blissful eats with tina jeffers: Japanese sesame spinach

This is the most exciting time of the season for me in the garden.  The weather is just starting to warm up and the first crops are starting to mature.  I thought I'd share some photos of the garden.  It's my pride and joy, I love to wander the paths and see all the changes a day can bring.  I think that is one of the reasons that I love to grow vegetables, watching the cycles of life in play.  It's amazing how a tiny seed once planted in the ground can grow into something that can nourish and feed a family.

This week I had my first harvest of spinach and I wanted to find a way to utilize it in the simplest way possible.   When I was a kid one of my favorite dishes was a sesame soy spinach side dish that my mom served me with a steaming bowl of white rice.  I loved it, I have always had a special fondness for spinach, I even loved the pureed stuff in a jar when I was a baby.

It always amazes me how much spinach cooks down when you prepare it but it is so worth stuffing huge bunches of it into a pot and watching it wilt down ready to be dressed with something like this nutty sesame dressing.  It’s a dish that I had completely forgotten about and I regret that it took me so long to realize how easy and simple it is to prepare myself.  If you aren’t a huge fan of spinach I highly recommend giving this recipe a try, it pairs beautifully with grilled salmon, chicken or tofu.  

Japanese sesame spinach


1 ½ pounds baby spinach, washed

3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon rice vinegar or mirin

½ teaspoon dark sesame oil


Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.  Fill a bowl with ice water.  Blanch the spinach for 10 to 20 seconds in the boiling water and transfer to the ice water bath using tongs.   Drain and gently squeeze out the excess water.   Chop coarsely.

Make the dressing.  Toast your sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium heat shaking the pan constantly until the seeds turn light golden brown and smell nutty.  Transfer 2 tablespoons to a mortar and pestle or a spice mill reserving the rest for garnish.  Allow to cool and then grind the seeds just until crushed.

Combine the soy sauce and sugar in a small bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Add the rice vinegar then stir in the sesame seeds.  Toss the dressing with the spinach until it’s all lightly coated with the dressing.  To serve drizzle with the sesame oil and reserved sesame seeds.

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