Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cold-Wilted Spinach

In my quest to heat my kitchen as little as possible, I discovered an interesting way to wilt spinach by beating it up.  It started with a tomato salad I was letting sit to meld the flavors.  About an hour before I was going to serve it, I decided to stir in some baby spinach in as well.  When I came back to it, the spinach was completely wilted -- not in a sad-salad kind of way, but more like I'd given it a whirl in the skillet before combining.

It wasn't exactly what I was going for at the time, but I was intrigued. A couple of nights later, I tried making a wilted spinach salad to go with cold soba noodles [no recipe, but they were something like this].  About half an hour before dinner, I tossed the spinach with the dressing, left it on the counter, and gave it a stir every time I passed by.  Come dinner, I squeezed out all of the juice, plated it in a little mound, and poured the dressing over the top.  It was perfect.
I'm guessing it has something to do with the acids in the tomatoes first and the vinegar second, aided by the bruising caused by the stirring.  It's probably not chemically identical to cooked spinach (though it could be, ceviche-style) and it's really only a valuable technique when lack of heat is more important than speed [a cold salad or... a picnic?] but I liked it... so I'm sharing it with you.

Recipe: Cold-Wilted Spinach with Soy and Sesame
Hourensou no Goma-Ae

These diminutive bundles are densely packed veggie servings... don't let their size fool you.
serves 4

1/2 lb baby spinach [3-4 cups, depending on how you pack them]
2 tablespoons sake, chaoxing wine, or vermouth [yes, I'm mixing my nationalities]
1 tablespoon good quality soy sauce [shoyu or tamari]
1 teaspoon mirin [sweetened rice wine]
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

Combine all ingredients except sesame seeds in a medium bowl and stir to coat the leaves.  Stir every five to ten minutes until spinach is dark and soft.  Meanwhile, toast sesame seeds until golden brown and set aside.  Divide wilted spinach into 4 bundles, squeeze out the liquid [reserving the dressing/spinach juice], and spread a few leaves out to wrap around the mounds decoratively.  Transfer to a small bowl or plate, spoon a little of the dressing around it, and top with sesame seeds.

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