready, add to the salad bowl and toss with the mushrooms and remaining dressing. Add the herbs, peas and radicchio. Serve warm or room temperature, garnishing each serving with shaved Parmesan.

Yield: Serves four to six

Advance preparation: You can make this up to a day ahead, but only add half the mushrooms. Don’t add the peas, herbs or radicchio; toss these ingredients with the salad shortly before serving.

For the walnut vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or champagne vinegar
Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, finely minced or pureed
1/4 cup walnut oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, salt, mustard and garlic. Whisk in the oils, taste and adjust seasonings.

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