INGREDIENTS

1 package spinach
-or-
Green beans

SESAME SAUCE

3 tbsp black or white sesame seeds
1tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp sugar

Horenso no Goma-ae (spinach with sesame dressing)

Japanese recipes call for blanching spinach in boiling water, and then plunging it into cold water to stop the cooking. Although this method works very well, producing a bright green color, I always wonder how much of the nutrients are washed away in the water. Therefore, I’ve developed my own method for cooking spinach.

Wash the spinach well. Drain and shake off excess water. Place the spinach in a hot flat-bottomed skillet and cook quickly without added oil. Before all the spinach is wilted, transfer to a plate and spread out to cool quickly. A hand held fan helps.

Water will probably be given off. You can mix this with the dressing or just drink it. The Japanese technique is to squeeze the excess moisture out.

In a small heavy-bottomed skillet, gently roast the sesame seeds. You will need to shake the pan from time to time. When the seeds start to brown, giving off a nice nutty aroma, and just at the point where they start popping, transfer the seeds to a mortar and pestle. Grind to a fine consistency, but you don’t have to get every single seed! Add sake, soy sauce and mirin. You should have a sauce that is the consistency of peanut butter. If it is too stiff add some of the natural juices from the spinach.

Divide the spinach into small individual servings with a dollop of the sesame sauce on top. Or, serve in a larger bowl and toss the dressing with the spinach.

This dish can also be made with green beans, which I prepare in the Japanese method. Boil the beans for only a few minutes and then quickly plunge them in cold water, or pour everything into a colander and run under cool running water. The beans should be al dente, with slight crunch.

Spinach and green beans are also delicious when simply topped with katsuo-bushi and served with soy sauce.

Serves four.