I hate spinach. Let me be very clear about that. In general, I don't like leafy vegetables. Give me beans or cucumbers or celery any day, but unless something leafy is covered in Cesar dressing, I'm not at all for it. I'll do little bits of spinach here and there, in pasta, soaked in cheeses. But there is one meal that I can eat spinach in, by the pile. <3
One of the foods my homestay mother introduced me to was goma-ae. This strange pile of sauteed leafy stuff covered in what almost looked like black sand. I'd never had anything like it, so I figured I'd try it. I mean, she went through all the effort to cook for me, and she was especially careful to avoid fish or shellfish (which is a HUGE burden in Japan). At the time, I'd been under the impression that I was allergic to both. Turns out, I'm allergic to spices Americans commonly put on fish, but not to fish itself. I am allergic to shellfish, however. Only a little will have my face and neck covered in rashes. O.o O-san worked so hard to accommodate such a difficult person, so of course, I wouldn't refuse food! So, goma-ae.
AND IT WAS DELICIOUS. OMG.
I have to find her specific recipe, as it was given to me long ago. This is another one, adapted from "Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat".
.5lb spinach, coarse roots and bottoms of stems removed
2.5tbsp toasted and ground white sesame seeds (O-san used ground black sesame)
1.5tsp sugar (use unbleached, wherever possible)
1 pinch salt
Wash the spinach to make sure dirt and residue comes off. Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Turn down to medium-high heat and cook the spinach for 30 seconds or less, until it just wilts. It should still be bright green. Drain and refresh under cold water. Gently squeeze the spinach to release all the excess water. In a separate bowl, combine the other ingredients. Toss the dressing and spinach together. Adjust the dressing to your taste, but remember that it shouldn't be *too* sweet.
This side goes great by itself or with yakitori or kushiyaki beef (skewered, seared beef). I usually eat it with yakitori and seared green onions, and maybe a little bit of rice. Unfortunately, it isn't something any local restaurant I know of makes, so if I want some, it's up to me to make it at home! It isn't something I make in advance, though. I think it's too soggy if you do this. It has to be 'made to order'- make only what you'll eat in one sitting. The dressing perhaps could be set aside and refrigerated, but the spinach should be freshly cooked. Try it yourself! <3