Friday, December 02, 2005


A couple of months ago, I chronicled a memorable Japanese dinner.

The meal was memorable not only for the food - which was superb - but mainly for the fact that it was with my old buddy Walter, whom I had not seen in something like 29 years.

Accompanying Walter were a couple of his business colleagues, two Japanese guys who styled themselves Chris and Carl. A source of continuing amusement for both She Who Must Be Obeyed and me, even unto this day, is the way Chris and Carl reacted to how I navigated my way around the Japanese menu: “Very Professional.”

One of the selections that elicited a “Very Professional” from the Wakayama Boyz was my choice of appetizer: goma-ae, spinach served with a sesame-based sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It’s delicious, and practically Zen-like in its simplicity, unlike those fussy little hors d’ouevres that Martha Fucking Stewart makes.

If Popeye were from Niigata, this is what he’d eat. It would give him the strength to climb Fujiyama, or to cut the grass at the Imperial Palace in a single day.

And now, you can enjoy goma-ae, too.

Goma-ae (Japanese Sesame Spinach)

3 lbs fresh spinach, stems removed
2 tbsp shoyu (soy sauce)
4 tsp mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

To toast the sesame seeds, preheat an oven (or toaster oven, if you have one) to 350°F. Put the sesame seeds on a small baking sheet and toast, shaking the pan or stirring the seeds occasionally to ensure that they toast evenly and don’t burn. When the seeds are golden brown, remove them from the oven and transfer them immediately to a plate. Set aside.

Add the spinach to a saucepan of boiling salted water and boil uncovered for two minutes, or until just tender. Dump the spinach into a colander, rinse with cold water, and drain well. Gently squeeze dry by the handful. Gently separate the resulting “balls” of spinach and put on a serving plate in a single layer. If you have small ramekins or timbale molds, use these to shape the spinach into neat little piles.

In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce, mirin, vegetable oil, sesame oil, and sugar. Pour over the spinach timbales. Just before serving, sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature.

Popeye-wa, goma-ae-ga hoshii desu, neh?

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