Bittman says that spinach is a dish best served cooked, and who am I to disagree? I used to be very into raw spinach salads with strawberries, avocado, and sweet, sweet vinaigrette — you know the salad I’m talking about — but that feels very 90’s LA, or Upper West Side circa my college years. These days, it’s onward, upward, and into boiling water with my spinachy greens.
Last week, Bryce and I went to Toki Underground, again. (Brycie, think we count as regulars yet? Probably not. Lather, rinse, repeat. I need more ramen, stat.) Among the many treats buried in every bowl of ramen are these tightly rolled coils of spinach. You peel off layers of the spinach as you eat, sort of like ohitashi; they soak up the broth you’re slurping. It’s good fun.
I’ve been blanching and bunching spinach in all sorts of recipes lately. There’s loads of it at the markets, and while every time the huge bundle cooks down into a little blob I feel a bit deflated, even a small portion of the recipe I’m sharing today delivers a big punch.
It’s precisely because the spinach cooks down so much that it stands up to a sauce as insistently vocal as this one. You wouldn’t think a sauce of sesame seeds would deliver such a lash, but it does: it’s salty from the soy sauce, sweet from the mirin, and deeply, pungently sesame, from seeds toasted just until they’re looking over the cliff at burnt, then ground into a dark brown paste and folded into the sauce. This recipe, it’s a good one. Oh, and for all you people who have something else to do tonight besides cook dinner? The whole thing takes ten, maybe fifteen minutes.
If sesame isn’t your thing, I bet you you can make this with toasted ground peanuts, or even with a spoonful of almond butter. Not the same, but probably still delicious. Do let us know if you try it that way.
If soy isn’t your thing (I’m looking at you, Terr…), maybe you could substitute a bit of rice wine vinegar and some salt.
Try it, you’ll like it. And have a wonderful weekend, everyone.
Spinach and Toasted Sesame Dressing
adapted from Just One Cookbook‘s Spinach Gomaae recipe
Vegetarian and gluten-free (if you use GF soy sauce)
1 lb. raw spinach, washed
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons roasted white sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons sake or rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon mirin
Set a big pot of water on high heat and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, put sesame seeds in a small (preferably stainless steel) frying pan and dry-toast them over medium heat until they turn deep golden brown and a couple seeds jump in the pan. The seeds will continue to toast as they cool, so watch them like a hawk as they brown. There’s a fine line between deep brown and burnt. Set aside.
Water should be boiling. Add spinach and pinch of salt. Cook 1 minute, until spinach is vibrant green; drain immediately, and either shock in an ice bath or run under cold water to stop the cooking. Squeeze spinach in a fist to drain the water, then shape it into two fat logs. Cut the logs crosswise into four little bundles, leaving the stray bits at each end of the log as a chef’s snack. Transfer two bundles to each of four very small bowls or plates.
Put the sesame seeds in a spice grinder or a mortar and grind or blitz until the seeds become a fine powder. If using a spice grinder, transfer sesame powder to a bowl. Add soy sauce, sugar, sake/vinegar, and mirin, and stir to combine.
Spoon the sauce over the four bundles of spinach and finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Serve to hungry people.