Sesame Wow Greens, a spin on oshitashi
Serves 2-4 as a side or appetizer
Spinach prepared in various forms like this in Korean and Japanese menus is just too good to save just for spinach; it’s great applied toward young, tender collard greens and even chard.
If using collards, for best results use the youngest, tenderest leaves you can find. If all the collards you can find seem overly tough, opt for chard with thin stems. And if all other tender greens allude you, there’s always reliably tasty spinach.
Serve as a side with any Japanese meal, or really any Asian entree that could use a fresh and nutty green companion vegetable. This is best enjoyed right immediately after it’s made.
2 pounds collard greens or spinach
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons mild soy sauce
2 teaspoons agave nectar
2 teaspoons plain rice vinegar
Pinch Japanese red pepper or Korean red pepper powder
Additional sesame seeds for garnish
1. Tear away thick stems from collard greens and discard. Stack 2-3 leaves, roll as tightly as possible into a cigar and holding your chef’s knife firmly slice into the thinnest ribbons possible; each ribbon should be no thicker than 1/4 inch, preferably thinner. Wash greens in a large bowl, drain liquid but don’t shake excess liquid away. In a skillet lightly toast sesame seeds over medium heat until light tan; remove from heat, let cool and grind seeds to a course powder in either a spice grinder or pound with a mortar and pestle.
2. In a large, heavy skillet add collards and 1/4 cup of water; if using spinach use only 2 tablespoons water. Cover and bring water to a simmer over medium heat; cook until collards are bright green and tender, anywhere from 4-8 minutes. If water level looks too low and collards stick to the bottom of the pan add a few tablespoons more liquid. When done cooking remove from heat. When collards or spinach is cool enough to handle, grab a handful and over the sink or a bowl squeeze out as much water as possible and place in a mixing bowl. Repeat with remaining greens.
3. Pour remaining ingredients over the greens and mix thoroughly with your fingers. Gather a small handful and press into a ball the size of a small apricot and repeat with remaining greens. Arrange on a serving dish and sprinkle with additional sesame seeds. Or if desired serve the dressed greens in a loose pile in a serving bowl.
Variation, Sesame Chard
For this dish, use very fresh rainbow or yellow chard with thin stems; remove the stems and stack the leaves. Roll leaves into a tight cigar and shred with a sharp knife. Chop the stems into tiny bite size pieces and set aside.
Blanch, cool and squeeze the leaves as directed for the spinach, add the dressing and form into balls. Sprinkle the diced stems with a teaspoon of rice vinegar and soy sauce, and sprinkle the diced stems on top as a crunchy garnish for the sesame chard bundles.