Komatsuna is a slightly tangy Japanese vegetable similar to spinach. When topped with Goma-Ae, or toasted sesame sauce, you’ll find a perfectly satisfying contrast of sweet and spicy flavors. Don’t be concerned if you can’t locate komatsuna – almost any leafy green can be used in this dish with delicious results. My favorite local sushi restaurant makes a wonderful version using broccoli rabe! Experiment. Try using regular spinach, chard, kale or beet greens.
Toasting sesame seeds doesn’t take very long, so be sure to stand guard at the stove and stir or shake the seeds frequently to avoid burning. I use an old coffee grinder to grind my toasted sesame seeds as it yields the thick, floury consistency I like. My grinder comes in handy during holiday baking as well, when it powers out mounds of ground hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds. If you decide to do this, be sure to use a grinder dedicated to nuts and seeds to avoid unwanted coffee flavors.
I should mention that my goma-ae recipe is a tad non-traditional. I was deeply honored when my good friend Chiharu complemented my sauce: “This is a delicious goma-ae, Alison-san. What did you do?”
“Um. I added sake”, I replied cautiously.
Chiharu tilted her head and looked at me. “Ee? Sake? Why didn’t I think of that?”
Komatsuna (Japanese Mustard Greens)
2 bunches komatsuna, or other fresh, leafy green vegetable
Fill a large, heavy pot with water, add a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. In the meantime, wash and trim greens. Add the greens to the boiling water and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the greens and immediately rinse with cold water to retain the bright green color. Carefully wring all excess water from greens, then chop into 1 ½ -inch lengths. Arrange on end in small dishes and top with goma-ae. Can be served hot or cold.
Makes 4 servings.
6 tablespoons hulled white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sake (or substitute water)
Pour sesame seeds into a heavy frying pan. Toast over medium heat, stirring or shaking frequently, until the seeds turn a deep golden brown, about 2 to 4 minutes. Let cool. Using a mortar and pestle, or coffee mill or other means, finely grind seeds into a thick powder. Leave some seeds whole, if you like.
Put ground sesame seeds into a small mixing bowl. Add sugar, soy sauce, and sake (or water) to make a thick sauce. Add more sake (or water) if you like for a thinner consistency.
Makes about 1 cup of goma-ae.