On the last day of my recent trip to Kyoto, I took a cooking class. It was in the home of Emi Hirayama, born and raised in Kyoto, and she taught our small group of three about the food she's known her whole life. The week was full of new and memorable dishes and flavors, but it was Emi and her class that taught me the true essence of home cooked food passed down within generations of Kyoto-bred families, a style also known as obanzai ryori. This recipe is Emi's take on a common Japanese dish of blanched spinach with sesame dressing, and for me, it embodies Japanese cuisine: seasonal and balanced, subdued but beautiful. And, I'd be willing bet, is tasty enough to win over the biggest of spinach skeptics.
Search food52 for Hiroko Shimbo's recipe for dashi stock, or use Emi's version below. —Jacqui Gabel
Holding spinach by the leaves, carefully submerge the stems in simmering water and hold them there for 30 seconds. Then let go of the leaves and submerge them.
After 10 seconds, pluck out the leaves with tongs and transfer them to the ice bath to stop any further cooking.
After a minute, drain the spinach and squeeze out excess water.
Chop spinach into one-inch long sections and set aside.
Grind seeds to a powder.
Mix together the soy sauce, dashi stock, raw sugar, and sesame powder to make a paste.
Dress the spinach, sprinkle with yuzu zest, and serve.
*dashi stock recipe: Combine 1 liter (4 cups) of cold water with 10-15 grams of kombu (dried kelp). Let steep for 15 minutes. Then bring water to a boil and add 20-30 grams of katsuobashi (dried bonito flakes). Let boil together for just one minute. Remove from heat, and strain quickly with a colander lined with a coffee filter or paper towel. Store leftover stock tightly covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.