I am still feeling the extra inch I put on during the holidays. Now that I am in Tokyo, my appetite for good food just won't stop. But what's nice about eating in Japan is that there are many delicious plain dishes. Take Ohitashi for example. It's blanched greens that is served like a salad with plain soysauce or soy based broth. No oil is added so it's very light and refreshing, and can be put together in no time. Most greens in the spinach family work. I made Ohitashi with Komatsuna - which is mild like spinach. The leaves are slightly thicker.
I found the Komatsuna at a vegetable and fruit shop in my old Shibuya neighborhood where my parents live. This shop has been here forever, and they haven't changed much since I was a child. Even the abacus and the container holding the rubber bands come from the sixties.
It's fun to go back to these familiar places. I walked on the old concrete path that leads up to the road near my house. It was the shortcut that I used to take school. The old bath house is gone. So are the gesha houses that played majong and shamisen music into the night but the produce shop feels like it will still keep going so long as they are people who care about these mom and pop shops.
Recipe for Ohitashi:
Serves 4 - 6
1 bunch of greens such as spinach, mizuna, komatsuna, broccoli rabe, shungiku, mitsuba, water cress
Soy sauce (Koikuchi style) or Soy sauce diluted with Dashi (to taste)
1 sushi mat
Shock the greens in cold water.
To make ohitashi, take a bunch of washed greens and blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute.
Rinse in cold water and trim the root ends.
Gather half the bunch by the root ends and set them down on the mat so they are straight. Take the other half and put the root end on the other side. Wrap and shape the greens into a tube, using the mat. Gently squeeze out any excess water. Let stand for a few minutes.
Unwrap the sudare and cut crosswise into 2.5-3inch pieces. Serve with soysauce on the side
Spread the greens on the sushi mat.
Roll the mat to shape the greens. Then unroll and cut the
greens like sushi rolls.
Option: You can dilute the soysauce with dashi to make a more liquidy broth. Pour the broth on the cut greens, and let stand for 10 -30 minutes in the fridge. Serve with sprinkles of roasted sesame seeds or bonito flakes.