This dish, spinach with sesame sauce, is frequently found on menus at Japanese restaurants where delicate servings accompany miso soup, nori rolls, simmered root vegetables, and tempura. I give proportions for more dressing than you need for just under a pound of spinach, but it keeps well and is a great homemade condiment to have on hand. That way you can whip up a batch of Spinach Gomae in less than 10 minutes (since the putting together the dressing is the only part of this recipe that takes time) or toss noodles in the dressing (Asian or Western style noodles work), which is usually a favorite among the under five-years-old set.
yield: 2-4 servings | prep time: 15 minutes | cooking time: 3 minutes
- 1 bunch spinach (about ¾ pound)
- 7 tablespoons white sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 3 tablespoons honey or other sweetener
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- water to taste
- pinch of salt
- If the spinach is wrapped with a tie or rubber band, remove the tie but leave the spinach in a bunch, stem ends together. Trim and discard about an inch from the ends of the stems and also discard any damaged leaves.
- Fill a large bowl with cold water and place the spinach in the water. Gently separate the leaves and move them around to rinse off the dirt, being careful to keep stem ends pointing in the same direction. Lift the spinach out of the water, discard the water, rinse the bowl quickly so no dirt remains in the bowl, then fill the bowl with clean water and rinse again. Repeat this step as many times as is necessary until no dirt remains in the water when drained.
- Once the spinach is clean, set aside briefly or chill covered for up to 8 hours before serving.
- To make the dressing, gently toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring the seeds constantly so they do not burn. Once very lightly browned, immediately transfer to a small bowl so they do not continue cooking. Set aside 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds for garnish.
- In a suribachi (Japanese mortar with ridged surface) or an electric spice grinder, grind the sesame seeds to a fine meal. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and stir in the sake, mirin, sweetener, and soy sauce or tamari. Mix thoroughly. Thin the dressing if desired with a small amount of water. Set the dressing aside or cover and refrigerate for up to a month.
- Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a rolling boil. Pick up the spinach by the leaves and dip the stem ends into the water and cook, without dipping the leaves in the water, for about 30 seconds—the water will just about be back at a boil. Add the ½ teaspoon of salt to the saucepan and gently submerge the rest of the spinach into the boiling water. Cook for an additional 15 to 30 seconds or until the spinach is just tender. (Cooking the stems first allows leaves and stems to cook evenly). Immediately lift the spinach out of the water, still keeping stem ends together with tongs, then place the spinach in a strainer. Run cold water over the spinach to stop the cooking, then gently squeeze excess water out of the spinach.
- Cut the spinach into 2-inch lengths. Divide the spinach among 4 small serving bowls, toss just enough dressing over each serving to very lightly coat and garnish with reserved sesame seeds. Serve immediately. Leftover dressed spinach keeps for about a day if covered and refrigerated.
NOTE: Do not drain the spinach by dumping it into a strainer because if the spinach had dirt clinging to it (most spinach does), it will have fallen into the bowl of water. If you pour the water back over the spinach, you’ll be pouring the dirt back onto the leaves.