It may not sound like it, but to us, this dish is essentially “Japanese creamed spinach”. Just lighter, and probably healthier. What you get is sweet, earthy spinach with rich umami flavors and a creamy texture. This was not what we expected when we made the recipe, but we will take it. This dish is a very pleasant surprise. As Carolyn said “I could eat this every day”.
And I am certainly happy about that, since the recipe came from Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s excellent cookbook “Japanese Farm Food“. The cookbook was a Mother’s Day present for Carolyn and she chose the recipe. It is always good when the first recipe you try is a winner (particularly if the cookbook is a gift). And we can’t wait to try more of the recipes, a bunch of them look amazing.
The story behind the cookbook is also very cool. Nancy Singleton Hachisu is an American expat (from Norcal) living in northern Japan with her Japanese husband and children. They run an English language school and grow, cook and preserve their own food. Her cooking is pure, clean, simple and beautiful. This is what she serves her family. Good enough for us.
This recipe is also a good example of the keys to Japanese home cooking (at least, in our opinion, we do not claim to be experts). A few well-chosen ingredients matched with proper technique give you a dish that is way more than the sum of its parts. In this case you need to quickly blanch, chill and then completely drain the spinach. Squeeze out the moisture more than once. The other trick is to take your time making the dressing and then tossing/folding it into the spinach. But the attention to detail is worth it, this dish is a treat.
(Adapted from Nancy Singleton Hachisu)
Notes Before You Start:
- How you cool your spinach may depend on your kitchen layout. Just be sure to cool it quickly and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
- Using a mortar is the more traditional approach and is easier to control (but also takes more work). If using a food processor, chop in quick pulses.