When I first came across this spinach recipe in The New York Times health section, it was labeled as an appetizer. The recipe itself was not all that simple — the dressing had to be boiled and reduced. Wondering if there were simpler versions, I searched around using “Japanese spinach sesame seeds” as a key phrase. The results were confusing. In some sites, the very same dish is called oshitashi; in others, it is goma-ae. What the heck? So, I did several more searches. After visiting a dozen food websites and blogs, and fifteen minutes of reading, I think it goes like this — oshitashi is the name of the dish; goma-ae is the name of the sesame dressing.
Of course, what’s in a name? It was just curiosity that drove me to search. What’s important is what drew me to the dish, to begin with. The recipe is so easy, the ingredients are quite inexpensive and, looking over the ingredient list and procedure, I was 99% sure that the result would be good. Ergo, three things made the recipe attractive: simplicity, economy and anticipated deliciousness. If it turns out that I’m wrong about the distinction between oshitashi and goma-ae, I don’t really care. This is a very easy, tasty and cheap vegetable dish that you can serve as a salad, an appetizer, a side dish or even as a light main dish.
Oshitashi or goma-ae? Whatever. It's spinach salad with roasted sesame dressing
If the spinach stalks are rather large and tough, pick the leaves and discard the stalks. Otherwise, include the stalks in the dish and just roughly chop everything.
Boil water in a large pot. Add 1 tsp. of salt. Blanch the spinach for about a minute. Drain. Dump in a bowl of iced water. Drain. Squeeze out as much water as you can (see squeezing excess water from spinach). Place in a bowl and set aside.
Make the dressing. Dry toast the sesame seeds in a pan.
While the seeds are hot, roughly pound using a mortar or pestle. Alternatively, pulse in a blender or food processor. Don’t turn it into a paste — you just want the seeds to release some of its oil and aroma.
Transfer the sesame seeds to a bowl and add the soy sauce, rice wine and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and blend the flavors.
Pour 1 tbsp. of the dressing on the spinach. Toss. Taste. Depending on how much spinach you have, you may need more than a tablespoonful of dressing. So, add more dressing, if needed. Drizzle some sesame oil, if using, toss a few more times and serve.