A few months ago, one of our favorite restaurants closed. O Chame and their fresh, soulful Japanese food always made our family happy - after decades of belly-warming meals, we were heartbroken to see it go. O Chame's blanched spinach with sesame dressing was a perennial favorite. (I have to say... there's nothing more satisfying than watching kids devour a huge plate of greens, only to ask for more!) I've been working on tweaking the flavors for my own sesame dressing for a while now - I even consulted my friend Doug who did a stint working at O Chame.
For you loyalists out there, this dish will not taste exactly like O Chame's beloved sesame spinach, but the flavors should make you nostalgic, for sure. While sesame dressing is traditionally served with blanched spinach, I really enjoy using heartier kale as my greens here. Give it a try...either way, it's darned tasty.
Do you have a Japanese sesame dressing recipe to share? I'd love to hear about it!
A note on ingredients: I suggest looking for toasted white sesame seeds, Mirin, tamari, and rice wine vinegar at your local Japanese/Asian market.
- 1 1/2 -2 pounds kale, tough ribs removed - spinach is also delicious
- 1/2 cup toasted white sesame seeds (if you can't find toasted seeds, you can buy raw sesame seeds and quickly toast them yourself)
- 3 tablespoons Mirin (sweet sake for cooking)
- 2 tablespoons GF Tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
- optional: 2 teaspoons light agave nectar (I find kale likes this extra hit of sweet)
- optional: if you are the type of person who happens to have dashi on hand, add a splash or two to the dressing
Heat a large pot full of water for blanching the greens.
In 2 batches, blanch kale leaves in unsalted water for a 1-2 minutes until greens are tender and vibrant green. The age, size and heartiness of your kale will determine how long you'll need to cook the leaves. After about a minute of cooking, I pull out a leaf to start tasting for doneness. (Keep in mind that spinach should only need 20-30 seconds to blanch.) Use tongs to remove blanched greens from the hot water.
Let your cooked greens cool to room temp in a colander while you blanch another batch. Place the second batch of cooked greens into the colander to cool with the first batch. (If you have a garden, save your blanching water. Let it fully cool, then use that nutrient-rich liquid to water your plants.)
While the greens are cooling, go ahead and make your dressing. Using a mortar and pestle or food processor, blend toasted sesame seeds, Mirin, Tamari, rice vinegar, and agave. It's easier to achieve a creamier consistency using a food processor, but sometimes I prefer the therapeutic labor of a mortar and pestle.
When the kale has cooled to room temp, grab half of the greens and squeeze them between your hands to removed excess liquid. The cooked greens will stick together in a log-shaped clump after being squeezed together in your hands. Take that roll of greens and slice it into 1/2 inch wide strips then transfer chopped leaves to a mixing bowl.
Before dressing your salad, keep in mind that this recipe gives you a VERY generous amount of dressing. You may only need to use as little as half the dressing. (Feel free to save the remaining dressing in a lidded container in the fridge for another batch of greens.) We like a ton of dressing on our kale, so we use it all in one go. Toss greens and dressing with your hands to fully coat the leaves with the toasted sesame goodness.
This dish can be served at room temp or slightly chilled. It also travels well.