Lighter fare is in season every summer. Salads may dominate menus, while vegetable-rich side dishes can dress up barbecues, brunches or outdoor buffet meals.

Spinach not only packs a nutritional punch, it can add flavor to any dish. According to Judy Joo, a French-trained Korean American chef and author of “Judy Joo’s Korean Soul Food” (White Lion Publishing), mature spinach has a heartier, meatier texture than its baby variety. Mature spinach is the star of the show in this recipe for “Seasoned Spinach,” a nutritious side dish with a delicious dressing.

Seasoned Spinach

Serves 4 as a side dish

  • 1 pound mature spinach with stem and roots
  • Sea salt
  • Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons roasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon sagwa-shikcho (Korean apple vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or finely chopped
  • Black pepper, freshly ground

Fill a large saucepan with water, salt well and bring to a boil. In a large bowl, prepare an ice bath.

Rinse the spinach with cold water to remove any dirt, especially around the roots. Remove any hairs from the roots. Cut the spinach into 13⁄4-inch-long pieces, keeping the purple roots intact. Split the roots in half horizontally and keep separately.

In a medium bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

Blanch the spinach in two separate batches. In the boiling salt water, blanch the spinach stems with leaves until just wilted, about 1 minute, remove the spinach from the water and plunge in the ice bath. Repeat with the spinach stems with roots, but cook for 1 to 2 minutes before plunging into the ice bath. Remove from the ice bath, drain well and gently squeeze out any excess water.

Gently loosen the clumps of spinach with your fingers and transfer to a bowl. Toss well with the dressing. Cover and chill for about an hour to allow the flavors to mellow before serving.

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