A light and lovely salad
2 pounds fresh, tender spinach, untrimmed (or 1 1/2 pounds trimmed and washed fresh spinach)
2 cups strong dashi, cooled
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
2 teaspoons Japanese rice vinegar
a few drops dark sesame oil (about 1/8 teaspoon)
1. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.
2. Trim the roots (about 1 inch) off of the spinach leaves. If your leaves have no roots, only stems, leave the stems. Wash the spinach in a large basin, changing the water several times. Plunge the leaves into the boiling water and cook for one minute. Remove, and refresh with cold water. Wring out the spinach gently in your hands. Don't squeeze too hard; don't bruise; spread the leaves out after squeezing so they don't compact.
3. Mix together the dashi, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Place the spinach in a bowl, and pour the dashi mixture over it (it should just cover the spinach). Refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours, then serve spinach, with a little of the broth sprinkled over it. At 3 hours the dish is light and clean; at 6 hours it has maximum flavor from the broth.
Note: Dashi is the ever-present ingredient that gives Japanese food its distinctive flavor. It's an amber colored, sea-flavored, all-purpose Japanese stock. The powdered product, when mixed with hot water, instantly gives you a very credible version of homemade dashi. It is availabe at Japense groceries. To make 6 cups of strong dashi, mix together 6 cups of warm water in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons of dashi powder. Heat for 2 minutes stirring well.
There's a wonderful method in traditional Japanese cooking: quickly boil leafy vegetables, then mix them with a cooled, flavored broth and let them sit for 3 to 6 hours. The result, served cold or at room temperature, might be construed by Westerners as a light and lovely salad. You could serve it either as a first course (for which you might pack the prepared spinach into small round or rectangular molds, and then unmold them on appetizer plates), or as a side dish. Serves 4 as a side dish